Who Do I Hire For My Renovation?
An overview of the right team of renovation professionals to take you through your remodel
You’ve decided to renovate your home. Who should you hire for a renovation? Do you only need to hire a general contractor, or are other renovation professionals needed? Depending on your scope and spend, knowing who to reach out to, and when, will help you plan.
Do you need an architect or interior designer on your “dream team”? Every major renovation project requires a general contractor to handle the actual construction work done. Some renovations, however, need a trained architect for technical and design services. This can include creating architectural drawings for board or Department of Buildings (or local equivalent) permitting and approvals. Some renovators hire architects to provide a level of style, detail, and management. Some feel it’s worth the expense, sometimes estimated at 20% of the budget.
It’s important to note that there can be overlap among services. For example, some architects can also provide design expertise for layout and materials. If you hire an interior designer who has drawings, he/she may be able to secure the services of an architect to have them stamped.
Here, Sweeten, a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and offers support, outlines what each renovation professional brings to the project:
WHEN YOU SHOULD HIRE AN ARCHITECT:
You’ll need an architect if any of the following apply to your renovation:
- Changing the layout, making additions or tearing down walls
- Moving plumbing lines such as bathtub or dishwasher
- Moving gas lines
- Doing work on a landmark property
- Any changes that require approval from the Department of Buildings
WHEN YOU SHOULD HIRE A GENERAL CONTRACTOR:
Going straight to a contractor may best suit your job if none of the above apply to your renovation. You would also have a general idea of what you’d like to do with the space. Most contractors can give some guidance on design, materials, and creative solutions for tackling challenges.
NOTE: A contractor who is licensed ensures that the necessary level of checkpoints and screening processes have been met. More on this below.
WHEN YOU SHOULD HIRE AN INTERIOR DESIGNER:
If walls and room functions are not being altered dramatically, an interior designer can help with things like:
- Considering overall traffic flow, lighting, and space planning
- Designing custom built-ins and cabinetry
- Project management and purchasing of materials, fixtures, and appliances
- Choosing furniture styles, color palette, and finishes
CONSIDER HIRING A DESIGN-BUILD FIRM:
Design-build can be a cost-effective option for medium to large-scale renovations. They also work well on any project that requires high attention to detail. These teams offer:
- A full package of design, construction, and project management services
- A single point of contact from start to finish
- A fluid process with more predictable timelines between design and construction phases
WHO DO I HIRE FIRST?
A renovation has a lot of moving parts. A frequently asked question is how to tackle a renovation in an organized fashion. Look to build your team of renovation professionals based on your needs, whether that involves architectural plans or permits to deciding the aesthetic or finishes, or all of the above.
WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS HIRE A LICENSED GENERAL CONTRACTOR
A locally valid license and proper insurance is a must for any reliable general contractor. Your county or state website will list all licensed contractors in the licensing or consumer affairs sections. To join Sweeten’s NYC network, for example, a contractor must have a valid Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) license. They must also pass the Department of Consumer Affairs background check to meet certain industry standards.
Should I take the lowest bid?
A note of warning to those tempted by the lower estimates of an unlicensed contractor: Contractors without bonafide credentials may not be able to obtain the required permits for your job. If work fails to meet building codes, you will be responsible for the repairs. (That can turn into an unpleasant surprise when some homeowners want to sell their house.)
What is my liability if I hire an unlicensed contractor?
Allowing work on your property by an unlicensed contractor could also nullify your homeowner’s insurance policy. If the contractor doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, you become the de facto employer. You’ll be responsible for any accidents on the property, or anyone else’s property, if the contractor is negligent.
Are you looking for a vetted and licensed general contractor? Sweeten can help!
Named “Best Contractor Locator” by New York Magazine, Sweeten is a free service that matches homeowners and business owners with the best general contractors for their renovation, with personal support from start to project completion.