Hiring An Architect Vs. A One Stop Design-Build Remodeling Company

There are a lot of opposing opinions on this topic.   If you have done any amount of research, you’ve seen how different people will answer this question.  Today, we’ll discuss our point of view on hiring an architect versus a design-build remodeling company. 

architect vs design buildIs This Even the Right Question?

. While an architect is not needed for every project, they are often a part of the design-build team and a pretty important one.

Even straightforward remodeling projects can be complicated and require numerous types of expertise, experience, and knowledge. If a project requires the knowledge of a professional architect, choosing a design-build route does not mean you no longer need that expertise. So, what is the question you should be asking?

Know What to Ask?

The real question, which is crucial, is whether you will complete your project through a bidding process or a design-build process. What does that mean, and how do you know which option is right for you?

architect vs design buildGet 3 Bids, The Great Mantra

You will hear this advice from your friends, and/or coworkers, as soon as you talk to them about a home remodeling project.   Searching the internet will likely yield similar recommendations.  

At its core, it IS a good idea, but the reality of getting helpful, and more importantly, accurate bids is a lot more work than you may realize. Let’s take a closer look at how this typically works.  

The Bidding Process

For example, you want to remodel your kitchen. You call three remodeling companies and ask them to give you a bid on your project. Each contractor comes to your home, discusses the project with you, and then they will prepare an estimate. A little while later, you get your three bids and start the difficult task of comparing them. This is usually where the real frustration often starts, as you try to determine the differences between the three bids and wonder why they can be so different in their scope.  

architect vs design buildApples and Oranges

Since your project has yet to be defined in enough detail, the contractors you have talked with each have made their educated assumptions about the fixtures, materials, and design choices for your project.  Since it is improbable that they have all made the exact same assumptions, you may end up with estimates representing three very different projects and, therefore, three different prices.

It is hard to blame the contractors at this point.  Not knowing if their company will be chosen to complete your project, they cannot dedicate the extensive amount of time needed to fully develop all the details involved in the full scope of your remodel.  You would, of course, like to get an accurate estimate before choosing, and understandably,  they would like to know they are getting your business before committing a lot of time to developing and pricing the complete project.

This is where many of the nightmare scenarios you may have heard about runaway budgets have their beginning.   When a contractor is chosen, and a budget is established based on only a vague understanding of the project, cost overruns and change orders are almost unavoidable as the project gets defined. Unfortunately, this often happens during construction.

Making a Smart Choice

When choosing a contractor, it is essential to remember that cost is just one factor in this critical decision. Think about the types of things you purchase where cost is the only consideration. It is probably a pretty short list, and it’s normally commodities, like gasoline, where it’s almost impossible to discern a difference in quality or performance. So why do bidding and price get top of the list priority when choosing a contractor?  Of course, you are working within a budget, but there are many other considerations that are equally important when making this decision.  

architect vs design buildAsking the Right Questions

When you think about choosing a contractor, you’re selecting a company that will have the keys to your home. They likely will be working in it when you’re away from home. They will be helping you pick and coordinate a vast number of materials and color choices that will perform well and look beautiful while reflecting your personal aesthetic.   They will also be hiring reputable trade partners and craftsmen to do the work and manage all of these components to completion, safely, beautifully, and on time. It’s also important that you hire a company that has procedures in place enabling good communication, and who will strive to keep your home clean and usable during the construction process. . 

Understanding a contractor’s ability to efficiently accomplish all these things should be as high on your list as getting a rough cost estimate, which is what this preliminary bid really amounts to. If you compare three companies that will do all of these things well, you will likely find that they are all very similar in price.

architect vs design buildThe Design-Build Advantage

“So how can a design-build approach help and how do I choose a contractor without getting bids?”

Spend some time getting to know a couple of contractors and research how their process works.  Check recommendations from previous clients.  Ask the builder about their selection process, management process, craftsman, and trade partners. How will they keep your home clean and safe during the project and what will communication be like during construction? How will they handle change orders or surprises if they occur? For more help with this, you can read our blog: Here are the Questions You Should Be Asking Your Contractor

architect vs design buildBut What About Price?

Even at this early stage, a good contractor can help you identify a realistic budget range for the project you are considering. Will it be exact? No, not yet because no one knows exactly what the full scope of the completed project is at this point, and it’s hard to tell you what the total cost will be when it is not known what the actual project is yet.  Once designs are complete, and details determined, actual pricing of the project can be done.  The Design-Build Path to Project Success

After you have completed the vetting process and chosen a contractor that fits your project, your family, and your budget, the real fun of designing and constructing your project can begin. Most importantly, it’s done with a team of professionals sitting on the same side of the table as you, working as a team to help you develop the project you envision within the budget you set.

Together, you will develop the plans and choose all the colors, textures, fixtures, and materials that integrate how you live in your home while incorporating your personal style into a beautiful, cohesive design. All of this is completed with your budget in mind and the whole team working together to respect your priorities.

With the design work complete, construction can be completed in an efficient and organized way that reduces the chance of delays and cost overruns. You can sit back and enjoy watching your home remodeling dreams take shape.

Want to Learn More?

We realize that this is a big topic and one that’s tough to cover in just one blog post. If you would like to learn more in a friendly, no-pressure conversation, fill out the form on this page or give us a call to chat with one of our expert Project Consultants. They will happily answer your questions and help you understand if design-build is suitable for your project.