Remodel and Renovation
May 3, 2023

Remodel Design Process: How An Architect Designs a Home Renovation

Remodel Design Process: How An Architect Designs a Home Renovation

Do you want to design a remodel but aren’t sure what goes into the process? What parts does an architect do? What about an engineer? What do you need to get permits? And how much will all of this cost? To help you understand how to design the perfect renovation for your home, we’ve put together this overview of what an architect does to design a home remodel.

1. Develop Your Remodel Priorities

To start, you’ll outline goals for your space, budget, and timeline for the project. You certainly have some ideas, but an architect will ask a series of questions to help understand what you care about. For instance, do you want a pantry in your kitchen or do you want your toilet partitioned off in a privacy toilet/water closet?

2. Schematic Design

Once you kick off a project, your architect will create floor plans of your home's current layout, known as the as-built floor plan. They may outsource this to a draftsperson. Either way, it will typically cost you $1,000-$5,000. 

You’ll want to see several different layout options for what the remodeled space could look like. This is what’s known as schematic (or conceptual) design, or SD. You’ll typically see several floor plans and sometimes some plain “white-box” 3D views. This part of the process usually takes 2-4 months and a third of the architect’s total fees, or $4,000-10,000.

3. Design Documentation

Once you’ve locked in on the big elements of your layout, your architect will prepare more detailed drawings that include more detailed measurements, elevations of the sides of the house, cross-sections, reflected ceiling plans, and other specifications. This is known in the industry as DD. Note that your architect will help with fixed furniture (things like cabinetry and kitchen island style), but either you or an interior designer will pick finishes like paint and light fixtures later.

4. Construction Drawings

This is where you finalize design details with both your architect and various specialists’ input. For example, if you’re moving walls or change a ceiling, you’ll likely need a structural engineer to prepare structural plans. In California, you may need a Title 24 report to ensure your remodel is energy efficient. Or if you’re doing an addition, you’ll probably also need civil and geotechnical engineers to evaluate the soil and infrastructure where you’re putting the addition. Along with DD, the CD part of the process takes another 2-4 months and $4,000-$10,000 more.

5. Bidding Process

This is where you invite contractors to submit bids on the project based on your design documents. Unfortunately, costs can be a bit of a mystery before this step. You’ll need to look closely at your budget and get several bids to ensure you’re getting quality work at a fair price. Your architect typically isn’t too involved in this step, aside from providing you plans to send to contractors for bids.

6. Value Engineering

This is the dreaded step that most people overlook. Your architect creates beautiful plans that meet all of your goals. But they’re typically not designed with regard to cost of construction. When a contractor puts together a bid, it often comes with sticker shock because it’s way over your initial budget. Value engineering is the process of re-designing elements of your remodel to be less costly to build. You might shrink the size of your addition, reduce the number of layout changes, or go with less costly finishes. This process can add months to your project and cost $10,000 or more in additional design fees depending on how much needs to be reworked.

7. Construction Administration

Either you, your architect, or your contractor will submit plans to your city planning department and county permitting department. Once approved, depending on the scope of work, your architect may help monitor progress during the construction phase to ensure your contractor is building everything according to the plan. They can also help with any unforeseen changes that arise requiring updated design work.

The Bottom Line

An architect typically charges 10-15% of the total cost of the remodel. So if you’re doing a $200,000 remodel that includes a new kitchen and bathrooms, you can expect to pay $20,000 to $30,000 in architectural fees. Engineering fees can add an additional 5% of project cost. It seems crazy, but you can pay $40,000 in planning costs before you even start construction.

How Dreamie Fits In

Dreamie handles the first two steps of the design process instead of an architect. Creating as-built floor plans and getting schematic designs can cost $5,000 - $15,000 from a traditional architect. Along with huge savings compared to an architect’s fees, Dreamie creates itemized cost estimates for remodel options, which can save you months of time and also minimize the amount of value engineering later in the process. While it’s tempting to want to hire an architect to handle everything from A to Z, you’ll end up spending thousands more and creating extra work in the long run. Want Dreamie’s help saving you money on your remodel? Request remodel designs here or give us a call 415.322.0090.