Q. Can you explain the steps to getting our addition built? Who do we call first, an architect or a contractor? We want to possibly add solar, redo and extend our kitchen and rebuild our garage, which is away from the house, so that it’s attached near the kitchen. We don’t want to make mistakes, like some that you write about, and want things to go as smoothly as they can. We know it’s not like it looks on TV, and we’ve been collecting ideas for a few years in preparation. Your advice?
A. The more planning, the better the result, but many people don’t realize that even before you plan, you need to know the rules. Unfortunately, not all rules can be known, because they can change. Time frames, for example, can be thrust upon you due to material price changes after Jan. 31, permit fees that increase as of a certain date, work that has to finish before the permit expires … it can be frustrating. You have many ideas that need consolidation. Make a notebook with sections for kitchen planning, appliances and fixtures, garage doors, tile, siding and other materials and colors you have in mind. Another section should include home records, like a property survey (necessary), and open and closed permits from a permit record search.
Start with the architect. He can review your needs, calculate zoning requirements from your records or begin the search to find out. Once your agreement is reviewed and the architect is hired, he should conduct thorough measuring of the entire area of the work, including seemingly unrelated spaces that contribute to structural loads, fire exit, and room use data that must be presented for permit review purposes. We measure to the quarter-inch, and I’m often amazed at how inaccurate some plans are, especially when measurements are rounded off. Rounding off frustrates the people carrying out construction because they have to guess-timate real cut sizes of materials to avoid waste, which immediately causes a rift between builders and architects. It doesn’t take long before the builder is no longer following the plans.