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Can I hire an independent designer to work with a design-build firm?

The design-build process is a great way to remodel your home. By combining your design and construction teams under one roof, the design-build approach keeps you in control of your budget and offers a client-centered remodel experience. But what happens if you want to hire a specific designer for your remodel without giving up the design-build experience? Can you hire an independent designer and a design-build firm at the same time?

As one of Portland’s leading design-build firms, Lamont Bros. has guided hundreds of homeowners through the challenges of remodeling their homes. For many of our clients, our carefully-crafted process is the highlight of their remodel experience. Occasionally, our team has invited outside designers to collaborate with us throughout that process. However, in order for a design-build firm and an independent designer to work together effectively, it’s important to define the terms of that partnership from the start.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about hiring an independent designer to work with a design-build firm. Once you’re finished reading, you’ll have a better understanding of how to foster a successful partnership between the two parties. Here’s what you can expect to read about:

When should you hire an independent designer and design-build firm?

Under most circumstances, a design-build firm has the right personnel and resources for your remodel project. However, when a homeowner wants to bring on an independent designer, it’s still possible to incorporate that person into the design-build process. Here are a couple of reasons why this might be the right option for you.

You already have a relationship with an independent designer

It’s common for homeowners to begin designing a remodel and realize later that they want to work with a design-build firm. In cases like this, these homeowners are often already connected with a designer and in the process of developing plans for their remodel.

Rather than discard the progress they’ve already made in the designs, the homeowner may choose to hire a design-build firm to work alongside their designer. This way, the homeowner can continue working with a designer they already know while still having the support of the design-build team to help keep the design plans within the budget.

You want to work with a specialized or renowned designer

In other cases, some homeowners choose to work with independent designers because of their reputation or specific skillset. Mick DeGuilio, one of the most prolific kitchen designers of the 21st century, is one such designer who carries name-brand recognition. Dubbed “The Kitchen Whisperer” by Chicago Magazine, DeGuilio’s designs are highly sought-after status symbols and come with a hefty price tag. 

Alternatively, you may have your heart set on working with a specific designer because you simply admire their work and want to feature it in your home. In either case, a design-build firm can incorporate such a designer into the process of remodeling your home. 

Homeowners often choose to work with an independent designer because of their reputation or noteworthy style.

What is the process for hiring a designer to work with a design-build firm?

Once you’ve decided whether to hire an independent designer to work with a design-build firm on your remodel, then it’s time to bring your team together. Before beginning the process, it’s important to discuss expectations and establish a clearly-defined plan for how the partnership will work.

Identify the designer and design-build team you want to hire

Chances are, if you’re hiring an independent designer, you’ve selected them because they are the best fit to handle your specific remodeling needs. The same should go for the design-build firm you choose.

Not every design-build firm is the same, and not all of them will be well-suited to your needs. As you search for a remodeling firm to work with, seek out companies that have a history of high-quality work and consistent customer satisfaction. View their portfolio of work to make sure they are capable of the scope and style of remodeling you want.

It’s also important to find a design-build firm that recognizes the importance of advanced planning and budgeting early on in the design process. You want to work with a team that will carefully assess your project as you move through feasibility, planning, and design. The goal of these preliminary phases is to make sure your project will meet your design goals and budget, so your team needs to take it seriously.

Hire your designer and design-build firm at the beginning of the design process

One of the greatest strengths of a design-build firm is that your design and build teams operate under one roof. It combines the creative vision and design expertise of designers with the technical construction knowledge of professional builders. The result is a partnership that yields a beautiful design with practical input from those responsible for building it. These professionals know how to value-engineer, budget, and construct the project. 

Unfortunately, we’ve often had clients come to us with a bad experience of working with a separate architect or designer. In these cases, the costs of construction ballooned out of control after the designs were completed. This often happens because the designer doesn’t have the perspective of a builder. Input from a build team can help manage the costs.  If you hire a design/build firm and an independent designer, they should be partnered together to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Begin construction with a clear contract

Following the completion of your remodel designs, your remodel will move into the construction phase. As you prepare for the construction of your remodel, consider the contract agreements you have with your builder and designer.

Contract with Your Designer

To ensure that your build team has sufficient design support, the construction contract with your designer should address the following topics:

  1. Design Support — When your remodel is under construction, the build team may require some clarification and guidance on how to build what is in the designs. The contract with your designer must cover how much involvement the designer will have in supporting the build team throughout the process.
  2. Change Orders — If the client wants to make changes to the design after construction has begun, that will require the designer to alter the plan set. The contract should determine the process and cost of requesting change orders, as well as the price.

Contract with Your Design-Build Firm 

Most design-build firms will keep their design contracts separate from their construction contracts. When reviewing the construction contract, here are a few things to look for:

  1. Fixed-Price Contract — Budgeting for a remodel can be a challenge. With a fixed-price contract, you and your builder agree upon a price for the project before beginning construction. This prevents project costs from ballooning out of control as construction progresses because the entire project has been budgeted and planned for.
  2. Few or No Allowances — In construction, an allowance is an amount included in a budget for “yet to be determined” expenses. The greater the number of allowances on your contract, the more unpredictable the cost will be. 
  3. Change Orders — As with your designer, your design-build team should have clear expectations for the process of changing the plans for your remodel. Whether it’s because you want to make adjustments, the designer requests a change, or circumstance requires it, everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to changing the designs. 

How to make sure your designer and design-build team are successful

Most design-build firms are used to working within the context of their own team. Most designers are used to working with many different general contractors. As a result, it’s important for you as the homeowner to be proactive in fostering collaboration between both parties. Here are a few things to consider.

Select a designer and design-build firm that align with your goals

When you’re looking for a designer and design-build firm that will work well together, there’s a lot to consider. One important factor is how well their philosophies on construction align. The most important compatibility factor is that both are client-focused. This means they act with your best interest in mind and want to create a space that benefits you as the client.

You’ll get the best product from a team that cares about quality work and serving the needs of the clients. This means a designer who wants to plan a space that improves the quality of your life and home. It means a build team who is enthusiastic about quality craftsmanship and uses industry best practices. Combining the two means you’ll end up with a remodel unique to your needs that will last a lifetime.

Ensure that your designer is willing to work with the design-build process

If you hire an independent designer, make sure they’re willing to collaborate with the design-build team.

Another important factor to consider is whether your designer is willing to work with the design-build process. Remember, the combining of design and construction services is the defining feature of a design-build firm. For them to complete your remodel effectively, they have to be able to work within the confines of their process.

Independent designers are often used to using their own processes. However, in order to have the greatest success, both the designer and builder must follow the same process. If you choose to hire an independent designer, find one that is willing to accommodate the design-build firm’s process. On the other side, you’ll want to find a design-build firm that is willing to work with outside designers. Not all of them will, but some may be open to it depending on the situation.

Expect to coordinate between the two parties

By choosing to hire an independent designer and design-build team, you’ll likely find yourself with a few extra responsibilities. Typically, when you hire a design-build firm, all of the people involved in the project work for the same company. In this case, the design-build team can delegate tasks and communicate internally, leaving you to focus on making decisions for your remodel.

However, when you have two parties working together on the design, it places more responsibility on you to be the liaison between them. In this case, you’ll likely be responsible for coordinating, communicating, and making sure your designer and design-built firm are working in lock-step. 

Ready to hire a design-build firm for your project?

Now that you understand more about hiring an independent designer and design-build firm to remodel your home, continue your research. To learn more about the design-build process, check out our Process page. Here, you can find an in-depth look into what makes our design-build process a great experience for homeowners.

Are you ready to find a design-build firm to work on your remodel? If so, our team at Lamont Bros. would love to meet with you. Simply click the button below to schedule a free consultation to find out if Lamont Bros. is a good fit for your upcoming remodeling project.