Why You Need A Design Professional (and some plans)

There are three things homeowners tend to care the most about when remodeling: cost, schedule and quality.  This trifecta of construction bliss is hard to achieve, however, without careful planning and specifically, plans.  In remodeling, this means a dimensioned drawing looking down from above at the floor (a floor plan), and dimensioned elevations (drawings that provide a vertical look toward each wall of the room) that include things like tile layout, location of bath accessories, and ideally, electrical placement.

There is a temptation, particularly with small projects like bathrooms and decks, to forge ahead with construction sans plans.  “It’s a really small bathroom,” we hear from potential clients. “We’re only replacing the fixtures, the vanity and the tile. Oh, and we need a bath fan and floor heat.”  While it may not seem like a lot to think about, your bathroom is a completely custom space, regardless of its size.  It is unique and requires a unique solution, which means design, material selection, and lots of decision-making.

This design and decision-making process is best carried out well ahead of the work starting, and that is so that the goals of schedule, budget and quality can all be met. It also means you’ll have a plan in hand that helps you to obtain a building permit.

Making big decisions or material selections after a bath or kitchen remodel is under way is almost always bound to result in a higher cost and schedule delays.  If you haven’t selected a faucet by the time the construction starts, your contractor will include an allowance for it–a placeholder that represents a likely average cost for that item.  If you go shopping and find a faucet that you absolutely have to have and is not only twice the allowance but also has a 6-week lead time, it puts you in the position of having to choose between what you really want, and having the project finish on time.  If you can choose the faucet ahead, you know the price and your contractor can have the faucet on hand before any work even starts.

Deciding layout on the fly is not only inefficient but also extremely time-consuming for the homeowner.  Imagine having to schedule multiple meetings during the week to look at layout, then discovering that the layout you’ve decided on doesn’t work because of the sizing of some other element, or taking dozens of phone calls at work because the contractor needs your input.

When you hire a designer or architect to create your plans, the contractor has dimensioned plans that can be built from and that answer the vast majority of questions that come up.  It also affords you the opportunity to see what your remodeled room will look like before you start, which provides peace of mind and a clear idea of what you are investing in.  A good design professional will bring ideas to the table that you never even considered, provide different options for laying out your space, and you will benefit from their wealth of experience.  Their input on tile layout, electrical layout and minimum distances between fixtures and counters (for code and comfort) are invaluable, particularly for clients who don’t have previous remodeling experience.   They are often able to help facilitate obtaining a building permit or help with interior design as part of their services.

Plans also help to level the playing field while interviewing contractors and receiving initial estimates.  Contractors’ estimates are substantially more accurate when working from a set of plans and specifications–even if preliminary–than they are if you stand in the room, wave your hands and take a look at photos of remodels you like.  The latter method could result in a wildly varying range of cost estimates, which makes it hard to understand and commit to a budget for your project.

Some decisions do still need to be made once work is under way.  Even the most detailed plans require some adjustments based on the conditions found after a room is demolished.  And often, clients decide to make small changes once they see the new area in person. But starting with a detailed set of plans allows you and your contractor to move down the same path with a clear understanding of expectations, and the ability to plan ahead.  That makes the “on time, on budget, high quality” goal that much closer, and that means a better experience with your remodel.

If you need a referral, just ask us.  We are happy to recommend the great architects and designers with whom we work.


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3 Responses to Why You Need A Design Professional (and some plans)

  1. Braywills says:

    Informative post!! Thanks for sharing this useful information about the importance of professional designers in home remodeling. Really professional gives an innovative and creative look to home with proper planning.

  2. I saw recently an article called “10 Things to Discuss with your Contractor before work starts .” Would you please tell me or send me a copy of the article. Thank you Jim

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