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JAMES AND MORRIS CAREY \ On the House Home remodeling requires a designer with the right skills



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



With a remodel, along with the new, you need to think about the high cost of replacing perfectly good walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors -- not to mention the plumbing, heating and electrical systems as well.

A good designer spends a great deal of time attempting to re-use as much of what exists as possible. In the design, you shouldn't remove any walls unless absolutely necessary.

Windows convert to doors, doors become hallways, and hallways help to enlarge rooms.

People who specialize in drawing remodels acquire a certain capacity for designing around what exists.

This sensitivity to the cost of unnecessarily removing parts of the home can greatly reduce costs.

Those who draw new projects think a bit differently than remodel designers.

With new projects, the order of construction begins with a clean, neatly graded lot.

No obstructions lie between the delivery location and the place where the materials will be used. Everything is orderly and done by the numbers.

Contrast that with a remodel, where every wall that comes down poses a new and unusual challenge.

Designers who specialize in commercial projects also differ from remodel designers in their training and experience.

Commercial building codes are very different than residential ones.

Even the building materials are different -- not to mention the people who install them.

If you intend to remodel your home, don't look for help from among the folks in the new-residential or commercial construction industries. They may be excellent in their field, but you don't want them involved in your home remodel. If you plan to remodel, you want an expert in residential design.

Stamp of approval

No law stipulates who can or can't draw a set of plans for a home remodeling project. You can draw the plans yourself or have your neighbor do them.

However, some building departments require you to have, literally, a stamp of approval from either a licensed architect or a licensed engineer. Other building departments require such approval only when the job involves structural work. Mind you, this requirement normally has nothing do with the aesthetic value of the project -- only its structural integrity.

The "stamp" to which we refer is the respective architect or engineer's seal -- rubber-stamped onto the plans -- and then signed. If you don't have a relationship with an architect or an engineer, you may find it difficult to locate someone to stamp your plans. The engineer takes a risk stamping plans created by someone else.

Here's why: Once the drawings have been stamped, the responsibility for correctness shifts to the person who stamped them. That person becomes responsible for every mistake -- no matter who made it. This stamp is usually necessary only when structural work will take place. Kitchen and bath remodels and other remodel projects that don't incorporate structural changes normally don't need to be stamped.

Architect commissions

How about an architect, you ask? Architects don't generally design small, residential remodeling projects, because there's more money to be made doing commercial work, subdivisions and custom homes. Architects usually work for a percentage of the construction budget.

If your remodel will cost $40,000, the architect would charge you between 7 percent and 15 percent, or somewhere between $2,800 and $6,000. Compare this to a 15 percent commission of $75,000 to design a $500,000 custom home, and you can see why architects shy away from remodels.

Designer deal

The inequity between the high cost of becoming a licensed architect and the small amount of design money available in the home remodeling industry caused a whole new breed of artist to evolve -- "the designer."

Designers usually offer some other product or service in conjunction with their drawing talent.

The consumer gets away with a professional design for less money and can purchase other services and products through the designer.

The designer can afford to make a smaller profit on the design when the sale includes other services or products. The customer saves money, and the designer makes enough of a living. Because designers aren't licensed, they affiliate themselves with architects or engineers who perform structural calculations. These licensed professionals then stamp and sign the designer's plans.

Designers are everywhere. You may find an appliance store with its own "kitchen designer." Or discover a certified bath designer providing services for a plumbing products company.

Home centers now employ folks to design your kitchen or bath on computer while you wait. Designers are even showing up at furniture companies.

One-stop shopping

Which designer has proved to be the most remodel-savvy of them all? You've got it: the design-build remodeler.

About one-third of all U.S. remodelers are now designing and remodeling all under one roof.

This trend is one-stop shopping at its finest, and people are loving it. Finding good residential remodelers who will bid plans drawn by architects or other separate entities is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Where architects once organized building teams, remodelers are now organizing design teams.

XFor more home improvement tips and information visit www.onthehouse.com.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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