Do You Need an Architect for a Remodel?

Adapting an existing home to meet new design expectations more often than not requires professional expertise. A home remodeling architect is trained to identify the potential of every structure and is extremely proficient at translating possibilities into detailed plans for builders to execute.

So, when do you need an architect? The simple answer is the more complex a remodel design, the likelier you’ll need one. However, sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you’re unaware of what’s required during the design and construction process. In this blog, Zenith Design + Build will examine the scenarios that warrant hiring an architect, what their responsibilities are, as well as the different levels of remodel design services available.

Different Architectural Design Services

do you need an architect for a renovation


Qualified architects are licensed by the states in which they practice. They have to attain a degree from an approved architectural program, complete an internship, and pass an exam. All of this ensures a high level of practical and legal expertise in design, materials, and building systems.

A house remodels architect will collaborate with designers, contractors, and building inspectors to ensure your house meets all regulations and codes. They also oversee the construction of a building from its initial face to the final process.

Architectural Designers

Architectural designers are entry-level employees. Like an architect, they design different structures, but because they have not yet obtained a professional certification, their designs have to be signed off by a supervising architect. They may work independently or at architectural firms.


A draftsman is someone who creates technical drawings for architectural designs. The difference between an architect and a draftsman is scope and education. Draftsmen only draw the designs but don’t oversee the build from start to finish. They also only need a certificate from a trade school or a four-year degree. They’re suitable for small jobs without too many design elements, like a carport; however, it's better to employ an architect if you need extensive plans drawn up.

Design-Build Firms

These one-stop firms like us provide homeowners with a general contractor, architect, and/or interior designer. As one entity, Zenith Design + Build offers a unified flow of work from initial concept to completion. Many homeowners opt for the convenience and expertise we provide. If you’re seeking a streamlined remodeling process with trusted experts, then Zenith Design + Build can help with your remodel!

Architect Responsibilities During a Home Remodel

when do you need an architect

A house remodel architect is in charge of design and project planning, as well as the visual appearance of buildings and structures. Many roles in a home remodel are fluid. An architect may assume all or some of the roles below, depending on the scope and project size.


Architects draw up plans that reflect remodel additions or renovations to the structure of your home that flow seamlessly through the space. They will consider numerous facets of your building project, including structure and construction systems, the specification of materials, choice of finishes, the position of fixtures, etc.

During the design development phase, they incorporate your input and designs by other consultants in their professional team, as well as specialist suppliers and contractors. The design is presented with detailed architectural drawings, such as floor plans, elevations, and three-dimensional perspectives. This is an important two-way process that relies on feedback from clients to ensure success.

General Contracting

An architect may act as a general contractor on the job, whereby they will draw up plans and oversee the hiring of other consultants such as engineers and quantity surveyors. Once construction begins, an architect will perform site visits and meetings, negotiate with contractors, and deal with any occurring challenges.

Certain documentation that takes place during construction phases will require their sign-off. Depending on whom you hire, these responsibilities may fall to design-build contractors.

Documentation and Contract Writing

Large-scale remodels benefit from architects who serve as contractor writers. They will draw up paperwork stipulating:

  • The project specs
  • Estimate
  • Time frame
  • Job scope
  • Hiring of subcontractors

While they are not the only professionals capable of drawing up contracts, their knowledge and experience will ensure your remodel goes according to plan. A qualified architect will produce documentation sufficient for approval by authorities, as well as documentation for construction and procurement processes. Construction documentation includes detailed specifications, schedules of windows, doors, sanitary fittings, ironmongery, and any other specific construction aspects.

An architect will advise you on the most appropriate form of a construction contract for your remodel. They become your official representative as the principal agents with the authority and mandate to act on your behalf.

How to Determine if You Need an Architect to Remodel Your Home

architectural design remodel

The importance of consulting a fully qualified and registered architectural professional cannot be underestimated. Any home that requires structural change has to be approved by local authorities, and architects already know the requirements to meet this.

In the instance of additions or renovations of an older property, you have to have an understanding of the design and construction methods used when the building was originally built, as there are engineering implications. Architects and remodeling companies like Zenith Design + Build are trained to identify these key issues. Below are common scenarios where we’d advocate for professional help:

Historic Homes

Because historic homes hold special cultural and historical significance, they have strict restoration guidelines, and in most cases, there is exceptionally limited remodeling allowed — if any! The Historic Preservation Commission has several restrictions, which ordinary homeowners likely won’t be aware of; therefore, hiring an architect can determine permissible remodeling opportunities.

Budget Limitations

Architects have the expertise required to lower costs without compromising remodel value and structural integrity. They can value-engineer, meaning they will suggest economical materials or building substitutes that produce the same effect. Professional expertise also prevents mistakes that can rack up bills later.

Creative Solutions

Whether it’s a sloped site, balancing size and architecture style, or finding unique solutions to design challenges, a good architect can present creative possibilities and improvements that fit your budget and lifestyle. If you’re struggling to solve a particular design challenge, there’s no doubt that an experienced architect can resolve it.

Expert Help

Homeowners tend to have a solid idea of design preferences but aren’t always able to articulate them and might not know which materials are suitable. When you hire an architect for a home to remodel, they serve as an intermediary and advisor who strives to get the best results. Their familiarity with contractors and industry standards also ensures your building is compliant with local law.

Local Authority Requirements

Kitchen and bathroom remodel, additions, or anything structural in nature, will benefit from hiring a professional architect. Some jurisdictions do not require an architect to design plans; however, you will still need to procure building permits. Iowa has detailed and specific guidelines. We’d personally recommend an architect because they are familiar with procedures and specifications.

Questions to Ask a Home Remodeling Architect

house remodel architect

At Zenith Design + Build, we work with homeowners through the design and build processes. Our team will gladly answer your questions and go through each step, so you can plan accordingly and know exactly what to expect.

Below are standard questions you should ask an architect before hiring them:

  • What is your design philosophy?

This question provides an opportunity to discuss the vision the architect plans to bring to your project. Do they focus on sustainability? Are they inspired by nature or industrial environments? Do they prioritize cost over quality? Gaining insight into their approach determines what you can expect from hiring them.

  • Who will design my remodel?

Unless you’re hiring a sole proprietor, there is a good chance the person you meet won’t handle the design work. This is acceptable and standard practice in architectural firms. However, clear communication is essential, so you’ll want to schedule free consultation before you hire the company.

  • What are the important issues, considerations, and challenges of my remodel?

A credible house remodels architect will offer insight into the construction, city approvals, and design challenges you may be unaware of. They shouldn’t sugar-coat any challenges. If you’re dealing with a difficult site, budget, or construction constraints, they must be upfront so you have the appropriate expectations.

  • What is your fee, and how is it structured?

Architects use different fee structures; some charge upfront, while others accept staggered payments. We advise you to be honest about your budget from the get-go, as cost limitations are critical to design execution.

  • How will you present architectural remodeling plans?

The computer screen, 3-D models, or physical blueprints are all acceptable ways to present remodeling plans. Favoring one over the other isn't an indication of expertise; however, if you prefer a particular mode of presentation, then let your architect know.

  • Can they provide references for similar projects to yours?

The best residential work seldom sees the light of day. Ask your architect about past clients and contractors they’ve worked with, then follow up on the references they provide. Unlike websites, references are fool-proof and will alert you to the caliber of architect you’re hiring.

  • How can I be helpful during the process?

The success of an architectural design remodel relies on a coordinated effort. Understanding the remodeling process is important for lifestyle planning and managing timeline expectations. Having a detailed discussion at the beginning of the process outlining your vision and personal preferences helps architects produce appropriate solutions.

  • Do you have a builder in mind?

Architects have strong relationships with contractors and builders they prefer to use. Employing a team with a track record of successfully working together offers additional reassurance. If your architect already has someone in mind, ask if they could provide a complimentary quote to give you a better idea of the total budget.

How Much Does a Home Remodeling Architect Cost?

Architects typically work for either an hourly rate or a fixed fee based on a percentage of the remodeling costs. Because each project is unique, it’s virtually impossible to answer without knowing the specifics. If you contact us with your project’s specific, we can provide you with a carefully detailed estimate.


Do you need an architect for a renovation? Zenith Design + Build is a one-stop-shop for all your remodeling needs. We have an expert team of designers and architects for home remodeling of any scale in Des Moines. Whether it’s a bump-out addition or an entire home remodel, we guarantee a personalized process with the highest craftsmanship and quality design-builds. Contact us for a free home remodel estimate.


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