DIY or Hire an Architect? Take Our Quiz to Find Out!

The Quick Guide to Hiring an Architect

Our Quiz Will Help You Decide: DIY or Hire an Architect?

Photo by Sergey Zolkin

You know how you go to a restaurant really hungry, order things that sound good, and then realize your eyes were bigger than your stomach? Sometimes, home renovation projects can be like that too. You hear yourself saying things like, “We just have to take down that wall and move that door frame – how hard can it be?” to the rescue! Take this to help you determine when a project gets big enough to call in professional back up. See what you think!

DIY or Hire an Architect?

Write down your answers – you’re going to tally your total As, Bs, and Cs at the end.

1. Do you have tools?

a. I have a toolbox…

b. I have a couple fancy saws and things.

c. You could build a garage in my garage.

2. Have you used them before?

a. I measured where the couch would go.

b. I’ve hung pictures and built a shelf one time.

c. I couldn’t tell you which one I haven’t used.

3. Do you have reliable help?

a. My kids are around this weekend.

b. My wife and best friend are pretty excited about this project.

c. I’ve already called my softball team. They’re in.

4. Do you have a hard deadline for this project to be done?

a. I mean, it can’t take more than a weekend, right?

b. We’re prepared to live in the guest bedroom for a month.

c. I don’t want to spend more than two weekends on this – it’s softball season!

5. Do you have a clear budget in mind?

a. I figure it’ll take a couple trips to Lowe’s.

b. We’ve saved up a couple thousand for supplies and maybe an electrician.

c. Yes. I’ve saved on labor but am going all in on supplies, permits, contractors, etc.

6. Look at the project area. Are there advanced things, like wires, plumbing, water lines, windows, door frames, walls, or full sections of floor that you plan to change?

a. Sure, but YouTube is really great.

b. Yes, but we can always call my wife’s dad about the electrical stuff.

c. Yup. I’ve got two buddies who are contractors and know how to do that part.

7. Do you know if you need to submit plans to the city or acquire permits for the work you’re about to do?

a. Submit plans? That’s a thing?

b. Um. I Googled it a couple times and should probably visit the city building to ask more questions.

c. My father in law works at the city building – he’s got me lined up for all the permits.

8. Are you going for a straight remodel project or are you getting creative (think adding skylights, adding whole rooms on, adding a spiral staircase, moving walls around)?

a. Oh. Well, I had thought about a skylight… that sounds nice.

b. We both hate the built-in fireplace surround and stained glass – it all has to go.

c. Yup. This is a straight-forward add-on like we built on my dad’s house last summer.

Total Your Answers

If you have mostly Cs, wow do you know what you’re doing! Way to go! You’ll know if you need an architect, so we’re just gonna let you get back to what you were working on.

If you have mostly Bs, you’ll want to at least consult with an architect and a contractor before you get in over your head.

If you have mostly As, we strongly recommend you leave this to the professionals. They’ll help you save money and avoid long-term problems with the build.

Photo by Henry & Co.

What an Architect Provides

Architects are a little different from contractors, in that they also have an eye for designing beautiful solutions. Most contractors and builders are more expert in safety, building support, and city requirements. Architects have a working knowledge of those areas and specialize in changing the aesthetic of a space.

Often, an architect brings more than just designs to the job – they often have a contractor they prefer to work with, can help manage deadlines and costs, and can even help with the finishes like countertops, paint colors, and fixtures. And if you’re interested in a LEED certified or more energy efficient project, an architect will be your friend in low-cost, low-energy upgrades.

Architects often have a rate scale that can help you manage expenses. If you just need advice or plans, they often work on an hourly rate. Sometimes you can agree on a percentage of the project cost, and for larger jobs, they might be able to quote a flat fee. You have every right to ask them to break down the price into a line-item list to make sure you know what they’re doing for you. And it’s totally ok to get a second quote from a different architect. You may find that architects fresh out of school will charge less, but don’t forget: you get what you pay for.

There are a couple conditions where you will absolutely want to hire an architect: if you live in a registered historical house, if the value of the house is high for the market (and a poorly-done addition could damage its value), and if the job is extensive.

Have you opted for an architect instead of a DIY? Tell us about your experience! What would you do differently next time?

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Jess is a user experience strategist by day and a writer by night. Jess loves making a space feel unique and welcoming through DIY renovations, cooking Southern soul food, and hosting dance parties. She and her Schnoodle Puck spend most of their free time playing in the great outdoors in Utah.

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