CHOOSING AN ARCHITECT: Starting any major renovation project can be overwhelming. Who you choose to help you with that project will impact you for months to come. When the task is to elevate your house, you’re going to need an architect. Choose wisely. Like most service providers, going by word of mouth is a good place to start. You also want to make sure they have a proper license as well as sufficient experience. These are things you already know.
TIP: If you notice a house in your neighborhood doing some work that you like, ask them which architect they are using. Whenever possible, you’ll want to determine if they are happy with the quality of his work, the timeliness of his drawings and if s/he brings any creativity to the table. You might be surprised to realize how common it is in this profession to suffer from a creativity deficiency. It’s good to know up front if you’ll have to design the majority of the project yourself. Most times they’ll play it like they really are capable of generating something you’re going to love. In our experience, most times they’re wrong.
Because prices can vary wildly, make sure to interview several potential prospects. You’ll want to find out what sort of projects they tend to work on (big or small) and how busy they are at the moment. If an architect’s plate is too full already, chances are you’ll end up waiting a long time to get any drawings, delaying your plans or renovations. Also, if the the architect has several employees, be certain who will actually be doing your drawings and overseeing the job. Sometimes the most experienced architect shows up at your house to win the job only to pass it off to someone with less experience in the office. Someone with less experience can work out well, particularly if the scope of your project is not very complicated.
DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS: One of the things that help a project to run smoothly are drawings with accurate and sufficient details for the builders to follow. Think of these drawings like the directions to a complicated LEGO set with lots of pieces. Do you want your builder to know where to put the wall outlets or have him guess? Do you want your builder to know what type of material you want to have on your floors (wood, tile, carpet) or do you want to be surprised when the builder tells you that what you want is not part of the plans? Anything left off of your drawings will, more times than not, end up costing you more money. The more details, the better. Discuss the level of detail you desire as specifically as possible. Sometimes these drawings will cost you more money up front, but save you a bundle in the long run.
CONTRACTS: Be sure to read the fine print. Try to include a clause that dictates deadlines so you are not left in limbo with an architect who gets too busy or turns out to be a slacker.