Architect or Contractor?
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We are remodeling our kitchen on a TIGHT budget. Yet we want to do it right, e.g., with best use of the space and quality construction. Should we hire an architect (most expensive), a certified kitchen designer (about $2000, I'm told, but may want to sell you what their showroom sells), or let our contractor draw the designs? The main consideration is that we have an awkward space that we would like redesigned, which will involve moving a bearing wall. So do we need an architect for that? The second consideration is time: we have small children and though I am willing to do all the shopping for cabinets, fixtures, etc., myself, perhaps we would be better served spending money on someone who will help us narrow our choices (not really our contractor's bailiwick). But money, money, money is the bottom line, which is why we keep going in circles. Can someone help? -Celia
Representing all three categories, I'm an Architect, Contractor and kitchen designer (as well as a parent), I thought I'd respond. Normally any of the three choices would be acceptable, however, you mentioned a bearing wall, which in your case eliminates the kitchen designer and about half of the contractors. So choose a contractor who isn't afraid of the structural issues. A fourth option is to let Home Depot or Ikea design your kitchen, it's luck of the draw there, but some of their designers know there product well and hey, it's free!
A good contractor is certainly better than a bad architect, and that goes for a kitchen designer as well. That said, both the contractor and the kitchen designer usually aren't looking at the whole picture and may miss opportunities for improvement. Further a good architect can save you money, you can spend a lot of money in a kitchen without even uttering a german word (think appliances) and a bit of guidance there can go a long way. You might consider hiring an architect as a consultant for a few hours and then passing their ideas onto your contractor.
I have redone 2 kitchens in the past 5 years. Both were total redesigns. With the first I worked with Home Depot. They have good and mediocre kitchen designers. I had a pretty good one. They work hard and have a very decent selection of cabinets. It was all very smooth. The second kitchen was with General Appliance and was truly a nightmare. The kitchen designer was unfamiliar with the cabinets, had terrible ideas, and was very difficult to work with. The order was 9 weeks (yes, 9) late -- which meant an extra nine weeks without a kitchen. They never corrected several problems and were hostile to work with. If I do another kitchen I will surely go back to home depot. Good luck.
Hello Barbara, if you have a good contractor, you don't really need an architect. We used Alan Triguero for our house and in many instances, his ideas were better than our Architects, we could have saved a bundle just going with him. Good luck.
You don't necessarily need an architect for a simple basement remodel. A conscientious contractor that you trust can make recommendations, work from your sketches if you know basically what you want, get the building permit for you, and get the work done. An architect could help more by optimizing the layout of the space in ways you may not have thought of; considering details, material options, etc. more than most contractors would to give you the nicest job; possibly bringing the construction cost down by working out the design carefully up front; and giving you clear construction drawings that you can then get competitive bids on from different contractors, which might also bring the construction cost down. If you go without an architect, it's harder to get the best price and the best quality in the construction, because you don't know how the contractor is going to handle all the details, exactly what materials and products they're expecting to use, etc., without a detailed construction drawing. If you care a lot about the details, an architect's design can help you make the choices that matter most to you and get the most for your money, and the architect can also act as an advocate for you when you're getting bids from contractors and during construction. If it's a straightforward job and you're not that picky about exactly how it's done, working with a good contractor should be fine. An architect's fee would about 8%-16% of the construction cost, depending on the complexity of the design, and how much of the architect's involvement you wanted during construction. If you work directly with a contractor, make sure you are clear about exactly what their price includes.