Sacramento Bee Article:
By James and Morris Carey
January 22, 2005

With a remodel, 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.

A good designer spends a great deal of time attempting to reuse as much of what exists as possible. In 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 can greatly reduce costs.

No law stipulates who can or can't draw a set of plans for your 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 licensed engineer. Other building departments require such approval only when the job involves structural work. Mind you, this requirement normally has nothing to do with the aesthetic value of the project - only its structural integrity.

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 that don't incorporate structural changes normally don't need to be stamped.

Now 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 you remodel will cost $40,000, the architect would charge 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.

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 a professional design for less money and can purchase other services and products through that designer.

The designer can afford to make a smaller profit on the design when the sale includes other services or products. The consumer saves money, and the designer makes a living. Because designers aren't licensed, they affiliate themselves with architects or engineers who perform structural calculations. These licensed professionals them 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 the computer while you wait.

The design-build remodeler has proved to be the most remodel savvy of them all. About one-third of all U.S. remodelers provide both design and remodel services under one roof.

This trend is one-stop shopping at its finest, and people are loving it.