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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Hiring a professional
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The design/remodel option
Your remodeling pro must submit design plans to your local city and/or county building code enforcement officials to obtain the proper permits to begin work. If your project is a simple one, a schematic may suffice. More involved projects usually require construction drawings and blueprints from an architect or designer.

Architects must have a degree in architecture, three years of experience with an architectural firm and a state license. Note: Many architects specialize in structural design for commercial properties or custom homes and do not accept remodel projects.

Designers do not need a license to practice, though many find it beneficial to earn professional certification from any of several industry groups, ASID from the American Society of Interior Designers is one. Designers excel at the kind of creative interior makeovers featured on HGTV. Many designers are self-taught.

For most home remodels, an architect is too costly. Designers, however, can frustrate a contractor with structural problems.

Jim Strite, president of Strite Design & Remodel of Boise, Idaho, says design/remodel firms such as his, which integrate professional design and construction, offer homeowners the best value for their dollar.

"We start out discussing the ideas and the investment right upfront before we start putting pen to paper," he says. "A good design/remodel firm will be constantly comparing the cost to the design and the design to the cost. Having a design/remodel firm, both the designer and the construction department are working toward the same aim: to maximize the project for the homeowner."

Strite tells horror stories of how independent designers and contractors have turned into warring camps over either bad design by the former or poor execution by the latter.

"Most remodelers are technicians; they're left-brain, linear thinkers. They know how to put the erector set together once they see the plan but they don't have the right brain, which is the creative side," he say. "Conversely, contractors often find that what the designer thought was an existing structure is not, so now the erector set isn't going to go together as anticipated and the inspector wants some more plans and the designer is down the road on other projects and may get back to you in two weeks."

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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