It can be confusing to know who you need to hire for your remodeling project. Depending on the scope, you may need to hire an architect and general contractor, and you may want an interior designer as well. Here is an overview of the players:
Architects design home and room layouts. If your project involves additions, moving walls or other structural changes, you will likely need an architect to produce drawings and work with an engineer to design building requirements. An architect typically contracts with an engineer directly. Some architects are also more involved in the design process of selecting materials and finishes, for an additional cost. It is possible for a general contractor to work directly with an engineer on some design solutions without the involvement of an architect, but an architect will add wisdom and creative solutions from a more aesthetic and practical viewpoint.
If your project is more cosmetic in nature, involving items such as bathroom and kitchen upgrades with no change in room dimensions or home systems such as plumbing and electrical, etc, then you will probably not need the services of an architect.
You may consider hiring a designer to help you with individual room layout and selection of finishes. Some interior designers are also trained in producing technical drawings and can create documentation needed for permits when an architect is not involved. The designer could then be the primary point of contact with your contractor.
There is a wide range of professionals that call themselves designers, some with credentials and others with informal training. Most commonly interior designers assist in selecting materials and products for the interior of your home, such as flooring, counters, paint color, tile, furniture and decor. Some designers specialize in particular rooms, such as kitchen or bath. Most product showrooms also have designers on staff that can assist with selection from their products at no additional charge.
Because design is so subjective, make sure to review the person’s approach and portfolio carefully and verify that you have similar tastes. Be specific about your budget for the particular products. Designers often like to recommend “designer” high cost items. Designer fees can also be expensive, but if you have additional budget for this and lack the time or ability to select these products yourself, hiring a designer can be worthwhile. Designers usually charge by the hour, and they can give you an idea of the number of hours they expect to spend on your project in advance. Be sure to get your payment terms formalized in a contract.
Depending on the scope of the project, you may want to hire a general contractor to do all of the management for you, or you may want to hire specific tradesmen yourself and manage them directly. As the name implies, these are contractors that specialize in a particular type of product or service. If the scope of your remodel is limited to a few areas, such as refinishing floors and new interior paint, you can save cost on management fees by hiring these people directly. If your project will require the services of a number of professionals that need to coordinate their work, it would be wise to hire a general contractor.
For most large remodels that involve a full renovation of a room or more, you will likely want to hire a general contractor. This person will manage all aspects of the contracted work for you, and bring in his employees or sub-contract with specialists for various aspects of the job. The general contractor will be your primary point of contact. He would also be the point person with the city building department for permits and inspections. The general contractor can work directly with an architect, designer and engineer.
If you are hiring a general contractor, this will be the person with the most influence over the success of your remodel. On a complex project you may have daily contact with your general contractor, so make sure this is a person that you can see yourself talking to every day. To assist in finding, selecting, and working with this critical role, we have a number of articles and tools available: