When it comes to remodeling your house, who do you hire — an architect or a contractor? The choice isn’t always obvious, which is why we’re going to provide some guidance in this post.
Architect vs. Contractor: What’s the Difference?
In simple terms, architects are responsible for creating designs that contractors ultimately implement. To look at it another way, you can think of architects as combining artistry and engineering while contractors carry out the hands-on work that delivers on the architect’s plan.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the roles of an architect and contractor to better understand which your project needs.
Architect vs. Contractor Responsibilities
An architect works to create a design that meets a client’s needs and wants. The scope of the project can be massive, as in the case of skyscrapers — or it can be small, as in the case of your home remodel.
An architect must ensure their design satisfies not only the client’s needs but building codes as well. As such, these professionals will secure the relevant permits for the project.
Beyond the design stage, architects work with contractors to ensure implementation of their design goes according to plan.
What This Means for You
When you work with an architect on your home remodeling process, they will oversee your vision’s delivery, from start to finish.
They will communicate with your contractors to ensure everything goes according to plan; technical expertise and credibility in the industry are assets that good architects will leverage to get this done.
Cost: An architect typically costs $60 to $125 per hour if you are using them solely for planning and design. They tend to charge a percentage of the project’s overall cost if they are overseeing the whole thing.
A contractor is responsible for implementing the architect’s design. Larger projects typically involve a general contractor that delegates more specialized tasks to subcontractors but for the purpose of this article, we’ll lump the two (general contractor and subcontractor) together.
In the context of a home remodel, contractor tasks can include removing and installing walls, appliances, countertops, light fixtures, staircases — the list goes on.
The detailed work of an architect allows contractors to carry out their work according to a plan; they don’t need to worry about permits or building codes as such details have already been worked out.
What This Means for You
When you work with a contractor, they will use their expertise to deliver the end result.
If you are working directly with them, they may rely on you to communicate the overall vision and goals. If an architect is the liaison between you and the contractor, they will typically bear that responsibility.
Cost: Unlike architects, contractors do not typically charge by the hour. Rather, they will charge a fee for the whole project. This varies wildly depending on what you are looking to have done.
Architect or Contractor: Who Do You Hire to Remodel a House?
In the real world, architect firms will often have in-house contractors — and vice versa.
But when choosing strictly between one or the other, here are some guidelines.
The Case for a House Renovation Contractor
For smaller home remodel projects, a typical house renovation contractor is equipped to both conceive and deliver the project fully.
These smaller-scale projects can include installing countertops, flooring, ceilings — essentially elements that don’t change your home structurally. Larger contractors typically do have the resources to conceive a more substantial remodel, however.
This only really makes sense practically and financially up to a certain point. Experts recommend using a contractor in place of an architect (or even doing the design yourself, if you’re so inclined) when the remodel is primarily cosmetic and costs less than 5% of your home’s value.
To learn more about finding your dream contractor, check out this piece from Procore Technologies.
The Case for an Architect
If your home remodel will cost beyond 5% of your house’s value and/or involves major structural changes, experts recommend working with an architect to create the design.
This is largely because such projects and complicated and will benefit greatly from an expert’s input at every stage. Getting things wrong here can result in serious legal, financial, and safety consequences — so it’s worth getting it right.
Many architect firms will handle the contractor selection process in addition to their design work. They may even have in-house contractors to work on your project.
How to Hire an Architect for Remodeling
Wondering how to hire an architect for remodeling? The key is to find a reputable residential architect in your area who has a proven track record of delivering results similar to what you’re after.
They should have plenty of samples and positive references. Make sure the architect you ultimately choose is someone you can communicate well with; they will, after all, be the ones creating a design that incorporates your vision.
Who Do You Hire to Remodel a House? — Conclusion
By now, you should have a pretty clear idea of the distinction between an architect and contractor. To reiterate, architects create designs that contractors ultimately implement.
Architects make sense for larger-scale projects that involve significant structural changes to your home and represent more than 5% of its value.
Working directly with a house renovation contractor makes sense when the project is not as costly and doesn’t involve substantial reworking of your house’s structure or floor plan.