Home improvement shows have seen a sharp rise in popularity over the past couple of decades. While these types of shows are great for providing inspiration for would-be DIYers, they can affect home improvement professionals in a different way. There are often very few, if any, professionals in sight on these shows. Instead, viewers see average homeowners doing everything from knocking down walls with sledgehammers to laying tile to redesigning interior layouts. They’ll see a house flipper reconfigure an entire home interior seemingly “on the fly” as they stand in the living room. They say things like, “We’ll just put up a wall here, add a walk-in closet, and this three-bedroom house will become a four-bedroom house!” There’s usually no talk of bringing in professionals like architects or structural engineers, or of getting permits.
These shows are meant to be inspiring, but they are often unrealistic, failing to show everything involved in the remodeling process. Without seeing the entire process, viewers may be inclined to think, “That doesn’t look that hard. Why should I pay thousands of dollars for an architect, when I can just figure things out myself?”
The fact is—the average homeowner doesn’t have the knowledge, expertise, or patience to successfully complete major renovations without the help of a professional like an architect—especially in areas with extensive building codes. In many parts of the country, things like code research, the creation of construction drawings, and navigating the permitting process are a necessary part of any remodel that involves moving or removing walls.
Mark Grisafe, a Long Beach architect and owner of Grisafe Architecture, has dealt with multiple homeowners who have tried to take on home improvement projects without the help of an architect. He says, “At our Long Beach architecture firm, we’ve had several clients come to us after months of trying to get approvals from their city planning departments on their own! These are smart and otherwise accomplished individuals who thought they would be able to draw up some simple plans, submit them to the city for approval, and start the construction process within a matter of weeks. Unfortunately, that’s not how the process works (at least not in California). Some of the local code requirements are very complex. At Grisafe Architecture, we have a dedicated building code specialist in our office to make sure all our designs are in compliance before they are submitted to the city for approval. After the plans have been submitted, we do all the necessary follow-up work until all of the approvals have been received.”
In other words, a successful design and approval process takes much longer and is much more involved than it appears on television, and it almost always requires the help of a professional. Hiring an architect who is knowledgeable about local codes and what types of documents the city planning department wants to see can often save homeowners a ton of time and frustration.
An architect can provide homeowners with other benefits as well. Grisafe says, “A good Long Beach architect can provide homeowners with a superior end result on their remodeling projects. Architects are trained to see the possibilities in an existing space and can envision a design that will meet all the homeowner’s stated goals. An experienced architect can recommend solutions that homeowners may not think of on their own or solve complex problems that require special knowledge or expertise.”
If you’re tempted to take on a home remodel on your own, go into it with realistic expectations, and don’t use home improvement television shows as the basis for those expectations! If you’re in the Long Beach, California area and could use the help of an experienced Long Beach architect, contact Grisafe Architecture.