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Old 01-04-2012, 12:33 PM   #1
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Draftsman or engineer?


Thank you for taking my question. We live in a 1920s house in Seattle and are starting to think about a fairly major home remodel. A couple of the things we're considering involve altering some structural elements (eg: removing part of a load bearing wall on the first floor to expand our kitchen area). Obviously, we need to consult with a professional of some kind about feasibility and then hopefully have some plans drawn up. At first glance, this area of expertise seems so thoroughly subdivided and specialized, I am not sure who to call. A designer, a draftsman, an engineer, an architect? We are planning to do much of the remodel work ourselves, so that is where the DIY element comes in, but we need professional help first. Thanks.

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Old 01-04-2012, 12:41 PM   #2
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Draftsman or engineer?


I would hire a project manager (many architects are doing this these days when not actively designing.) They can help you figure out what specialties you need to consult.

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Old 01-04-2012, 01:08 PM   #3
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Draftsman or engineer?


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Originally Posted by HelperMonkey View Post
involve altering some structural elements (eg: removing part of a load bearing wall on the first floor to expand our kitchen area).
We are planning to do much of the remodel work ourselves...

Obviously, we need to consult with a professional of some kind
I am not sure who to call.
Start with an architect who should be able to give you a yes/no on most any structural issues as well as the general design stuff. If needed then you call in an engineer to verify.

Then, if you can find one, shift to a qualified contractor willing to backstop you as you tackle what you want to try to do on your own based on the plans the architect has prepared. This guy is a rare bird in most places.

hth
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Old 01-04-2012, 02:26 PM   #4
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Draftsman or engineer?


A draftsman is only going to be able to draft up what you tell him.....

From what your saying, you need an architect who has an engineer to do engineering calcs....or you go with a professional architect who can do it all.

Since you want to do most if not all of the work yourself...I don't see you needing a GC. In my experience, if you farm out part of the work...the subs will be able to tell you what you need....and a good architect can fill in the other holes.

Too bad you don't live in my area....the architect who did my plans swung a hammer before he became an architect....guy knows his stuff.....I end up feeling like an idiot every time I question something he drew up....once i start to build it....I go "O.....now I understand." So far, he is batting a 1000.

Finding a good architect is the hard part....the real good ones are too expensive and don't have time for small projects...the bad ones are cheap but end up costing you too much money in the screw up's.

What is really important is having a good scope of work....but that also entails having an idea of what is pratical to do or not to do.

I would suggest contacting some of the local lumber yards....especially ones that would carry engineered beams (since you will most likely be using one). They might be able to suggest a couple of good names.
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Old 01-04-2012, 02:40 PM   #5
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Draftsman or engineer?


If you hire an architect, that architect might have to hire (paid by you) an engineer to do the calculations. I would only hire an architect if I wanted help figuring out how to divide the spaces for pretty/functional.

I can tell that you are a smart guy, so don't bother with project managers or general contractors.

I would hire a structural engineer by the hour to come to my house and see what I wanted to do. He/she would then calculate the sizes of beams, etc. and hand me sketches.

Drawing house plans is not hard, and learning how to do it will save you thousands. If you decide you don't want to bother with them, hire a draftsman to put your ideas, together with the engineer's sketches, into plans.
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Old 01-04-2012, 03:03 PM   #6
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Draftsman or engineer?


I would first call your local building department to ask what they recommend. Some jurisdictions allow homeowners to draw their own plans as long as they conform to conventional light frame construction techniques. However, I don't know if you jurisdiction allows that or if your planned project fits into the conventional light frame construction definition.

The result of your meeting with the building department would then dictate what you do next. If you have the option of drawing your own plans, and you are comfortable doing so, I would do a quick sketch of what you want to do. Then, have an engineer over to view your sketches and the house, and then ask him to design the structural elements for you. He should provide you with calculations and structural requirements (and his signed seal!) that you will incorporate into your final plans.

For your final set of plans, you can either do it by hand or on a computer. Software can be expensive, so it might be worthwhile for you to do it by hand (if you have the patience and steady hand ). Your building department will be able to tell you what you need on your plans - don't be afraid to call them!
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Old 01-04-2012, 07:28 PM   #7
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Draftsman or engineer?


Thanks to all for the great suggestions and advice. I feel like I have a direction to head in.
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Old 01-04-2012, 07:57 PM   #8
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Draftsman or engineer?


As a professional designer myself I would like to say that a professional designer or an Architect is the first one you should consult with.
Many Architects would like to design your interior space but can be on the expensive side. Many designers (like myself) can design your space/layout and help you save a bit of money but may not have the experience level of a licensed Archy.
Some jurisdictions will only allow an Architect to do the design/addition if it is over a certain sq. ftg. Some jurisdictions also allow an Archy to do the engineering but I have not yet worked with an area that allows that. Usually an engineer is required to do the engineering that does not come under conventional light construction or prescriptive design.

Conversely, an engineer may not know what architectural details would be required for your construction.

Finally, I have to disagree with abracaboom, drawing house plans that will be accepted for Planning and Building and Safety to obtain permits IS hard to do, unless you are experienced and know what your jurisdiction will expect to see on the plans. Really, if it was so easy I would not be able to make a living out of doing design and construction documentation.

Andy.
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Old 01-04-2012, 08:31 PM   #9
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Draftsman or engineer?


If you have a small project that requires clear drawings for a contractor, a draftsman can render a plan that works well and communicates effectively for a relatively modest investment. If you are planning a bathroom remodel, you might hire either a draftsman to draw up your ideas for your contractor or hire an architectural designer to help you define what you want. The information can be given to the contractor as working drawings. As long as the contractor is licensed and permits are not required, the draftsman could easily be a good choice.

If you are at a conceptual stage and want someone to create a rendering of your ideas, an architectural designer is an excellent resource. They can take your desire for a Norman fortress and create a drawing that incorporates your ideas into a cohesive design. A designer is equipped to make recommendations about materials, finishes, and color.

For any project that requires building permits and inspections, it´s usually wise to get the advice of a licensed architect. While many agencies require an architect´s approval, not all do and there are many gray areas that exist. By hiring an architect, you ensure that your project will be built to current codes and problems will be avoided. When you hire an architect, you hire a committed professional. While the cost is certainly higher than a designer or draftsman, you are guaranteed that the end product will be structurally sound. An architect is capable of doing the design work or taking the work of a designer, and then creating all the working drawings as well as overseeing the entire project in conjunction with your builder.
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Old 01-05-2012, 02:40 AM   #10
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Draftsman or engineer?


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Finally, I have to disagree with abracaboom, drawing house plans that will be accepted for Planning and Building and Safety to obtain permits IS hard to do, [. . .]
I don't disagree with you, Andy, but since this is a DIY forum, I have to say that when I compare learning how to draw plans (or, more properly, learning how to copy standard architects' drawings adapting them to my circumstances) with learning how to do all the other things I've learned in order to save myself many thousands of dollars (like doing the plumbing and electrical work in a house), drawing plans fall in the "easy" category.

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