Here’s how to tell if you want an architect—or at least, an experienced architectural designer.

You have a problem with your house and have no idea how to solve it. Maybe your laundry room in the upstairs hallway creates a traffic jam every time you open the door. Or you need another bathroom, but every square inch of your house is accounted for. In cases like these, a good architect can help you sort through the possibilities and come up with creative improvements that fit you, your budget, and your lifestyle.

You feel squeezed, but don’t want an addition. Before adding to your house, a good architect will ensure you are making the most of all existing space. Even the smallest houses often have underutilized areas that can be reconfigured and brought back into daily use. Sometimes what seems like a square-footage shortage is really a circulation problem that can be solved with a few alterations.

You’re uncomfortable making building choices on your own. A major remodel is an intensive, costly process that requires you to make a lot of decisions on things you may have little knowledge about. A good architect serves as an intermediary and adviser who can help guide your project toward the best results.

Your local building authorities require one. In most communities, for most remodels, an architect isn’t required. But in others—specifically some urban areas—you may need an architect or engineer to sign off on your plans. Check with your local building department to be sure.

You’re remodeling a unique or historic home, changing styles, or building on a complicated site. Maybe you want to raise the roof on your 18th-century saltbox. Or change your 1970s builder colonial into a shingle style. Or maybe you want to add a second story to a home perched on the edge of a cliff. When and where design is critical, hire an architect.

You’re on a budget. This may seem counterintuitive, since hiring an architect means one more professional you’ll need to pay. But a good architect can save you money. One way is through value engineering—that is, devising a way to get you a feature you want at lower cost. An architect might suggest substituting a similar but more economical building material to get the same effect. They can also steer you away from making mistakes, whether in material or design, that you may regret later and ends up costing you more money.

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