Kitchen Remodel-Should I hire an architect?
siggaOctober 14, 2012
My plan is to remodel my kitchen and laundry space-I desire an open floor plan so that the kitchen leads out into the dinning room and living room and I prefer a cabinet for a stacked dryer/washing machine instead of a laundry room. I plan to knock down walls and add an island. My first thought is I need an architect to draw up some plans for a layout, since I don't really know if I have space for all the things I want. I already have a trusted cabinet maker in mind, my son-in-law is a licensed electrician and plumber, and I have an uncle who tiles. I would rather hire them to do the job. But, that still leaves me in need of a drawing. I would've hired a designer but I was advised to hire an architect to help draw out the layout, since there will be walls knocked down, things added, and things moved over. It's a big space, but I don't want to do something and find out later that I didn't plan for say enough room between the cabinets and the island! So, I contacted an architect who had rave reviews. But, I found out at our first meetings that he's also a contractor. I'm not prepared to do an over haul on my house, just one thing at a time. But, he's pushing for a full remodel. I only want the drawings. He says we need something like a Record Drawing, what is that? Do I get the drawings to keep? Or does he keep them and hold them until I find a contractor and he gives the drawings to the contractor? If I do hire him, am I legally obligated to also have him do the construction? I live out in the county, so permits aren't necessary, but I wonder if hiring the architect also means I have to report any fixing we do inside. But, like I said, I'm not financially ready to do anything major at this moment. This is all new to me, so I really don't know what I'm getting into. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Sounds like that architect you talked to had a conflict of interest since he was 'pushing' you for more work than you require at the moment. I would consult a couple more and go with the one the you feel more comfortable with.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:30AM
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
I can think of no area in th U.S. that would not require a permit if framing is being altered - knocking out walls, enlarging openings in walls changing window sizes, etc. This is something that you should check more carefully. A permit protects you as the owner from substandard work and it protects future buyers of the home as well. You may want to check with realtors in your area as well, but it is my understanding that if you have work done that should have been permitted and wasn't, then this must be disclosed to future buyers in some jurisdictions.

If you only want plans for the one project, you could hire an architect or a home designer. Since neither of them can certifiy the engineering for the removal of walls, I would hire an engineer - most of them also do house plans, at least around here. Then you "kill two birds with one stone" and may pay less overall. None of the individuals that you have named above however appear to have the experience needed for wall removal. You may want to think about having someone licensed do those portions for you.

The architect may be pushing for more plans because there are other things you have indicated you want to do with the home in the future. I think most professionals would suggest that you go ahead and build your "road map" now so that you don't end up with a home where nothing asthetically ties together (reducing the value of your home) or worse, you have to backtrack and undo something that was previously done. Just food for thought.

good luck.
    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:33AM
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Studio S Squared Architecture, Inc.
Sigga--I agree with Deborah's comments above about the need for a permit.

Hiring a firm that does design and construction can be OK, as long as you understand going in, that in some cases you will not end up with a set of plans that you can take out to competitive bid, either from a contractual standpoint, or because the plans may have less detail in them than a set that was put together by a stand-alone design firm.

As for "record drawings", in any remodel, the professional of record must come out to measure and field verify your house, even if you have a set of existing building plans. This would typically include measuring areas that may be outside the immediate area of work. Often times things that are not in the immediate area of work have to be altered for even a small addition + remodel, such as the electrical panel, furnace, water heater, etc.

Lastly, an architect *is* qualified by license and training to do structural engineering and analysis, and there is a small minority of architects who provide all engineering services in house, especially those that design small wood framed buildings. However, most architects choose not to do engineering, and defer this work to a licensed P.E. (professional engineer) or S.E. (structural engineer).
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Dear Shali and David, thank you for your reply.
Do you think I should look to a designer for this project?
The wall behind the kitchen has a closet that no one uses, and next to that is a room where the water boiler currently is but I want to go tankless, so that room will not be a necessity anymore. The wall can be knocked down and the kitchen area extended into where the old closet and boiler used to be. Since I also desire an island in the center of the kitchen, I want to be sure I have enough moving space should we decide to extend the kitchen out and I want to make sure there is enough room for a sink at the island.

The house dates back to the late 60's to early 70's, and back then the kitchen was not as big of a gathering place as it is now. There are walls that divide the kitchen, living room and dinning room. I don't use them for anything and it would be nice to have an open floorplan so when guests arrive or there is a party, I could cook and still be involved in the celebrations. Because there are walls to be taken down, I was advised to seek out an architect to determine if the walls were low bearing and if so he or she could come up with a solution or alternative.

Hi Deborah and Eugene,
Thank you for taking the time to help me with this. I had no understanding of what I was getting into. I knew, though, that I wanted advice from a structural standpoint as well as a design standpoint. Yes, I am putting up new cabinetry, new tiling, and electrical outlets. But this is a bit more then that with all the walls that need to be removed. This is important to me because the roof line transitions above the kitchen area. I was told that a permit wasn't necessary since we're in the county (outside city limits and more in the country) but I will definitively follow your advice to look into this at county hall this week and make sure. I don't plan to sell anytime soon or even within the next 30 years. But I'm finally at a point where I would like to modernize this one area. On this side of the house is also my bedroom, office, guest bath. Since he's also a contractor, he thinks they could use a remodel, too. But, like I said, I would like to take it one step at a time and work on this first.

Eugene-thank you for clarifying what record drawings are. The architect has been in business since the 1980's, has a good reputation and is completely licensed and certified. Should we follow through with the Record Drawings, do I get them or does he keep them? Does he report them to the city or county, or do I have to report them? I don't know what the next step would be.
    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:40AM
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Can't answer any of your specific questions about record drawings, but as a homeowner who has gone through a remodeling project that involved knocking out structural walls, I too would advise you to hire an architect to draw up the plans (but not one who insists on doing both design and construction). We had an architect for our planning, and a separate GC for the construction (and then when we remodeled the kitchen, a local cabinetmaker). In addition, the architect and GC consulted a structural engineer about the wall we were taking out as it was, indeed, structural and needed a steel beam in the ceiling for reinforcement. Our architect was extremely helpful throughout the project, even though his only official job was the design of the space.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Deborah Butler, Brickwood Builders
Studio S, thanks for the clarification. We have never seen an architect certify load bearing on a set of plans - always says "to be obtained by the contractor". We were told it had to be a letter from an engineer on his/her stationary.
    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:50AM
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Studio S Squared Architecture, Inc.

An architect's drawings are "instruments of service", typically designated contractually for one-time use by you as his/her client for your specific project. The architect technically owns the plans, but you are given a license to use them for your project.

Specifically as to record drawings, the architect also "owns" them and assumes liability for their accuracy. You are given copies of these plans for your use in your project and for your own records. If you move forward with another architect or designer, you can share the original record drawings for the new professional's use, but they will have to remeasure the property again as they are now responsible for their accuracy.

The existing building plans/record drawings are typically submitted by the professional to your local building department as part of the permit drawing set, so that the plan reviewers can evaluate your proposed project in relation to what is existing.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:34AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
I have to disagree with a few of the comments made in the above postings.

1. I suspect that even in the county, you will need to submit construction documents for building permits, that indicates the floor plan ( existing and any modifications to it), electrical, mechanical and plumbing (this can all be indicated on the floor plan, but still need to be shown as new work). Usually, you will need to show a wall section, electrical and plumbing riser diagrams any foundation details involved as well as any code compliance elements (i.e foundation bolts, re-enforcing, exterior wall sheathing for any diaphragm requirements, uplift tie downs, etc., etc.). If you are removing load bearing walls, you'll need to show the new beams and the calculations going in their place. I would strongly suggest you check with your county building or permitting office to establish exactly what is needed. I have both designed and constructed projects (residential) in some pretty out of the way places and have yet to find where I didn't at least need a building permit for a habital structure.

2. There are some regions where even for a residential project (new or remodel) the Owner is required to submit drawings from an Architect that are signed and sealed for permits. A licensed Architect can sign and seal structural elements. In some regions a residential designer may do the drawings with the structural portions signed and sealed by a registered PE (structural).......some areas will accept any PE seal, however, most registration boards view this as unacceptable behavior on the part of the Professional (i.e. electrical engineer sealing structural drawings). In some areas no professional seal is required. Again, check with your local (county) permitting office to determine what you need.

3. If you aren't required to have signed and sealed drawings in your area for your residential project then a competent residential designers should be able to handle your needs..... and by competent I mean a proven designer who can include the necessary structural elements as well as the layout design. Check their references and previous projects.

4. "Record Drawings" are the drawings filed with the permitting office. Usually they keep a record set in the office for the inspectors and require an identical copy kept on the site during construction activities to record any deviations from the permitting set. Any deviations involving windows, doors, wall placements, changes to electrical, plumbing, structural elements, roof framing, etc., etc. should be conveyed to the building department. They aren't so concerned with changes to finishes.

5. What someone above posted as what "record drawings" are is actually "as-built" drawings. Your Architect or designer should do a complete and thorough as-built investigation if you don't already have a previous set of construction documents. If the as-built investigation is needed, and usually are, this information becomes the base of your new drawings and design.

6. There is nothing wrong with working with a designer/contractor. You as the owner set the scope of work for any phase of the final product. Don't allow someone to bullying you into furthering that scope if you're not ready to. If you do elect to use the services of a design/builder and you want to bid out your work, make it clear that you will require separate contracts for the design portion and the building portion. He can bid against the other bidders. If you elect to just negotiate a turn key package with him or her make sure exactly what the stipulations are to be included in the contract (i.e you will provide you relatives to do certain work, you will purchase materials based on his estimates, you will do some elements of the work yourself). The tricky part of doing your own work or hiring your relatives to do some of the work is your GC sets the schedule.........if you hold him up or your subs cause him delays expect to get hit with increased cost (change order for additional time).

Hope this helps.
2 Likes    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:51AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
S. Squared Architecture Inc. is correct about the drawings. You do not own the drawings. The designers do. You are buying a one time use of the design for construction. It falls under the intellectual property laws of ownership. There are modifications that are sometimes made for developers to use the plans with multiple projects but these are usually negotiated in the contract and usually involve additional fees.....unless you're planning on going into the development business this shouldn't concern you though.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Not sure where the original poster is located but there are areas in rural Ontario, Canada that are in some areas called unorganized terratories. In these areas no building permits are required for putting up and renovating buildings. Building codes must be adhered to but no permits are issued or required.
1 Like    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:17PM
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