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Hiring Architects and Engineers

Hiring Architects and Engineers

  1. Give yourself a choice. It's a good idea to interview more than one architect or engineer for your project. Your home is an important asset, and you want to make sure you pick a reliable architect or engineer to work on it and do a great job.
  2. Licensing: Check whether the architect and engineer is licensed. If your state requires that your architect or engineer should be licensed, you can check with your state licensing board.
  3. Background check: You can check the Better Business Bureau for your state and do a background check on the architect or engineer you are thinking of hiring. See if there are any unresolved customer complaints on record.
  4. Insurance: Always check that your architect and engineer carries liability and workers' compensation insurance. Hopefully your project will be safely carried out and trouble-free. But if anyone is injured during the job, you want to be sure that you will not be held liable. Ask to see certificates of insurance and make sure that they are current.
  5. Permits: Check with your local building inspector to see if you need a permit for your project. If so, ask whether the architect or engineer will help you with the permit?
  6. Estimates: Will the architect or engineer provide a free evaluation of the project? For a major job, you should get at least three estimates in writing from different architects or engineers. Remember that the cheapest bid may not be the best bid.
  7. Check references: Ask the architect or engineer you are interviewing for the names and contact information of at least three people the architect and engineer has completed jobs for in the recent past (if possible, get four or five names). Ask to see pictures of the project. Then contact the people listed as references and ask if you can come and look at the project. (You may have a little difficulty setting up an appointment, but that's why it's good to have more than one referee to choose from). While you're inspecting the project, ask the homeowner about how the architect or engineer performed. Was the job finished on time and according to the specifications agreed on? Did the project come in under budget? If not, was the homeowner satisfied with the explanation of cost overruns? Was the homeowner satisfied with the quality of the work? Did the architect or engineer communicate well with the homeowner? Did the architect and engineer clean up well after the job? Would the homeowner hire that architect or engineer again?
  8. Trade associations: Check if the architect or engineer is in good standing with their trade association.
  9.  Subcontractors: Ask if subcontractors will be used on the project. If so, ask if they are local and how much oversight they are given.
  10.  Contracts: Once you've picked an architect or engineer, you should have a contract that covers the start and completion dates of the project, the types of materials to be used, the exact scope of the work, the warranty offered and what the warranty covers (workmanship, materials, etc), clean-up after the project, payment, and so forth. Always read the contract carefully. If there's anything you don't understand in the contract, check it with a lawyer. Remember that once you have signed the contract, it's a legally binding document.
  11. Cancellation fees: Check if the contract includes cancellation fees that would apply if you decide not to use the architect or engineer's services after the cancellation period outlined in the contract.
  12.  Changes: Remember to include in the contract that change orders need to be approved by you in writing.
  13. Weather delays: Ask what the architect or engineer's policy is if the project is delayed by bad weather.
  14.  Copies: Always keep copies of the contract and any warranties, etc., the architect or engineer gives you.