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Question DetailsAsked on 8/11/2014

we are planning to do a major renovation (add on and add an additional floor as well) How do we get started?

We need to know where to start. Do we consult an architect first? Will they give a free estimate or do you have to pay for any consulting automatically? I have some initial ideas but I don't know whether it is feasible or even structurally possible. I'd like to talk with someone first before we invest in any design or planning. If anyone has gone through this and knows how best to find an architect, engineer or whatnot, please let me know.

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Voted Best Answer

Architect first - for around $1000 typically you will get site consultation, a few sketches showing what you said you wanted, and a preliminary (by the book) cost estimate - that you can use to figure if your budget or scope of work needs major adjustment. Then, if you go ahead, typically about 10-20% of total project cost for complete plans and specs (including above cost), depending on complexity and level of interior design detail, and if construction inspection services are included.

Generally, nothing is free with an architect - unlike a contractor where a bit of consultation and a rough estimate is a lead-in to the actual work he hopes to get (the construction/repair) and part of his bidding cost, an architect (and engineer) makes his living giving advice and consultation and developing designs and cost estimates - so giving it away for free is sort of like a dentist doing sample fillings for free. Some will come to your house to discuss your concepts for 15-20 minutes for free, basically to see if they want to take you on as a client or feel your job is the type or size they want, but you should expect little or nothing in the way of a design or cost estimate for free - the most you might get would be an opinion on whether it sounds, off the cuff, like your budget is roughly in line with your desired scope of the project. On more complex or up-scale remodels, it is not unusual to contact several architecture firms and request proposals - where they basically come see the site, then give you a sketch or few or more common today, computer-generated altered photos of your place, showing conceptually what they can do for you, then you choose the one you like the most and go with that one for final design. Typically $500-1000 range fee (each) to get that done for small jobs, larger jobs will typically be no charge but that assumes probably $25-50,000 plus anticipated fees if they get the job. Bear in mind in the latter scenario you cannot pick and choose betweenthe best parts of each proposal - the architect owns the design and it is copyrighted, so while you can choose bui9lding elements (dormers, bay windows, etc) from any of the proposals, specific design or color combinations are copyrighted by the proposer.The Search the List category is Architects and Building Design.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Only an architect has the "from scratch" creativity & time to convert your ideas to 3D, then reality.

I vote to avoid risk=profit being added to your bill, so seeking a firm price or even $/sf is out.

By-the-hour jettisons that fluff and is not time wasting if you have an Owner/Principal as daily point man on your project. After Design Phase One that captures all your idea in 3D but Spartan images ....

What's needed next is a preferred sole bidder remodel/addition contractor that will provide cost projections or keep you in the budget as the design progresses. He solely holds the daily, flutuating price list on services/supplies. You'll find him via your architect and he needs to provide you proof that he's done this before and what those other add-ons cost.

As a sole bidder in the end, this privilege comes with the responsiblity to provide you with at least two bids on each major cost service/supplier.

Note also that many cabinet shops will provide free shop drawings, so may save some drawing hours, once the cabinets are drawn in Plan.

Answered 5 years ago by tgivaughn


Re tgivaughn's suggestions to go by-the-hour with the architect, and sole-bidder for the General Contractor:

If you have an honest, efficient architect and an honest GC who prices fairly this can work well and is common in the building trades - each architect/engineer/contractor develops working relationships with contractors and subs and suppliers and tends to go to them unless they are too busy or cannot provide the needed materials or service.

However, assuming you are starting cold with someone who may have been recommended to you, or just chosen based on say Angies List reviews, you do not have that advance knowledge regarding the selected vendor. With an inexperienced, perfectionist, or just inefficient architect orone needing money for his retirement villa in Hawaii paying by the hour can result in substantial cost overruns, tough of course on the flip side a fixed price contract runs the risk of overpricing as an overrun contingency, or of change orders to the contract because you change what you want at some point past the concept or Phase I design stage.

Sole-sourcing a general contractor is fine if you inherently trust the architect to choose a good one for you, or if you have prior experience with the builder yourself or he comes with stellar local references from friends, neighbors, etc (though even those cases can backfire), but lacking that going sole source on the bidding eliminates competitive pressure on the bid price so it will tend to be higher, and runs the risk you will pay far more than actually needed.

I have commonly seen 2:1 or even higher differences in contractor bids (between low and high) even on very tightly defined scopes of work of all sizes, and which bidder comes in low can vary from job to job - depending on how hungry they are for work, if they have a "hole" in the schedule that needs to be filled ASAP due to a job cancellation or delay, seasonal workload issues, whether they are willing to bid low to increase workload and company size, or perhaps alternatively are secure in their workload or phasing out toward retirement and cherry-picking jobs and taking only those with excellent profit potential. You just never know what is in their minds - and that ignores the bids that come in out of whack because of a bidding error, which is far more common thann most people realize. I saw one just a week or so ago where the bid total was off by a factor of 3 because one item in the estimate got changed by a factor of 100 because the contractor hit a % key on his calculator - did no realize it till he went back to see where he went wrong (after losing the job which he would have otherwise gotten) by looking at his estimate, which has the original adding machine printed tape. Can also go the other way - he gets a job based on too low a bid - I had one barge and fly-in remote site job once where the contractor forget construction equipment and aircraft fuel purchase and shipping cost in his estimating to the tune of around $5 million on a roughly $30 million job - would have driven him bankrupt had the project ownaer not negotiated an at-cost reimbursement deal on the fuel to avoid him going bankrupt on the deal and delaying the job a year.

Certainly your call, and all comes down to confidence in your bidders/contractors in the end.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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