handshake How-To: Hire an Architect
Learn how to get the most out of your architect or designer, and find out what questions you should ask them.
by: Jay Uhlenbrauck

Choosing the right architect or designer is a crucial step to getting your log home project on track. The central question is who can satisfactorily complete your project on budget and on time. But how do you find the design professional that will work best for your situation? How do you know if you even need a designer or architect? And just what is the difference between a designer and an architect?

Top log home design professionals have the answers to these questions and more. Follow their advice and start your log home project off on the right foot.

Do I need a designer/architect?
With the variety of floorplans available from log home companies it’s possible to find your dream home without spending a dime on an architect or outside designer. "It depends on whether you’re interested in a custom home or whether you can live with someone else’s design," says Pete Fillion, executive director for Con-cept Design Institute. "Most people are going to need some kind of help, but if you have a rectangular design with a simple roof, you may not need anyone."

For a custom home, however, the expertise an architect provides is invaluable. Architects can use their training to show you alternatives and options you never would have thought of. They can also be your ally through the whole project.

How many design professionals should I interview for my project?
"Interview as many as it takes for you to feel comfortable," Steinbrecher says. "It could be one and it could be 17."

When should I hire a designer/architect?
Most professionals will tell you to hire an architect/designer early in the process. However, there is some research and forethought that needs to be done first and it helps if you purchase your building site beforehand. "You should design the house to fit the property," Fillion says. "Hiring the designer before you have land is a little bit of the cart before the horse."

How long should the design process take?
"It usually takes three to five months from the initial meetings to finished documents," Stacholy says. But it can take up to two years. This depends mostly on you. Designers can take you through the process as quickly or slowly as you want. "We’ve had customers that were on the phone with us making changes almost daily," Fillion says. "After a while you wonder is this house ever going to be built or is this just their hobby?" That said, you still want to avoid rushing the process. "Let it be a process," Steinbrecher says. "You’re not buying an off-the-shelf product. Allow yourself the luxury of really considering your options."