Do You Need an Architect or a Designer?

Architect working at drawing board.

One of the most common questions homeowners ask remodeling contractors is, “Should we hire an architect or a designer for our project?” For most small projects, such as enlarging a window opening or removing a non-bearing wall, the answer is no. The contractor and homeowner can handle both the design and construction end.

For large additions, whole-house renovations, and new kitchens, you should consider hiring an architect or design professional to help plan the project. A design pro can make sure the esthetic considerations meld with the structural requirements of the project and that the space is both liveable and aesthetically pleasing.

Here’s what architects, designers, kitchen specialists, and interior designers do and don’t do, what they charge and how you can pick the right one for your project.

About Architects

Architects are trained in design theory, engineering, and project management. Rates vary by region and individual architect.

If you would like the architect to manage the project, solicit bids, choose the contractor and subcontractors, control money, and oversee work; they will charge an additional 5% to 10% of the cost of the project.

Architects are skilled at coming up with inventive ideas to solve complex design problems and at making sure a project is true to itself aesthetically (whether it’s classical or original in styling).

An addition, or other complicated project with lots of roof lines, really benefits from an architect’s vision and ability to visualize ideas three-dimensionally. So does an older home where you want to extend the existing historic look to new work. And, of course, so does a home where you want to make a one-of-a-kind statement.

You’ll often see the initials “AIA” after an architect’s name. This indicates membership in the American Institute of Architects. Licensing of architects is a separate process that is administrated by each state.

As project manager, an architect can keep an eye on the progression of work. They act not only as a point person to handle the inevitable problems that arise, but also as your advocate with the general contractor and the subcontractors.

Danny Lipford going over plans on job site with architect.

Dealing with Architects

Usually homeowners will hire an architect before the contractor is involved. After the architect meets with the homeowners to determine their needs, they will present a full set of plans for bid, including renderings of the outside of the structure and all building details from roof to foundation.

If extensive changes are made, which often arise once contractors start bidding on the project, the architect will redraw the plans for an additional fee.

Hiring an architect to oversee a project is the highest level of service you can buy, since you’re responsible for little more than writing the check. It can be a good solution for someone who doesn’t want to deal with a contractor or get involved in the day-to-day decision making process during the course of construction.

While it might be nice, in most cases hiring the architect who designed the plans to oversee an addition or remodel isn’t necessary. So if you’re on a budget, it makes more sense to handle dealing with the contractor yourself.

About Designers

Designers usually do not have academic training in architecture and engineering but are experienced in interior space planning and simple additions. If you’re remodeling a kitchen or adding a family room, a designer may have all the skills you need.

A designer’s plans will be reviewed by a structural engineer to make sure beams won’t sag and floors won’t bounce, something architects often do as a precaution as well, even though they have some engineering training. Designers typically don’t offer project management services.

Homeowner matching paint samples to fabric with interior designer.

Licensed Designers

Laws governing licensing of design services vary from state to state. All states require that architects be licensed, but the licensing of designers is a gray area, and many states exempt the design of single-family homes from architectural licensing. To find out the policy in your state, call the licensing board or ask your contractor.

No matter what the policy of your state is, check your homeowner’s insurance policy as well. You might have to beef it up, because professional liability or malpractice is rarely covered. In the event of a costly repair where it’s unclear if the designer or contractor is to blame, you could end up stuck with some of the bill.

Some designers work for remodeling contractors. These companies, called “design/build firms,” offer the complete remodeling package everything from plans to paint. Generally, the design of the project is included in the overall price.

Dealing with Designers

A designer or design/build firm can handle most residential remodels. And the designer and contractor typically operate as a team, not adversaries.

After initial meetings with the homeowners, the designer and contractor return for a second meeting with a partial set of drawings often just a rendering of the outside walls, or elevation, and a rough floor plan. The contractor will price out the plans only after the homeowners approve the preliminary drawings.

The designer is commissioned to finish the drawings once the budget is approved. This helps avoid sticker shock when the final bill gets presented. But even in a worst case scenario, in which a full plan set has to be redrawn, the cost is about half what an architect will charge.

There are some drawbacks to using a designer. Regulations covering designers vary from state to state, so you’re not necessarily guaranteed a basic level of skill and education. And, unlike architects, designers are not always insured against negligence or malpractice.

Hiring an Architect or Designer

After you’ve made a decision between an architect and designer, you have to find one to work with. Ask family, friends and neighbors you trust for recommendations. Then look at their last few jobs and interview the homeowners.

Remodeling contractors are another good source or architects and designers. Since they are responsible for building what that designer draws, they won’t recommend someone who does not know what they’re doing or that they have had trouble with in the past.

Homeowner looking at cabinet wood options with kitchen designer.

Other Design Professionals

Thought you had the architect/designer dilemma figured out? Think again! There are several additional types of designers to consider:

  • Certified kitchen designers (CKD)
  • certified bath designers (CBD)
  • Interior designers (ASID)

The National Kitchen & Bath Association certifies kitchen and bath designers after they complete course work and document years of field experience. They charge per hour and work at least 10 to 20 hours on your plan with the contractor. Many certified designers work with a kitchen and bath showroom or a cabinet dealer. You’ll also find them on staff at home centers.

Certified kitchen and bath designers bring a focused expertise to the work space, traffic patterns, electrical layout, and cabinet and appliance clearances; all of which make kitchens and bathrooms different animals when it comes to remodeling.

Like architects or designers, kitchen and bath designers draw a complete set of up to code plans. And, like an architect, many will provide project management for a percentage of the gross cost of the remodel.

Certified kitchen and bath designers are aware of structural basics, though they should consult an engineer if they propose any structural changes in the walls or floors.

Certified interior designers are what most people call interior decorators. The certifying group is the American Society of Interior Designers.

Generally interior designers do not present building plans to a contractor, but they will consult on space reallocation and assist in designing the finished interior space.

For an additional fee, depending on the range of services provided, interior designers also research, shop, and present you with decorating samples or introduce you to product lines for such things as furniture and lighting.


  1. If you’re spending over, say, 10k on your project, do yourself a favor and hire an architect. Or learn the hard way. You get what you pay for. I’ve had bad experiences with ‘designers’ and contractors alike. Designers aren’t legally responsible for anything that they do (no recourse for the client, oops), and they won’t / can’t manage the construction. If you don’t have a competent professional overseeing the construction then the contractor will take this opportunity to extend the project timeline and budget. From what I understand, this has never NOT happened. There’s certainly no code of ethics binding these guys.

  2. I work for a local General contractor with many lic. across the board there is not a project he wont take on this company offers full service from permits and plan drafting to all construction and handyman service. We hear all to often the famous complaint “the contractor will take this opportunity to extend the project timeline and budget. From what I understand, this has never NOT happened. There’s certainly no code of ethics binding these guys” While over the past ten years contractors have been poping up like wildflowers everyone and there brother no is a contractor there are still some of the orignial true Craftsman left look for a company who offers many services seams to be a kind person in general and look for a history 20 + years in buisness and thats in buisness not in the trades

  3. I have a family home in Washington County that is way over a hundred years old. I want to restore it. It will be a major undertakig. It was a basic 2 maybe 3 room house with porches. Over the years those porches were closed in to make rooms and a bath added, a laundry room/hafe bath and one new room was added. The rooms are very choped up. Roof is Tin,has an old doubel fireplace/not useable. I just need some good advice where to start.

  4. Hi Margaret,

    Hopefully someone has reached out to you to help you with your family home in Washington County. You are correct; a sensitive restoration is indeed a major undertaking and cannot be accomplished by just anyone. Considering the content of the article, you will certainly need some detailed drawings of the existing house and of design authentic to the history and context of the house. For those things, you will need an architect or a designer. You stand a far greater chance of finding a qualified professional in the licensed architecture realm, as architects, through their training, have had to study historic styles. Legally, you probably won’t need a licensed architect unless you’re planning on some structural changes (in which case an engineer will usually stamp the drawings). In older houses such as yours, structural changes are likely. It is much more probable that an architect will understand the complexities of a detailed restoration project. Your jurisdiction may require a licensed professional anyway if the house is on a historic register. In sum, I’d suggest starting with a round of interviews with architects, then follow up with designers.

  5. I am not sure if I need an architect or an interior designer for remodeling my home. Or both. Does it help to have both? Or will it complicate things? I don’t want to be charged double. Can they both sit down together and discuss what they would offer? Then, itemize the job so that I won’t have to double pay? I will be making some structural changes and would like the advice of a designer for color, fabric, etc.

  6. I am an interior designer, and as there is a lot of confusion about the industry, I would like to clear up a few things.

    Design is literally as old as mankind; everything we produce is designed. As the building has become more complex, so have the professions: architecture, interior decorators, interior designer, landscape architects, engineers, and so on. Architecture has long history, and has been redefined time and again. There have been “architects” who have designed everything on a property, from the landscape down to the dining chairs.

    The term interior decoration appeared in 1807 and interior design appeared in 1927. Because they are so new, they are still being defined, and we are working toward recognition, just as architects did about a hundred years ago.

    Architecture – the practice of designing and constructing a building as a whole

    Interior design – the practice of planning and supervising the design and execution of architectural interiors and their furnishings

    Interior decorators – are concerned with surface treatments and aesthetics, and may or may not be formally trained

    Look for a 2 to 4 year degree from a CIDA accredited school and NCIDQ certification; these are the major avenues to becoming a professional, well informed designer. A designer must have at least 2-4 years of full-time professional experience under supervision to be eligible for the NCIDQ exams. There are a multitude of other certifications, but they are not widely recognized. The major professional organizations (equivalent to architecture’s AIA) are ASID and IIDA – these provide continuing education among other things, but they do NOT provide certification. The NKBA (National Kitchen & Bath Association) is the go-to organization for that specialty, and they do provide certification.

    The going hourly rate for a designer is $100; more for a principal in larger firms or otherwise more experienced professionals. Some designers charge hourly, some charge a percentage of the project cost, some vary; this will be negotiated in the contract.

    CIDA accredited programs include building codes, basic building systems, sustainability, professional practice (eg contracts and project management), environmental psychology, history of architecture, and history of interiors and furniture styles. Interior designers have actually led the way in evidence-based design as opposed to theory alone, which is a fantastic development for the whole industry and society as a whole. They are really focused on how a space functions and feels.

    In an ideal world, a project like Margaret’s would involve a team comprised of an architect, interior designer, and a construction manager; Nandini didn’t give enough details to say either way, but you can make that question a part of the interview process when shopping around – if they brush off the idea of collaboration, move on. And Margaret, DEFINITELY look for design professionals who specialize in historical restoration and preservation. Ask for proof of insurance. Always work with a contract. Get everything in writing. Everything. 🙂

    Best of luck!

  7. Hello. I recently purchased a home that I’m planning to do a pretty extensive remodel to. The remodel is alone is expected to fall in the $700K-1M range. Being such a large project, I sought an opinion from two local architects that I felt would be good candidates for the job. After meeting with the first architect, he visited my home once to preview the property. I met with his designers once as well where they gave me a roughy sketch the architect came up with…which was in all honesty just scribble on a piece of paper. He did sketch a front view of the home for a visual. After a month or so without hearing from him I consulted a second architect for a different opinion. I never signed a contract with the first architect then out of nowhere received a bill for $2,450.00. I honestly feel robbed/taken advantage of. The bill break down shows him spending X hours at $180/hour, the head designer spending X hours at $140/hour…and the regular designer spending X hours at $110/hour. I’m not exactly sure what to do. Please give me your opinion.

  8. Hi, My house is kind of backward. Front door is in the back and back door in front with a open car garage. Everything is made by mobile home parts I believe. My husband bought this house before I met him. I dont like how everything is. I was wondering how do I go about knocking all down inside and redo it all? Or just fix up and sell which I doubt anyone would buy.

  9. Hello. Really enjoyed the perspectives in these postings. A couple items I think may help are listed per posting.

    Margaret, Historic homes have many challenges. First, decide if you want to “restore” the building back to it’s original state, or renovate to address the functionality and appearance. The other point is to determine what kind of budget you are able and willing to put forth. It may not be worth the cost. If it is, I would recommend locating a design / build firm (architect / contractor) that specializes in historic projects. They can guide you. Also touch base with your neighbors and see who they have used and how satisfied they were with the outcome.

    Jason, easy questions ….. did you sign an agreement with the architect that sent you the invoices? Or, at any time did you direct the architect to perform design services either in an email, etc.? That really should answer your question on the situation.

    Our team has dealt with almost all these scenarios and, as always, the time, cost, and quality issues surface quickly. A good architect can help direct you for what you need based on your scope of work. I have many times redirected a potential client to the services of a general contractor and / or interior designer because the project did NOT need a high level of expertise from an architect.

    To give you an idea of one architectural perspective on services I would invite you to check out

  10. I have an existing restaurant I would to be redesign so that it(dinning area and bathrooms) would have looks completely different from its old look.
    I need to add a guest room and a bar to it and kitchen will remain the same. Should I hire interior designer or architect before the contractor begin the work?


    Hi folks,
    I have been a contractor for twenty years and after reading these comments I feel the need to respond to ROY’S misleading, ignorant, and clearly recycled well thought out post (that last part is sarcasm). The need also stems from the past 5 weeks I have had.

    There is a flip side to the contractor/home owner relationship. Now I am a professional, very anal retentive, very personable, will bend over literally backwards for my clients, and I go above and beyond to achieve perfection in my work and I make sure that the customer is always happy!! Yes I have a code of conduct it is pride in my work, doing a safe job that is done correctly and overall I want to see that smile on the home owners face at the end. I don’t advertise. No need all my business is repeat and from references. That being said there are disreputable contractors out there AND there are just as many home owners/business owners that try to get work out of you for free, don’t want to pay for the work, weasle out of their end, that don’t stay true to their word or commitments. Funny those stories never make the news.

    Weekend warriors with their little measuring tapes and brand new tools are the worst. Nothing frustrates us more than someone that constantly changes the plans and thinks that it is no big deal (except when these changes will cost them). Not to mention if you stop me to discuss an idea that you have this stops progress which is lost time and money for both of us. Trust me, we don’t like to do the same task twice, let alone three or four times. If I am building offices in your commercial property please don’t tell me how to build it and say all I have to do is this. Trust me it is a lot more involved than you think or know and that little change may affect everything down the line for the rest of the project. Now the whole plan may have changed and this change, more times than not, increases what I projected and I eat this.

    Well multiply this by ten little changes, believe me this adds up. Not to mention I may now be going back to readjust how and where three other walls are anchored and now possibly your door layout changes or the entire ceiling layout has changed which may require more or less material. More wasted time ordering material and me having to leave and get it, then they get upset because I ask for additional money. It is too little to have delivered and if there is extra material you are gonna be upset. I love and will always discuss with owners the changes and what is involved but DON’T over simplify our work because all it looks like to you is cutting some wood/metal and swinging the wall a bit. I could go through and explain why it is NOT just that simple on here but that would take me off point.

    I am dealing with a CPA right now that wanted me to give him a bid based on him helping. This is impossible. 1. I do not know your level of expertise/experience. 2. I am not insured for you. The man had the audasity to ask me to leave an employee home so, 3. You are not as fast as my guys and I am not going to let a valuable employee starve so you can save a buck and feel as if you have contributed or achieve some goal on your bucket list. How about this I am excellent in math and both my parents were accountants but would you let me come in and start to do your book keeping and do your clients taxes come April 15th.

    Let’s not mention as I am working on your job I have helped you get wholesales prices on materials, instead of you going to Lowes or Home Depot, which has saved you thousands of dollars and better quality. I have hooked you up with the plumbers, electricians, HVAC guys etc… so that you got bids from them at the lower end of the spectrum. What does this do? Again save you thousands of more dollars and you have piece of mind because of course the people I have recommended I know the quality of their work. I am not trying to make either of our lives miserable.

    So when I am on your project and you ask me to stop and give you a bid on an additional piece of work that you were gonna do, DO NOT TELL US (ESPECIALLY WITH A SNEER AND CHUCKLE) THAT’S WAY TOO MUCH, AFTER I APPARENTLY JUST WASTED A COUPLE OF HOURS OF MY LIFE DISCUSSING, MEASURING, FIGURING LABOR AND PRICING MATERIALS FOR YOU!!! Acceptable response, “I didn’t realize it would be that much, maybe I will just do it myself. I’m sorry I appreciate you taking the time to look at for me.”

    You can also begin negotiations again I will gladly explain how I got to this number. Trust me, my tools and my guys are already there and I took the time to bid on it I would clearly like the opportunity but don’t be surprised in 6 months from now you decide you want me to do it and the price has gone up. This is not out of spite!!!!Materials increase not to mention I had everything and everyone there setup ready to go that costs money!!!

    Side point if at some point in your life you have hired a company to build a home for you, and years later you buy a distressed property and you want to flip it. Again I will gladly help you plan everything you envision while saving you as much money as possible. Please don’t tell me though that YOU have BUILT a house before. No, you picked fixtures, wall colors, shingle style etc… So when I inform you what NEEDS done and WHEN, WHY, and HOW, PLEASE DON’T TELL ME THAT THIS OR THAT is the right way to do it. Again I am always up to and more than happy to explain what is going to HAVE to be done and when, more importantly I explain why it must be done and in that order, so it resonates with you, has meaning, and you are an informed home owner.

    By the way it took that person an extremely long time to finish what he had me bid. Do you think it made me feel better that he told me how much harder it was than he thought and he didn’t realize how involved it actually was and do you think the fact that I seen the end result and it didn’t look good at all and it wasn’t done correctly????? No it did not and does not!!! Unfortunately it’s situations like this that now I or another contractor has to go in and fix it and a lot of times it may cost more to fix than it would’ve been to do it correctly in the first place, plus it is a pain in the *** fixing peoples mistakes it is more frustrating for the fact it could’ve been avoided.

    Thanks for my rant but please take this into consideration next time you have a project.

    I would LOVE to know what Roy does for a living. Roy, maybe you should look at yourself as to why you have problems with contractors. Probably the prejudice you have going in, you overall attitude, but most importantly and ultimately what does it say about you that you consistently are a poor judge of character. That’s not an attack just a observation.

    Please comment if this helped or anyone appreciates this post. Comment if you agree or disagree.

    • Dave,
      As a former contractor and professional woodworker for 25 years, who did quality work, I feel your pain. I, too, occasionally had clients who were difficult to deal with, however, for the most part my experiences were positive.

      Since I no longer have the time to tackle large remodeling projects on my home myself, I have hired contractors in the past few years to remodel my bathroom and kitchen. Both contractors came highly recommended and both did lousy jobs. They rarely came to check on the work or progress, wouldn’t return phone calls, took weeks longer than they said, made glaring mistakes and then got very upset when I asked them to fix it right. Had I not been in construction myself and known what to look for, I hate to think what the finished results would have been.

      The bottom line is there are both conscientious and unscrupulous people in the world, some are contractors and some are homeowners.

  12. Ben,
    You are exactly right. Most of my experiences with homeowners I love and enjoy. I feel so bad for home owners and business owners when I come in and see a job that was done wrong. You know what it is like anywhere I go visiting relatives, dinner, hell just driving around I just constantly spot things in need of repair or jobs that were not done correctly. Hahaha. There are a lot of guys out there that call themselves contractors and are in no way even a handyman at best. I liken it to that it would be the equivilant to myself studying martial arts and then telling people that I am a Ninja hahaha.

    Yesterday I came home from another horrible day with this business owner and the original bid was for a little demo, some framing, and drywall tape and finished for 8100. Just labor. Basically six solid days. Any additional work would be billed accordingly from day one he has changed everything and from day one the architectural plans have been a moot issue. He will make changes hour to hour and doesn’t realize or think he should pay for these changes, we are so far outside of what I bid. I’m not charging for the talk time but you keep stopping me and my one guy for about three hours a day. I have 364 man hours here already and not done framing. Been on him to get an HVAC guy for a month he thinks I can just frame in a ceiling with no knowledge of where the returns go. Metal framing, it was supposed to be Chicago grid. He want me to hang all drywall. I keep explaining can’t until your framing inspection so I can hang one side but not until ceilings are laid out, he just don’t get it when I have explained everything to him no less than five times with everything. This guy is unbelievable. I have already done so many extras for free which normally I am happy to do.

    I just want some people to read that there are two sides to that argument. I am now working for free!!! And at 50% completion this guy don’t get it. He figures I am doing doors, all the trim, wants me to stain glass in these doors. I have told him that was no where in my bid. His answer well you knew there would be extra stuff you would have to do and that the doors and trim complete the job. Yes but I didn’t bid that!!!! Wow!! And what extras he just assumes are free. Now if I am mudding and the electricians made a hole yeah I’ll fixing it for free but not what he is envisioning. By all rights I could charge him and he could charge the electricians, but I am not petty.I don’t wanna be on a job any longer than need call me crazy but food in my belly and gas to get to the job are kinda a necessity.

    But Roy’s negative statement just set me off generalizing every contractor. And like I said you never see homeowner rips of contractor or refuses to pay stories on the news that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen often. We trust suck it up and move on. But I bet ya if I walked on this guy ( which I never have or would) next thing you would see would be my face on the Pittsburgh evening news.

  13. Dave is funny. He starts out saying he is personable then goes on a very lengthy rant about a paying customer. I can empathize in a way since I am engineer, in a more digital world, where everyone who has seen a web page has an opinion. But, I don’t admonish them for that because at the end of the day, my ultimate job is making my client happy. I’ve only had 4 dealings with contractors. All but one went without a hitch. The worst one did my basement who insisted he can do it better and cheaper. That was my first dealing with a contractor outside of buying my house. In the end, it added another 25% on the cost of the project to fix his mess (short cuts, sub standard equipments, sloppy work). The best one, while slow, did a marvelous job on my hardwood floor install.

  14. I am wanting to remodel my kitchen- complete with relocating a window, adding sliding glass door to a wall, and putting in a new series of cabinetry and flooring that is more custom to what my “track” home offers currently. Would this be a job for an architect or a designer? I am still not sure who to hire even after reading these posts. Thank you!

  15. I stumbled on this site, reviewed the comments!

    There are dishonest unqualified people in this world ( in every industry)!!

    These type of people do create a negative impact on others in the same profession, along with terrible experiences for the common person/ client.

    Persons looking to remodel or build are stressed because they are afraid of being taken advantage of , which is understandable . The professional is stressed because they are having to defend their profession & reputation with potential clients, because of all of this.

    There are some steps any person interested in remodeling / building can take to help in making a choice in whom they choose. The size of the company is irrelevant , it’s the, honesty , knowledge/ experience , quality of work that matters. These are basic steps I encourage a person to take when choosing. With this being said – the suggestion are basic . Obviously there is more to be said.

    1. DO NOT hire an unlicensed professional to remodel or build your home. Why – because they are licensed for a reason, which protects you & your loved ones. The state you live in puts these regulations in place to protect both parties. If there is an issue you can file a complaint and get proper justification if you are found in the right.

    2. Ask the professional for references from prior (clients). I recommend asking for 4. 2- 3 of completed projects & 1 of current project if available .
    I encourage that the projects be of variety- in reference to the type of licensing they have, if available . Example) General Contractor can carry multiple licensing.

    3. Ask the professional to provide a portfolio of their work , if possible. This way you can get an idea of not only what at professional offers of themselves, but also of anyone they work with. This will also provide some insight that whomever you hire is capable of handling the project.

    4. Be upfront with the professional with the budget, your expectations. This open communication allows both parties the ability to make better decisions
    In regards to keeping within the budget, getting the right people for the project.

    5. Keep in mind that some projects may not be within your budget! Settling for the lowest bid may not be wisest choice to make. I strongly encourage a person obtain no less than 4-5 bids from professionals.

    6. Understand the contract!!!! Know what you are getting!!! Listen to what the professional is telling you, if you have questions ask. The professional should be able to answer in terms you can understand. This should be during your first meeting to completion of the project (without it being a burden). If there is an issue bring it up right away!!! Before the contract is signed!!!

    Yes you can hire an architect, an engineer to draw up the plans for your remodel/ build. You can hire a designer as well. You cannot hire a designer, architect, nor engineer to remodel / build – unless they carry the licensing to do so. Take their profession for what it is, let each one provide the services of their field.
    There are several ways you can go about this. You can go to anyone of them it just depends on what you are in need of. There is really know wrong way. I think it’s more of how much you want spend!!!

    From personal experience & knowledge. I would try to find a reputable contractor I am comfortable with first. I’m sure I’m going to get comments for making this statement – LoL ! But the reality is that you need the contractor if the project requires anything other than changing out some superficial things. The contractor is legally liable for the project – not the architect, engineer, designer. The reputable contractor will assist you in getting – only – the needed people to complete your project.

    I’m sure anyone reading my comment is asking – ya ok – and what are your qualification – knowledge.

    I/ we are a licensed development company with over 20 yrs of experience. We current carry 2 licenses in California with the CSLB (contractors state license board ) 1) B – general building contractor. 2) B – general contractor, C12 – earth work & paving, C32- parking contractor & highway improvement contractor, C34 pipeline contractor. We are consultants & provide meditational services. Do to our years of experience & knowledge we have decided to move forward, pursuing a degree in engineering.

    *** If you know anything about California, you understand ! California has the most stringent regulation in country.

    Hopefully this will give some insight , or a least a few minutes to ponder on.

  16. I’m not sure whom I need for the work I need done. I have a load bearing wall between kitchen and livingroom of which I want only half of it opened up into livingroom. Then repairs done to make it presentable when done. Also, I have a wall from a half bathroom with about 7 feet behind the wall to be used to enlarge bathroom to include a shower, linen closet, and washer and dryer. Then the room, which will be my bedroom, is open to this area, and needs to be freshened up. Do I need a remodeling contractor who will check with architect or structural engineer about the walls, and then do the work, or do I need to get my own architect or engineer? Just don’t know where to start! Thx for any help you can provide!

  17. I was wondering if there were any sites that perhaps architect students who need practice would take someone’s ideas and make a drawing for them for free or a nominal fee?

  18. Who actually designs and provides house plans for single family homeowners… for new homes, renovations or additions?

    Without throwing gasoline on a fire of controversy…
    the simple fact is this:

    In comparing firm billings, as reported by AIA members, by client types:
    Six Percent (6%) are from the design of single-family residences.

    (Source: The Business of Architecture: 2012 AIA Survey Report on Firm Characteristics, Copyright 2012, The American Institute of Architects)

    Only 6 out of 100 of architects’ clients involve design of a single family home.

    I could express so much more but let the language in the AIA’s report above speak for itself.

    I do note that I see no reference in the article above to the AIBD (American Institute of Building Designers) which was founded in 1950. All across the US of A… homeowners can find AIBD professionals. Home Design both exterior, interior, the site… everything about the clients home… that’s what we Residential Designers love to do!

  19. I have recently purchased a home in Colorado Springs. The existing floor plan was to the previous builder/home owners taste. Unfortunately it’s not mine. I will need to remove some walls, redesign kitchen and make the living room larger by incorporating the porch into the house. Some windows need to be changed and the front entrance redesigned. The lower level needs to be redesigned adding a bar, changing baths and incorporating bedrooms.
    I’m still very unsure whether to hire an architect or a designer?

  20. I have been an interior designer for 30 years. I have completed interior residential work for a commercial architect that also was the President of the Architectural Board for the state of Tennessee. I have been nominated as Southeast designer of the year in 2014. I have been contracted to do the interior work for a residential project, but I am having issues with the architect undermining all of the interior work that I am doing. Honestly, I have paid my dues and more……thinking of resigning……any good solutions??

  21. @Trudy
    I’ve been in the building design and construction industry in California for 15 years. The first 13 years working in Architectural firms with roles ranging from designer, job captain, and project manager. The last 2 years I’ve design and constructed my own residential projects.

    I think the big take a way from this entire comment thread is that the titles of “Architect”, “Design Professional”, “Contractor”, etc. in all practicality are simply that, titles. Although these titles are designed to have acute distinctions between them, the reality is that you are hiring human beings; and not the associated title. And the is no substitution for a homeowner doing her due diligence. Yes, it is a pain in the ass to properly go through that process, but you will be well rewarded in not only your enjoyment of the final product, but will improve your chances of enjoying the process along the way; if you do the proper vetting.

    The scope of work you outlined may require a building permit, due to potential modifications to the existing structural system, and the inclusion of electrical and plumbing modifications. The individual you hire to aid in designing your project needs to be experienced in that process and have knowledge of the applicable codes and regulations. (FYI – the wall modifications and entry redesign, if structural, may need to be addressed by a licensed structural engineer. Again a qualified design pro should provide guidance in selecting a structural engineer)

    And if I may add one more thing, the clearer your vision is for your project before you start the design process, the better your odds are of crafting a living space that more holistically serves you in terms of supporting your desired living patterns, generating the desired emotional charter of the spaces, and meeting your budget requirements.

    I hope there is some value for you in my comments.

  22. I know these are older posts but I was trying to find information and help on my project. I am remodeling kitchen, relocating washer and dryer, and making a doorway in, or removing completely, a non load bearing wall to make a dining room. I know basically what I want but need different ideas for where to place things in the kitchen and if I should remove the wall completely. This article and the comments did not help at all as I still don’t know how to design it nor do I know who to have design my kitchen, dining room and new laundry area. I don’t have a budget yet because I don’t know how much it should cost for everything I need done but I am not doing any major structural changes.

  23. Thanks for the information regarding the differences between an architect and a designer. I assume that both professions go hand in hand in constructing and planning a building. There must be commercial firms that provide both services for not only home design, but commercial as well.

  24. I want to update my kitchen. It’s very small, and want to expand into the laundry room but the non-bearing wall will need to be removed and it will involve moving water pipe, gas line, and require new electrical
    work throughout.
    Do I need an engineer or architect to look this over before I can start
    just to be sure there are no hidden problems?

  25. Your flooring material – whatever it is – probably doesn’t extend underneath your existing cabinets. So, unless your new cabinets are exactly the same depth, you’ll likely need to include a new floor in your budget.

  26. Your description of designers is inaccurate and a good 20 years out of date. Designers who meet the professional credential requirements of ASID (the American Society of Interior Designers) or IIDA (the International Interior Design Association) are not decorators. They are qualified by education (some an associates degree, but most a BA in Interior Design,) experience (2-4 years depending on the education,) and examination by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification. The exception would be some designers who were grandfathered into professional membership, although only ASID allows that and they discontinued it a while ago. Some states license interior designers, and those qualifications match that of professional membership in these two organizations. Most states certify interior designers but do not require licensure, and their requirements also match that noted above. If you are in a state with certification or licensure of interior designers, you will be well served to hire a certified/licensed interior designer OR architect. A state with licensure will require interior designers to have errors and omissions insurance, which will protect you as a homeowner. Either way, ask if your designer has it. Architects must, as they are licensed in all states.

  27. Amazing how many times I have seen designers touting themselves as know it all(s)! Beware they are not trained to provide all services that a project involves and cannot CANNOT understand/visualize impacts of their work.
    Homeowners should always get an opinion from an Architect and Contractor (if they have one). Chances are that if the project is too small, Architect may not even take it on – but offer services for fee to see it done as client’s rep – which alone could pay for itself with savings from contractor initiated change orders. I must also say that there are some experienced contractors out there who may just do everything if no permits or detail drawings are required by code, but these are hard to find and best possible way is to discuss with an Architect. Architects have a lot to offer – not just drawings and project management! They can be clients best advisors if involved in the project early on. They can also help you select the right professional – whoever it may need to be – another architect or interior designer. So rather than be in limbo on who to contact just call an Architect and ask – they are more than happy to talk and even help client firm up vision for their project.
    I am sure no one knows this – Architects went into the profession because they wanted to create a better world and help others live and create better environment. For this architects will make every effort possible that client’s best interest is always present! Architect’s role is so much downplayed that the real essence of why Architects exists is being forgotten – reason be insurance or whatever. Make friends with your Architect (after you find the right one) and I am sure you will see the benefits many times over. You may have to interview a couple and select the one who matches/complements your ideology and the one you like. Having worked with many Architects on numerous projects – I can confidently say each one is unique and brings unique skill sets – some are visionaries, some are technical, some are experienced in large projects, some in small projects, some know how to design for off-grid living, while some can design the best downtown condo. So find the one who matches with the project and I am sure their value will be realized many times over. Insurance and contract are necessary evils but more important is right fit and can both parties actually talk freely!
    Another important note – Architects may or may not carry insurance depending on state and type of work involved as all work in not necessarily insurable. Better approach might be to insure the project and include as project cost and work as “one” team that may actually help resolve all and any issues that will come up. I say “will” because they do come up – no one has the crystal ball and construction is one area where it’s good to have contingencies and Architects.

  28. Only Architects, Interior Architects and Landscape Architects DESIGN buildings and spaces.

    Every other professional is not designing. They are allowed to call themselves designers – but in truth they are not.

    The process of design is a very complex process that takes years of education and experience to master.

  29. I have been a Designer since (formally) 1993. I have been designing and building homes, including residential care, since 1969.
    I do hope to bring a contractor into completion of design, however, it is not always possible for me to do so, and depending on the market (right now Sacramento is hot as a pistol) I cannot always have my choice.
    Recently I was called in on a remodel which initially was quite simple, basically a kitchen and new flooring. This extended to cover quite a bit more (though the owners never saw it as such).
    I spent 3+ months putting the ideas together, shopping, etc. etc. all the things needed – paint, counter tops, tile, new cupboards decided on after initial meeting included refurbishing existing – yada yada.
    I brought in two contractors, shortage of which exists now. First was not interested in detailing anything – and, as promised to my clients, had him do a project in my own home. Terrible! I advised we 86 him, and brought in my favorite contractor with whom I have worked since the 1980’s. He did new drawings for cabinets, and submitted a bid. The owner insisted on a “detailed, piece by piece bid”. I personally don’t know contractors who will do that, particularly when it is a relatively small job, and not building a home.
    I was removed from the job, with the contractor, because they expected me (the designer) to not only do my job, but to bring in a contractor they liked who would bid, literally nail by nail. And, are furious because I did not come in with a entire crew of my own!
    They were happy enough with what I had brought them – but expect that I will carry an entire crew.
    I think this was petty and they hired some outfit been in business for a very short time, handed over all the plans, drawings, etc. and got a bid for whatever, probably 40K, for a 70K job.
    I’m afraid that one day I will see what happened there.

  30. There ate some great comments, but a lot of nonsense in this thread. There are plenty of capable designers that can design amazing single-family homes. And there are a plethora of architects who design complete grabage.

    I have a BS in architecture and decided to go into construction management,mworking my way through field engineer, project engineer and project manager positions. I’ve never lost the training and critical eye for scale, symetry and proportion that I learned in college. My background allowed me to identify framing inconsistencies in-situ and modify or design alernatives, which were typically signed off by the architect.

    Now, I design and build my own spec projects that sell for topmdollar in the Bay Area and I do occasional design projects for select clients. Not an architect, no AIA…just good, thoughtful design.

    Bottom line: hire who you feel comfortable with and who shares a collective vision.

  31. Here is the big difference between these two professions: Architects design the interior and exterior spaces of our built environment, designing how spatial relationships within a building are laid out. While interior designers, hence the name, work within the already established interior spatial platform, using their skills to add aesthetic value.

    Well, it depends on your individual scenario. If you already have a structure built and are looking for interior design help, then in most cases you require the help of an interior designer. And if you need a home built from scratch, then we say hire the architect —and possibly the interior designer if you need help on the inside of the home.

  32. Spent 8 years becoming an architect plus spent 27 years in practice just to find out that home and building designers dominate the market. All those years were a waste; the reality is that clients prefer to hire a designer over an architect because home designers are cheap and get engineers to stamp their drawings. If I stamp someone else’s plans I would loose my license and be hit with a $5000 fine by my state board. Yet I have to pay thousands of dollars a year for E&O insurance. How can you compete against someone whose fees are a $1.50 a foot and take no responsibility for errors and omissions. It makes no sense because how can you produce great architecture at that price. It is absolutely denigrating to the profession of architecture that state and national legislators and the AIA has not done anything about reckless plan stamping by engineers just to earn a quick buck and designers that come a dime a dozen. We architects deserve more credit by the American public than do designers, builders, and contractors. And, shame on HGTV for not giving proper credit to architects. The build environment should be the product of an architect’s intellect and design effort. Not some McMansion and Pop culture strip mall designed by a home or building designer.

  33. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit
    and sources back to your site? My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from some of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you.
    Appreciate it!

    • Hi there!
      We grant permission for this request, provided:
      -Quotes (not full texts) are clearly attributed to Danny Lipford and Today’s Homeowner.
      -Links to and the source article appear beside the sampled content.
      Thanks for your request.

  34. Following are some recommendations which must be considered in order to identify a good architect for a house remodel.
    Visit AIA: Make sure that you use the AIA website, as it will help in fine tuning your search, AIA is basically an online Database for more than 20,000 architecture firms
    Talk to everyone: You must ask for referral from your friends, family members, peers, and even your realtor, as they might have an architect that they can endorse.
    Take a tour: There are a number of US citizens which usually host design or festival week in order to showcase the work of the local design community.
    Scour the internet: There are a number of online websites like Yelp, Houzz, and Angies List, where you can read customer reviews, and determined which architect suits for house renovation job.
    Therefore, make sure that you hire a professional contractor such as YOR Construction And Investments inc., that offer premium quality construction service for Full House Remodeling.

  35. Plan to spend 3-4 times more for architectural fees for a licensed architect than what you would spend for a drafter or designer. There are many qualified designers out there that are not licensed architects. I am not an architect, but I have been designing homes for 20 years… many of them being high-end $1-2M builds, and I offer my clients a highly comprehensive set of drawings that includes design features that you would find in homes designed by reputable architects. I know just as much if not more about structural analysis, design theory and project management as other architects in my area because I have worked full time for 20 years in various architectural firms, commercial and residential. And I take the initiative to learn new technologies and research new materials, and generally keep myself immersed in the field of Architecture. Architects have a need to justify the fact that they spent ~100k on their education, put in numerous hours of internship, have worked their butts off to attain their license, and they need fees capable of covering the potential costs of an occasional litigious client. I fully respect their level of commitment, but I cannot agree with statements made by architects that they are the only truly qualified people capable of delivering a well designed, engineered structure. In my state, any home under 3,500 habitable SF does not require an architect’s seal, and that realm is where architects cannot compete with guys like me. In fact, they really resent people like me, yet they often call on me to do their drawings for them when they do get a job… they will pay me my fee, then take credit for the drawings to their client while collecting a higher fee for themselves for “delivering” the drawings. I’m sure this will ruffle a lot of fancy feathers and turtleneck shirts, but it’s a fact… and I know other people offer the same type of services I do.

  36. I actually never knew that one of the purposes of architects are to make a full plan of the home from roof to foundation like you talked about. That would be really helpful for us because we are trying to design our new home, and we are kind of caught up in the details of everything because we don’t have a solid plan drawn up. We’ll have to get an architect who could do it for us so that we know what we are going to actually build.

    • Hi, Mr. Talha, features home improvement advice from the nationally syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner” and its experts.
      We don’t offer information on individual home builders, repairers and suppliers, but we encourage checking your local phone listings for this information.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  37. Dear Sirs,
    I’m looking for an architect in the 75076 zip code area to draw up house design-plans for us on our recent purchased property in the stated zip code. We are looking to hire as soon as possible.

    • Hi, Cindy, features home improvement advice from the nationally syndicated TV show “Today’s Homeowner” and its experts.
      We don’t offer information on individual home builders, repairers and suppliers, but we encourage checking your local phone listings for this information.
      Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  38. If you want peace of mind that your designer has passed a minimum set of state/nationally recognized credentials related to health, safety, and welfare, hire an architect. They also have ethical and legal responsibilities to the state board.
    A designer can have any level of experience and skill, and almost anyone can call themselves a designer. Not to say there are not good or even great ones out there, just as there are numerous bad architects designing buildings, but the talented designers are often just as expensive as architects. For my money I would go with the proven professional who went through the requirements.

  39. It’s good to know that designers also check with an engineer to make sure a remodel won’t have complications like saggy beams. My wife and I have been thinking of remodeling our dining room to extend into the back yard. We’ll have to find a designer to give us a structurally sound plan for it.

  40. I never knew that an architect comes in before the contractor gets involved. My wife and I are looking into different houses and options for our current one. We’ll have to hire residential design services. Already inspired after reading this article!

  41. Thank you for explaining that for large changes to your home, such as whole house renovations or new kitchens, you should look for help from an architect or designer. I just feel like too many blogs aren’t realistic enough in that you can’t do everything by yourself.
    My husband and I want to remodel a few rooms in our home this year, including our bathroom and kitchen. I think we should find an experienced home designer that has experience in those areas and can help us. Off to the Yellow Pages!

  42. I have just built an architect-designed house. The architect ordered the most expensive option, by a factor, whenever possible. When challenged on how much things cost, the response was “It’s not my responsibility to know that.” I believe that is true, as far as what they’re taught in school—and that’s a problem! It was a constant battle to override any design “feature”. If not for the General Contractor, I would be in debt forever in an artistic but unlivable house. And no, the architect wasn’t a difficult person in general. If using an architect, make sure the contractor understands that nothing should be done without your full understanding and agreement. And keep your hand on your wallet.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with the Today’s Homeowner community, P.!
      TH community members helping other TH community members — we love it. 🙂


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here