Should I Hire An Architect?

You’ve been dreaming of building your custom home or renovating your current one for years, carefully crafting visions of spaces that reflect your lifestyle, values, and aspirations. Now, as the moment to turn those dreams into reality approaches, a crucial question emerges: Should I hire an architect?

To give you the short answer: commercial projects almost always require an architect while residential projects may or may not require an architect.

In this article, we’ll dissect the pros and cons of enlisting the services of an architect. We’ll navigate through the complexities, weighing the benefits of their expertise against the potential drawbacks, ensuring that you’re equipped with the insights needed to make an informed decision.

What does an architect do?

Architects are licensed professionals who are highly skilled and creative problem solvers with a keen sense of design principles. They combine their technical expertise with a creative approach to design buildings that are both functional and pleasing.

They work closely with their clients to understand their needs and desires, and then develop design concepts that address these requirements while also considering factors such as site conditions, building codes, constructability, and environmental considerations.

Architects also collaborate with builders and engineers and report on the construction process, ensuring everything is built to spec.

Most importantly, an architect can provide a variety of services, and will perform the tasks that you’ve agreed upon beforehand specifically for your project. It’s ok if that role changes over time, but keep in mind that the fee may change with it.

Defining the architect’s role

As I stated, the architect’s role can vary based on your needs.

At a minimum, an architect can draft a basic drawing set that would be enough to apply for a building permit or to be used for pricing by a contractor. These drawings would include plans, elevations, probably a wall section, and a few details. The contractor would likely have to fill the holes in the drawings by having conversations with the owner prior to or during construction. These drawings are often referred to as a “builder’s set“.

Additional work can be done by the architect to include things like:

  • Programming (determining space needs and sizes)
  • Site design / zoning analysis
  • Additional or custom detailing (more detail = better cost estimates)
  • Kitchen design
  • Interior design
  • Hiring and/or coordinating with other trades to incorporate their designs and/or drawings
  • Construction administration

Hiring an architect for “full-services” is like having a trusted partner by your side throughout the entire journey. It begins with understanding your dreams, constraints, and aspirations and then site analysis, conceptual design, schematic design, and design development. Architects will then create detailed construction documents for permits and pricing.

They can also assist the client with contractor selection and vetting cost estimates. They’ll continue to provide guidance through construction by answering contractor questions, ensuring adherence to design standards, and assisting with payment applications from the contractor.

This comprehensive approach ensures that the final built product meets your needs and expectations.

The architect is a third party in the construction process that is hired to represent the interests of owner during construction.

Benefits of Hiring an Architect

Let’s explore who might benefit from hiring an architect.

Someone who wants a custom design

If none of the online plans are speaking to you, or your family has unique needs, you’ll likely want a custom design.

Based on the client’s input and project requirements, architects develop tailored design solutions that address specific challenges and aspirations. They explore creative design concepts, innovative spatial arrangements, and unique architectural elements to craft a one-of-a-kind design that reflects the client’s personality and lifestyle.

Someone who needs a stamped set of drawings

If your town town building department requires stamped drawings, an architect is licensed to do so.

Someone who wants a renovation expertise

If you’re considering a renovation, find an architect with renovation experience. They can help to repurpose underutilized spaces like an unfinished basement or an old warehouse into trendy loft apartments. They can help evaluate existing construction, draw the existing conditions, and determine the best ways to work with it.

Someone who needs help with product selection

Architects play a pivotal role in guiding clients through the process of product selection, ensuring that every component of the project aligns with the overall vision and meets the client’s needs. Their experience can help a client through “analysis paralysis” since there are so many questions that will need to be answered.

There is no limit to how much detail can be included on a set of drawings. The more that is specified, the better a cost estimate from a contractor. There is no longer a need to worry about allowances when every item has been accounted for.

Someone who wants help with coordination

An architect can help integrate different assemblies and trades, such as plumbing and electrical systems, for optimal functionality. By coordinating with engineers and the contractor ahead of time, there will be less of a need to come up with solutions on the fly or for change orders due to unforeseen conditions.

Someone who wants construction oversight

A full service architect can valuable insights and assistance during construction, addressing queries and resolving issues promptly. They can also make periodic visits to the job site to review the work that has been done and report back to the client. This can be especially helpful if you’re not able to visit your home build regularly.

Someone who needs help with unique local circumstances

Architects navigate regulatory landscapes, ensuring projects adhere to local building codes and zoning regulations. A good example might be working in a historical district. In areas with strict zoning regulations, such as historic neighborhoods, the architect can help advise how to meet the historic neighborhood standards and make presentations to local governing bodies, if required.

Someone who needs assistance in entire process

Constructing a building is overwhelming! Architects provide valuable advice throughout the home-building process. They can guide the client on the next steps, recommend reputable contractors, and assist in decision-making. They may suggest cost-effective alternatives for materials or alternative building methods without compromising quality is cost estimates come over budget (here are some tips for staying on budget).

When is an architect not needed?

Although architects can be a valuable resource, they are not always needed.

When you have a team that can “fill the gap”

There are scenarios where the expertise of an architect may seem redundant, particularly when a capable team is already assembled. From structural engineers providing stamped drawings to contractors or designers being able to craft detailed drawings, there are instances where the traditional boundaries of architectural involvement blur.

When you’re going “design/build”

This is very similar to the previous point. Design/build means that the design team and the builder are the same entity. A contractor can have drafters on hand who can work with the client and eliminate the need for an architect.


Architects cost money. This cost can vary depending on the complexity of the project, the scope of work involved, and the experience level of the architect. For some clients, especially those on a tight budget, the fees charged by architects may be unreasonable.


Working with an architect can also extend the timeline of a project. The design process often involves multiple iterations and revisions to develop the final design concept, which can take time.

Expertise of the client

Perhaps you have construction experience or have already built a home. You may not feel that an architect is needed.

Tips for hiring an architect

There are many ways to ensure you find an architect that is the right fit for your project. Whether it’s a referral from someone else who had a good experience, or conducting an interview to see if you “mesh” well, it’s worth taking the time to consider and investigate several potential architects.

For an in-depth review, check on this article: Tips for Hiring an Architect.

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