When Should You Call In a Design Professional?

I love my finish nailer. Well, I don’t really love it, but I like it, I enjoy it, I find it useful for creating the world’s most perfect crown molding corner (a future blog post, for sure).
But do I bring out the pancake compressor and finish nailer to drive a single finish nail into my son’s train table? Do I go through 5-10 minutes of set-up when just grabbing a finish hammer and a nail set would do the job in 2 minutes? Of course I don’t. And neither would you. Why? Because even though I find my finish nailer very handy for certain jobs, it is not meant to be used every time a finish nail is encountered.
The same can be said for a professional designer, or a myriad of professionals for that matter. They are very useful and necessary, but not in every situation.
So how do you decide if you need a design professional? It really comes down to your skill and the risk level you are willing to take. The following scenarios usually require a design professional, which is a general term I use to encompass architects and engineers. Upon reading this post you will have a better idea of when you should, and possibly should not, use a the services of a design professional.
Scenario 1: Structure Will be Affected
Any time your work will affect a load-bearing wall, column, or floor, you will likely need to consult an architect or engineer. It’s simply not worth the risk to save money on this element of the project. Perhaps if your affect to the structure is minimal, you can have a designer address just that issue and you can take the rest on separately.
Expect to spend a minimum of $450 for a designer to analyze your project and draw details for the building department.

Scenario 2: New Cabinetry is Needed
If you’re not going to be re-using or modifying existing cabinets, then I recommend consulting an architect. Few things affect the function of your remodel more than the layout of your cabinets. A good architect helps define your specific uses, and then designs accordingly.
Once you venture into cabinet replacement, you might as well spend a bit more and make sure they turn out right.
Scenario 3: You Have Difficulty Visualizing Your Project
OK, admit it. Some of us have no imagination, and no desire to develop an imagination. If this is you, then by all means, get some help. With a clever architect, you may still be able to produce a cost-effective remodel despite having to pay the design fee.
As an aside, you may want to at least try going to the local bookstore and buying a few magazines on home improvement or architecture. You never know what may inspire you to take on the design of your project.
Scenario 4: You do not Want to do Anything Yourself
Well, I can’t really argue with this mindset. Some of us have worked hard in life to be able to hire professionals, and if this is you, more power to you.
What other scenarios have you encountered that required a design professional?

Deren S. Monday has spent over a decade in the residential and commercial construction industry, and is a graduate of the Construction Management Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. His love for his finish nailer is unmatched by any of his other tools… Deren is the author of Your Cheap Kitchen Remodel: A Guide to Your Affordable Dream Kitchen. More information on his book can be found at cheapkitchenremodel.com.

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