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#6: Should I hire an Architect / Designer or can I draw the plans myself by hand or with design software? Can I go straight to a Contractor?

If you have a larger project, we suggest hiring an architect or designer before you hire a contractor (unless the contractor has a designer or architect on staff).

Believe it or not you could actually end up saving money by getting a designer or architect. A comprehensive, well-defined plan means the contractors you eventually contact can bid accurately and competitively, usually saving you more than the cost of the design. Also, you'll improve quality control during the construction process because an independent third party—your designer—will be monitoring the progress of the work. This could in turn save money by avoiding possible reworks.

Other than the cost savings, having a designer will also give you a better design. Think about how important good design is. You will be living with the results for a long time, so make sure you'll be happy with the turnout.

There are alternatives, depending on your own expertise and the amount of time you can devote to overseeing the construction project. You may choose to buy an hour or two of a contractor's time to help you define your own thinking on the project, to pull all the living spaces into a cohesive form, then finalize these ideas with your contractor. But keep in mind that plans must be drawn, submitted, and approved by the building inspector's office before you can begin a project. Depending on how complex the project is, decide who will draw the plans: you, your contractor, or the designer.

More reasons to get a designer or architect are that they can not only draw the plans, but they can also guide them through the approval process, and can also oversee all the construction, making sure it is done right.

If you need to get in touch with a designer, architect or contractor, use the free online referral service at

You can get the best estimate of a job by bringing a set of plans to a professional contractor. To get in touch with a Designer, Architect or Contractor, use the free online referral service at

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