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Do I need an architect?

When you improve your home, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether or not you need an architect. It can have a big impact on the cost and quality of the building works

do i need an architect

How do I know if I need an architect?

  • There is no law saying you have to employ an architect – it is up to you
  • Some people successfully undertake quite major works – including whole house refurbishments and extensions
  • Others employ architects for comparatively minor jobs, such as redoing a bathroom
  • In general, though, having an architect for big projects that affect the structure and exterior of your home such as an extension, loft conversion, garage conversion or basement conversion will give you the security that you are creating a safe and legal addition to your home
  • If you have a very clear idea of what you want, or a builder whose judgement and vision you trust, then an architect is less necessary
  • If you don’t know what you want, then an architect can help give you ideas
  • If you don’t trust builders, or are busy or inexperienced, an architect can help you keep an informed eye on the builders and make sure the project stays on track
  • Some opt for an architectural designer or technician with experience designing small and medium sized home renovation projects but cheaper to engage with
  • If a fully qualified architect is what you want make sure you get one: they must be registered with the Architects Registration Board which has a publicly accessible database
  • An architect can also be very helpful in managing the whole process. If you need planning permission (or even think you might), then an architect can be invaluable in successfully navigating the local planning authority. A planning consultant or a structural engineer can also help.

What are the advantages of having an architect?

  • If you engage an architect, you will pretty much always end up with a better end product
  • Architects are highly trained and are especially  good as seeing the “big picture” – in making the best of the space you have, in getting interesting designs, in ensuring the light is right, the feel is good, and that the house works.
  • Architects are usually good at ensuring the work is professionally done – that it meets the requirements of building control, that you have a structural engineer if you need one.
  • Architects are generally (but not always) good at the detail that most of us rarely think about and which, if done wrongly, can end up being costly mistakes – which way should the door open? Should we have recessed lights? Where should the outlet pipes go? Should you be able to see the toilet when the bathroom door is open?
  • An architect can also help you find the best builder, project manage the whole works, and keep within budget. The architect is the expert eyes and ears, whose job it is to represent your interests with builders and local authorities.
  • Architects are also subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients.

    If you’d like to discuss your project with a local architect or someone who can help with architectural design, use our find an architect service to receive a list of local suppliers in your area

What are the disadvantages of having an architect?

  • The architect’s fees generally add about 15% to the cost of a project, and as much as 20% if they manage the whole project. If you are on a really tight budget, you will be tempted to try to do without. However, a good architect can also save you money on big projects – it doesn’t make sense to cut corners on design
  • An architect is also one more person to deal with, and another relationship to navigate. If you have a very trusted builder you are close to, then you may feel on smaller projects that an architect gets in the way
  • Sometimes architects don’t give you what you want, and push you do things you don’t want to
  • Sometimes clients fall out with their architect, which can make the whole process agonising

For further advice, see  working with an architect or carrying out renovations without an architect

Leave a comment (8)* Required

  1. Adele jakobAdele jakob

    We would like to take the time to write about your posts and to thank you for the wonderful information you provided for us.I have been monitoring your work and see you’re doing a great job. I would like to quickly show my appreciation for your post.
    AS The details are not the details. They make the design.

  2. Sue OSue O'Neill

    Hi, Just after some advice re our architect who we have stopped working with as they failed to bring drawings and ideas to initial meeting. We didn’t sign a contract with them. So far they spent 2-3 hours measuring site and house and have done OS
    They are trying to charge us half the initial fees – so around £900
    We would charge half fees for the existing drawings if you wished to terminate the work. We have the plot plan and OS and could send you a complete set .
    Could you advise how much we should pay. I would think around £250 would be a more reasonable amount.

  3. PattyPatty

    Do I need to give permission to a Architect to start working on my property. And if so, what kind of permission do I give?

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Dear Patty – You can appoint an architect to come and work on your property by contacting one and asking them to come to the property and discuss what needs doing. After that you discuss fees etc and you can then appoint them if you determine they provide good value for money and meet your needs.

  4. MarkMark


    I appointed an RIBA architect to do my planning permission drawings so I could do a side return extension.
    They failed to use the right application twice on the planning portal, and are now suggesting trying a different third application. My project was quite time constrained so after 2 failed applications, and 17 weeks wasted, I want to know if I should pay the architect for the planning stage? I don’t have time to do this project now as I really wasn’t expecting this stage to take 25 weeks.
    It also turns out that the drawings would have never made it through planning permission as the eaves were too high and to lower them in the design would significantly change the appearance.

    Let me know what you think my next steps should be?


    • Sara HindSara Hind

      Hello Mark, you can find helpful information on how to complain here.

  5. Ian DorricottIan Dorricott


    I wonder if I could get some advice.
    I’m undertaking a small rear extension to my property and I employed an architect for the initial site visit and to provide proposed and existing plans . This was provided and I paid for his services. However his work ( according to experienced tradesman) needed a lot to be desired. The detail on the drawings were insufficient and my confidence in his ability is quickly deminishing. I informed him that I would be undertaking the Building regs application however he is still assuming he is technically employed by me. He is now stating that he is owed several hundreds of pounds for his involvement during building control.
    I feel this is unjust and however diplomates I am being he’s simply not taking my decisions on board.
    Can I simply disolve our relationship and am I still responsible for the ( in his eyes) outstanding fees.

    Ian Dorricott

    • AKerrAKerr

      Hi Ian, Did you sign an agreement or contract with the architect? Please consider joining us and we can look into this case for you. It’s a little hard to give a proper steer without all the background information. HomeOwners Alliance team


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