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Question DetailsAsked on 12/16/2017

Where can I find a person to draw my house remodeling plans in Baton Rouge LA

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Architect is the Search the List category to find well-rated and reviewed house designers. Most Builders (another group of categories) will also get the design done by an architect as part of a contract if in the scope of work, or for less than 2-plex or 4-plex buildings in some areas do it inhouse (sometimes competently, sometimes not) - but bear in mind in that case the designer/architect is working for him, not you, so the chances of getting what you want is much lower. Plus if the architect / designer is not working directly for you, then he is not in your corner on any arguments with the builder on code issues, whether or not the plans and standard practice require a certain thing be built as part of the scope of work, or on how building issues are to be resolved.

While you can always get a draftsman who calls himself a "designer" to whip up some "plans", in my opinion that is a mistake - even if your local building officials will accept them as the basis on which to issue a building permit, which is dubious in many areas.

Here is a previous similar answer I gave about who to get for this work:

Architect is the Search the List category to get a house design and plans and specs that will be needed to get a building permit, for bidders to bid to, and for the selected contractor to build to. An architect should also be able to help you with design features and options, preliminary cost estimate to be sure you stay within your budget, a construction cost estimate (after plans are done) so you know what the project should cost, can provide during-construction inspection (at an extra fee typically) if desired, and can help you with land use approvals, permitting issues, and screening and selecting a General Contractor. And negotiating with the contractor on your behalf regarding change orders and whether their content should have been considered part of the original scope of work and hence not good basis for additional payment.

Here are a few good reasons to use an architect rather than just a draftsman or bought plans from a magazine or plan mill or such - to tell you the truth, other than for conceptual plans to develop your idea of what you want BEFORE actual design occurs, I cannot see any good reason to use just a plan mill or draftsman or such.:

1) the level of knowledge of building and mechanical/electrical systems design will be less than with an architect, so the functionality and/or constructability of the design can be flawed. I have seen some unbelievable design come from plan mills and one-man draftsmen outfits - physical impossibilities in the structure, gross structural omissions or undersizing, bad dimensions, gross electrical/mechanical system errors and omissions (like furnaces with no ducting layout or no furnace at all, and electrical circuits without any design or detailing of the service to the circuits or breaker panel), and very commonly total failure to call out finishes and flooring material and such. Saw one such house with bare plywood subflooring because he failed to put the selected flooring materials and colors on the plans after the homeowner selected them. Even one house without any roofing materials called out - just the rafters.

2) with an architect you should be getting proper design for energy efficiency, electrical demand and distribution and protection, proper sizing and layout of HVAC systems and plumbing, and proper structural design. Commonly plan-drawing draftsmen do a poor to very poor job on this because they do not know building code requirements - and in many cases have little or no practical building design or construction experience to be able to recognize when there is a problem with what they have "desgined".

It is also common for "plan preparers" to plop in some standard foundation "design" with zero input from a foundations engineer, so you can get very unsuitable foundations. I have also seen the opposite - full 6 foot deep strip footings and crawlspace under a house on good foundations materials or solid bedrock which could have perfectly well used a slab-on-grade foundation.

Plan preparers also tend to slap out a design on very little concept, because they are doing it for just a few hundred $ commonly - so the owner gets little or no input or discussion of desired features, functionality of the room layouts, expandability if desired, interior design and finishes, exterior landscaping and earthwork, etc.

In fact, the latter is commonly totally omitted - I have seen houses built to web-built plans ready to move in - but without any utility services to them, no well or septic in such areas, no stairs or steps from ground up to doors and no porches/decks (because in the plans those are "site furnished" items), no driveway or walks, no landscaping or lawns, etc. Literally just a house plopped down on a basically undeveloped lot.

I remember one new build in my current area well. I was called in as an expert witness after the house was ready for turn-over and the buyer tried the faucets on the final walk-through and there ws no water because the plans did not call out a water supply or septic system, so the owner wanted to cancel the contract. Ended up water was almost unachievable in that area, and cost over $150,000 (on a $250,000 house with lot) to drill a 16" diameter (2-3 times normal diameter) almost 500 foot deep well with $5000 pump, and then explosive fracture the well to get enough water supply and storage to (marginally) serve the house. The septic system, because of very shallow bedrock, also cost about triple the normalcost because it has to be a raised-bed activated and heated (in quite cold country) advanced septic system. How would you like a $200/month bill to heat your septic tank and leach field ?

3) generally, if you need plans to get a building permit in your area, they will not issue them without plans signed by a licensed architect or civil engineer, so you may be wasting your money getting plans from a "designer" or draftsman because they may have to be redone by an architect to be accepted

4) some insurance companies are now checking that building permits were pulled AND final inspection approved before they will insure new construction or additions

5) ditto for construction/mortage lenders - they will generally want to see stamped plans and issued building permits and planning/zoning approvals before they will release more than initial design funds, and plan preparers are rarely any help in getting those

6) if the plans are signed/sealed (professionally stamped) by an engineer or architect the building department plan reviewers and building inspectors will generally accept it as shown unless they see somthing directly contrary to code, whereas if not stamped they will tend to question a lot more things, assuming the designer may not have known what he was doing. Generally architects and engineers can also override many code restrictions in their designs other than purely safety ones like fire protection and fall protection and such, so inspectors tend to take their plans as acceptable at face value unless they have a grudge against that design professional

7) a locally experienced architect can be invaluable in planning and zoning and environmental and waiver/variance issues and problems with building permits and inspections - generally when you buy plans from a draftsman or plan mill you are on your own from there on

8) this one is really important and surprises a lot of people. If you have a failure or fire, generally the insurance company will only pay to rebuild the way it originally was unless you pay more for "code compliance" coverage, which means they then pay for it to meet CURRENT building codes, as is usually required by building codes for any major repair/ rebuild, especially if it involves costs exceeding half the value of the structure.

But if the original design was not to code what they are rebuilding it to would then not meet code, so you would have to pay any costs to bring the house up to code. And if there are out-of-code items relative to when it was built because the designer/draftsman failed to properly design it, the building department can make you bring ALL of them up to code as part of the repair - and the insurance company will not cover those repairs, and will drop coverage if it is not brought up to current code. This can increase your repari/rebuild cost by as much as 50% or more in some cases - more if the foundation itself wss deficient.

9) if the insurance company underwriting somehow (through inspection records or whatever) finds out the house is not to code, they may drop your insurance or refuse to issue coverage with only the contractual warning period of typically 30 days on existing policies - but zero warning on new construction. I have heard of new houses going to closing with everyone expecting to close, then the insurance company visits the site and sees red flags and refuses to cover it at the last minute - which can be a nightmare because that is generally NOT good justification for the buyer to cancel the deal - and will commonly result in any lender backing out because they expect what they are lending on to be insured.

We had one builder in our area whose houses were dropped by all the normal residential insurers because they were a mess of code violations and sinking into the ground and such (most were built on unsuitable lots so he could sell them cheap) - he was eventually driven out of business by the building department refusing to approve his construction or to issue any new permits so he went bankrupt (meaning no recourse for the lemon house buyers). Also, buyers/homeowners starting finding their typically $1500-3000 annual homeowner's premiums jumped to $25,000 or more because only one speculative very high-risk insurer would cover them - and even then only with 20-30% deductibles on any claim, and total refusal to cover seismic (in a high risk area).

10) plan designers/draftsman are highly unlikely to cover E&O (Errors and Omissions) insurance to cover mistakes in their plans - most architect/engineer firms (except commonly one-man lone wolf operations, which I recommend steering away from) carry $1 million coverage minimum.

11) plans not professionally done, because they are likely to be less standard and less detailed, are a change order opportunity for contractors because they can easily find things not covered or incomplete to initiate change orders on. Even if there are a few things like that on professional plans, because the builders routinely work with architects, they usually will be reasonable in dealing with such errors or omissions unless they are pretty dramatic, because they don't want to become known as a firm who makes life difficult for the architect's clients - that can lose them future jobs because the architect is usually involved in recommending general contractors to the customers and in evaluating bids.

12) if someone is injured as a result of faulty plans, your insurance may not cover it - especially if the law requires licensed design in your area (not always the case for up to 2-plex or 4-plex construction), because that can be considered gross negligence or intentional avoidance of the law on your part - voiding your coverage.

13) if the plans are not complete, so the construction is deficient - because normal houses (especially stud construction) are pretty tolerant of structural flaws, you may not notice anything wrong until you go to sell, but then buyer's home inspector finds design flaws and code violations, which the buyer then puts in as contingencies that you have to get repaired at your cost before closing. When cal cause a sale loss, or delayed closing when you need the money from the sale to buy another house, etc. Can be a nightmare - ditto with DIY construction done without any professional design input at all.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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