Q. I’m hiring a contractor, and he wants to hire the architect. The contractor came up with a sketch, and I’m happy with his ideas. I’m just wondering what you think? Is it better to have the contractor use his architect, or should I get my own? I don’t want any problems. I know things can get more expensive with separate people involved, and I want to keep this as simple as possible.
A. Simple is a relative term, and is usually attainable through good communication. Having two professionals, a contractor on one hand and an architect on the other, working well together, isn’t impossible. If you hire the architect separately, under a separate agreement, work through a design and construction drawings and then get a separate contractor, it actually simplifies problems later, even though it sounds more involved up front. The reason is that you shouldn’t allow the contractor to begin dictating your terms and ideas to the design professional, assuming he or she is a licensed architect.
So often, while I’m investigating work that went very wrong (and is headed for court), I review the owner’s papers and discover that the contractor set himself up to be “in charge” of the design. Most owners will explain that they conveyed their ideas and thought the contractor was going to produce what they wanted, and because they can’t read plans, they didn’t know what was being planned as a “substitution” — a bait and switch — and now they have to sue to undo the problems. You should be satisfied that you worked with the architect directly, that the plans were clearly explained and that the contract for construction refers to that set of construction plans in addition to a worded document reviewed by an attorney. There are many things that can go wrong, and a good set of plans, as well as a good contract, protects you.