10 Tips for Home Improvement from an Architect

Home improvement, to me, includes not only painting, updating finishes and changing some fixtures or redoing your kitchen. I am thinking bigger picture, such as; additions, renovations and interior alterations. I am going to focus on an actual renovation project where you will be required to enroll the services of an architect. Perhaps you need more space or you want to open up some areas of your home. The following are some tips to drive you to your final destination.

Time

Photo by Kerem Yucel

Take your time! There is no rush to make such a major financial decision. Do not rush into this process without asking yourself what the end game will be. It will cost you more later to change your mind. So make a list of important must haves and a separate list of minor haves. When you meet with your architect it will allow for a great start to communicating your home improvement project.

Selection

 Photo by Jenny Kennedy-Olsen 

Prior to hiring an architect, have them come to your home to discuss your home improvement ideas. Find out how the architect works and discover how his/her process will make your visions a reality. Make sure you are comfortable with the architect and have a sense that he/she will work hard to make your renovation project a successful one. How are you going to find these architects to come out and talk to you? If you have a neighbor, coworker or friend worked with an architect perhaps they will recommend them to you. Ask them what they liked and did not like. If they had a negative experience it might help you in what to look for in your own search. Other great ways to seek out these professionals is to perform an internet search via Google, which provides a list of firms in your area. from there you can go directly to the architect’s website and learn so much more about them. Google is also an excellent place to read reviews from past clients. An additional site to go to is Houzz. Houzz is an excellent resource to discover architects in your area, read reviews and see their work.

Observe

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Keep a mental or physical notebook documenting features you like around you. Whether you are at a friend’s house, driving around, looking through magazines or scouring the web, create a log of items you enjoy. Be prepared to share this with your architect so he/she understands your tastes and is able to reinterpret then into the design. Once again a great resource for images include Houzz and Pinterest as well.

Coordinate/Compromise

Photo by Asif Akbar

Are you a married couple? Then make sure you and your spouse see eye to eye on the direction you want your home improvement project to take. This is critical in progressing with your architect! Your architect is not necessarily a mediator or marriage counselor, but if needed he/she will help you in your decision making by offering a compromising suggestion to accommodate both ideas into a single solution. It is not unusual for this to happen and a fresh set of eyes can bring your ideas together and make everyone happy.

Ask Questions

questions faced by architects
Photo by Bob Smith

If you do not understand a decision your architect made then ask “why?” Perhaps the idea stemmed from a structural issue, or maybe it was just a whimsical idea he/she had. The architect wants your input and is happy to clarify any confusion. After all you are the one who is going to live with those decisions once the project is complete.

Scope

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Identify what you are going to do and stick to it. This will define the scope of the project and allow for a streamlined design process. Have a clear vision of your end goal. Do you want to add more space (an addition) or do your want more openness (alteration)? Those are to major different ideas and deciding what you need will help your architect guide you in what makes the most sense.

Dialogue

Photo by Hossein Fotowat Khah

Dialogue is probably the most important tool you have in making a healthy home improvement project successful. Always keep a steady flow of communication between you and your architect. This allows for an efficient development of your renovation plans.

End User

Photo by kevin van belle

Always remember, this is your house to live in! Make decisions based on your tastes and lifestyle. The architect will provide input with his/her  personal ideas and solutions. However, in the end it is important to express your will since your are the end user. Unsure of which way to go, then let your architect give you the pros and cons of each decision, maybe this will help in determining the proper answer.

Be Prepared

Photo by John De Boer

Be prepared because renovation is tricky! Without a doubt when a general contractor goes to open a wall he may find something totally unexpected. With years of experience an architect can make educated guesses as to what is hidden within your ceilings and walls. However, this is never a 100% guarantee. Regardless, the unknown nature of this process certainly leaves room for miscalculation, so it is important to be prepared for the possibility of a surprise or two and an associated additional cost.

Alternative Living Location

Photo by dmitry belopolsky

If this is a major renovation, you may be displaced during construction. Whether it’s because you will be without plumbing and heat or the dust and noise becomes unbearable or it is just too dangerous, plan on making alternative living arrangements during construction. This makes everyone’s life easier and safer.

Good luck with you future home improvements and I hope it is a successful one!