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Why would an architect decline the job?

Posted by sapphire69 (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 9:05

Hi Everyone!

This is not for a new build but you guys seem to work more with architects so I figured I would ask this here.

I have a very old carriage house that I would like to restore. I asked people for references and called the first architect. He sounded pretty interested in the project and we set up a meeting for him to come and see it a couple of days later. In the meantime, I emailed him a couple of pictures of the structure. He emailed me back to say that it would be very costly to restore the carriage house and it would be better to build new. If I wanted to do that,we cocould meet but he was NOT (his capitalization) interested in a restoration project.

I went on the internet to try and find architects with web sites where I could see examples of their work. I found one that also works with our local preservation board. Sounds promising, right? I emailed him and explained the project and also explained that the structure was in a state of extreme disrepair. He emailed back and said it sounded like exactly the kind of project they were interested in. We set a date and he asked for pictures. I emailed the pictures and he responded back to confirm the date. However, when he got there, instead of going out to look at the carriage house, he spent the entire time explaining to me how costly a restoration would be and how I could have it disassembled and a new one erected with new composite materials that will be less maintenance and will last longer. I told him that I was not interested in that and I haven't heard from him again.

When I did the initial walk through of my home, I fell in love with the carriage house so my realtor asked her neighbor, who is an architect, to come and take a look at it. He went inside and said it was in much better shape inside than what it looked like outside and saw no reason why it couldn't be restored. After a little digging, I have found his information and I'm just waiting to get on his calendar.

My question is why would the other two decline a restoration versus a new build? In the interest of full disclosure, I know absolutely nothing about working with an architect and can hardly hang a picture straight on my own. However, I didn't think the cost of the build mattered to the architect. If I want something drawn that I can't afford to build, as long as I can pay for the drawings, that's all that the architect needs to know. What am I missing? Even before contacting these architects, I had two different engineering companies evaluate the structure and they both said it was not beyond the point of restoration but it was going to be a lot of work which means a lot of money. I agree with that but I don't get why it makes a difference to the architect whether I spend my money on restoring it or spend it on building new.

Thanks in advance for your feedback!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

What was your expressed budget for the project? They likely see you as a dreamer rather than someone who can really afford the huge financial demands of a restoration.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

My thought was also that it might have something to do with your proposed budget and expectations.

I know of two people who are restoring *porches* on historic houses and one thought when he was getting estimates of $120,000, it was because the firm didn't want the job. But they are all coming back with these numbers.

The other porch, all told, was a $300,000 restoration project.

And there is no real return on an investment such as this, it's part of expected maintenance, as far as many future buyers would be concerned, and they are just glad they aren't the ones to have to do it.

So you may even have a healthy budget in mind, I don't know. But the problem may be is that it isn't enough for the project, because these sorts of things can be unbelievably expensive.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Thank you for the responses! The thing is, we never even got to the point of discussing a budget. I have gotten quotes from some contractors so I have some idea what it's going to cost to restore it. I'm pretty well past the sticker shock. Not to mention the additional things that I would like to have done to it are all big ticket items. But I still can't understand how my budget for the build portion would affect their decision to draw up the plans. If I pay for the architect's time and talent to draw up the plans, why do they care if I have enough money to build it?

And Pal, I think I would faint if I received a quote of six figures to restore a porch!!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

" If I pay for the architect's time and talent to draw up the plans, why do they care if I have enough money to build it?,"

I would imagine most architects consider themselves artists. After spending time to create art, it would be a shame for that art to go into a desk drawer and never be fully realized. Not saying that's what you'd do, but you asked why they would care as long as you pay them. Much like a chef at a restaurant wouldn't want to create a culinary delight that would be paid for, but never eaten. They get a lot of satisfaction from the consumer utilizing and appreciating the end result of their work.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Based on your comments about your home and putting a basement under it, it sounds like the house does not have good bones. If you aren't convincing the contractors/architects that you are realistic about the costs at the beginning, why would they want to waste their time? Lifting a home and pouring a basmenet underneath when the exterior walls are in such rough shape is not a cheap endeavor....are you realistic about the cost of this project?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

A good architect wants to see her/his designs built, not simply drawn on paper and later put in a drawer.

There are "paper architects", but not the good ones. Architecture is about building and not drawing. Drawing is simply the means to the end.

Obviously, something didn't "click" between you and either of the first two architects. Only you will have a clue to what it may have been and if it can be improved with your contact with the third architect.

Good luck with your project.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

They may also have an ethical dilemma about designing what they believe is an unfeasible project?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

What IS your project budget and where are you located?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Thank you again for the responses!

I do understand the artistry involved and wouldn't want to see something I created shoved in a drawer. However, they never even discussed the budget with me to discern whether I had realistic expectations or not. For all they knew, I could have plans made for a new build and never have it completed.

Nostalgicfarm, as I said, I had two full engineering studies done as well as contractor walk-throughs so while it certainly won't be a walk in the park, I do believe I'm approaching the project with my eyes open.

Virgilcarter, thank you for the different perspective on architecture. I'm at a loss as to what didn't click with the first two architects because I spoke to both of them very briefly. I am optimistic that this next architect will lay everything on the table with me and, since he's already been inside the structure once, won't be intimidated by the way that it looks on the outside.

Pal, I could agree with that but, since we never even discussed a budget, they had no idea whether a new build was feasible for me. It could all just boil down to what Virgilcarter said - we just didn't click for some reason.

Hollysprings, I'm in upstate NY and the bids that I've gotten so far are between $40-60K for everything and I'm expecting another $15K on top of that.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

nost.....where does the basement come from?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

From your description I can't tell what the scope of architectural services would be but it is possible that the architect's part of the work might be too small to justify what might be perceived as a high liability.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Knowing nothing about it, $40-60k sounds unbelievably unrealistic for renovating an historic structure. 15% cost overrun is shy for new construction. I usually estimate 30%. For an old building, I would budget in a 100% cost overrun. That's because whatever you see as a problem from the outside is nothing compared to what ills you will find when digging into it on the inside. Then there is all the labor and expense associated with all the custom work that needs to be done as nothing...absolutely nothing...in the old building is square, standard, or compatible with new materials.

Also, my architect will not just draw something, but expects to be involved intimately in the construction of the project so he can make sure that, not only is the building sound, but that the contractor isn't making serious design flaws for no good reason. (Many contractors think they know "best".)

In this case, it may simply be more time and effort than they care to devote to a single project. Or, given the potential liabilities involved, they would rather avoid it and start from scratch so they know exactly what they are dealing with.

But I'm thinking too that they are getting the vibe from you, as am I, that you are not being realistic about what is involved, budget included.

DH grew up in a 200 yr old house that was on our property and he's incredibly sentimental and wanted to salvage the old building and add on to it. I put my foot down and said we'd pour all this money into restoring a house that we still couldn't fit our furniture into. He was very torn up about it until we started tearing it down. Once he saw the actual condition, he knew we'd made the right choice. The front corner posts were rotted up into the 2nd floor. The main beam across the front of the house stopped 2 feet short of either corner post. Other beams had been so chopped up and cut into during prior renovations that they were no longer useful. The sills were nonexistent. The entire building was twisting and collapsing around the center chimney. Whatever he thought it would cost to rehab the house, our estimate was clearly low by at least half....and a lot of that was not visible until we tore into the building to find it.

I hope you find someone who will help you realize your dream, and that you can make it happen. If you want it badly enough, you will.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

nice post Anne.
after reading through...and it seems I read
another thread about excavating inside the
building to add a basement (is that right OP?),
it doesn't seem realistic to me.
for what you'd plan & 'suprises' you uncover
you could tear down & use old materials as
facade or arch detail..make it affordable, safe,
comfortable & affordable..

while I do understand the want to restore...
I have a love of old buildings...you have to
first have reasonable expectations.
sometimes, this very type of discussion will
help to explore the expectations with the
OP.

best of luck


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Renovator8 said: "From your description I can't tell what the scope of architectural services would be but it is possible that the architect's part of the work might be too small to justify what might be perceived as a high liability."

What does "restoration" mean to you? Do you want to restore the carriage house exactly as it was originally, just with new materials, or do you have modifications that you would like to make? If you want an accurate historical restoration, there's probably not much, if any, design work for an architect, and the project would have little interest.

The production of construction documents would be time-consuming with unforeseen technical complications and building code problems without the fun and intellectual satisfaction of designing something.

Claire


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Renovator8, thank you for that perspective. It sounds quite reasonable given the brevity of the discussions I had with the first two architects. I'm really looking forward to hearing the opinion of architect #3!

Anniedeighnaugh, the labor costs here (and housing costs) are very low as compared to a lot of the projects that I see on this board. Additionally, there is nothing that needs to be opened up so everything structural that needs to be seen is completely visible when you enter the structure. Both structural engineering companies and three contractors who specialize in carriage house restorations have been inside and the $60K figure is the highest amount that's been quoted. This is an outbuilding on the property so it was never a space that anyone lived in and won't be used as such.

I have done and continue to do due diligence on what is involved so, based on the information I've been given by the professionals, I'm very realistic in my expectations. The house that I was looking to buy before this one was 2,600 sq. ft. with an enormous outbuilding for sale for $7,000. The inside was completely gutted, meaning all of the walls were on the floor and even the staircase to the second floor had been ripped out. Fortunately, someone bought it before I could because I freely admit that I was completely unrealistic about what it would cost to make that house livable, much less to have the look and feel I was after. I've been having work done on the main house continuously for the past three years so I'm comfortable that I'm seeing clearly on this project. I do feel your husband's pain at losing his childhood home but reality can be a real slap in the face!

The plan is to get this project started this summer so I'll be sure and keep the board updated!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I was also wondering about the cellar and found this post linked below, where it is discussed, which may help others help the OP.

Also found this picture of the carriage house -

 photo carriagehouse_zps951d0bb1.jpg

Here is a link that might be useful: The carriage house


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I think it's very interesting that the architect on the local preservation board suggested that you basically replace your carriage house with a new one that looks like the old one. Do I have that right? If he truly has an interest in preserving local architecture, wouldn't he get his artistic satisfaction from meeting the challenges of historic restoration rather than creating a new design. It's a stretch, but could it be that he knows something about whether your local municipality would grant a permit to do what you're planning? Just a theory.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

It seems I missed a few posts while I was responding!

Energy_rater_la, this is the same project! Unfortunately, if the building comes down, any new structure must conform to the new building codes which would prohibit a two-story structure from being built. However, the concept of using the old materials for architectural detail is pretty much the scope of the initial part of the job as there are no "rooms" inside and I don't plan to add any.

Claire, by restore, I mean that I would like to make the building functional again using as much of the original material as possible. I've been quoted a reuse of anywhere between 60-80% of the existing structure. It was built without a foundation so I would like to add a basement during the process of adding one. Due to local codes, I'm pretty sure I need to have stamped architectural drawings for the permit but I will verify that with the next architect.

My3dogs, thank you for posting the picture! She looks a lot worse outside than she does inside.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I don't think you could touch that project where I live for under $100,000 even for basic stabilization and restoration. Doing "something" with it other than having a basically restored garage could be $200K. Here it would probably cost half of your projected budget to take it down and landscape over the bare ground. Your area may be quite different pricewise.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Hand digging a basement will cost more than half of your initial estimate. Without any of the enormous amount of other work that the structure needs to even be stable enough to be safely lifted for the digging to occur. When you have a restoration specialist telling you to tear it down.........LISTEN.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

The prices are just not that high here, Ineffablespace. Thank goodness! I could buy a well appointed house here for $200K. The quote I received for just stabilizing the carriage house was $14K.

With all due respect, Hollysprings, I am listening. Only I'm listening to the professionals that have actually been inside the building an analyzed it versus just looking at a picture.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

sapphire69, I'm just a layperson making a guess here, but if you are just doing a foundation, reinforcing the structure and putting on a new shell, not sure whether there is much for an architect to do? Structural engineer, geotech, civil, sure -- but would the architect essentially just be a project manager? Did the construction/engineering folks who have quoted you say that you would need an architect?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Oh my! My comments were before I saw the picture of the place. Yikes! And our old house was standing with a solid roof and not open to the weather!!!

I would talk to people on the zoning board or even make an application to the appeals board to replace the structure. We had an appeals issue and they gave us a variance for building our house where we wanted it. They even went through the mental exercise of removing 3 walls and keeping one up and then "renovating" the final wall to get to where you want to go. Fortunately, they didn't make us go through that nonsense...though there was a house a few towns over where they did just that....it looked ridiculous and must've been a huge waste of money, but there it is.

You don't know...you might be able to replace the existing structure. Especially since, even in the picture, there are 2 story structures nearby...


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

That structure doesn't need an architect. It needs a miracle.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Oaktown, I plan on checking with the new architect but I'm sure one of the city folks told me that I need architectural drawings as part of the permit process because of the extent of the work. I hope to be able to verify that soon!

Anniedeighnaugh, I get that reaction a lot! The 'removing three walls' approach has been tossed around by more than one contractor. Another is to build one new wall at a time around the old wall and take the old one down from the inside. The approach I go with will depend on the contractor that ends up getting the job. The two-story restriction is only for additional structures on the property. The neighborhood is pretty much all two story homes but they don't want people having little apartment buildings in their back yards and not paying appropriate taxes. I'm not looking forward to dancing delicately around its intended use for the permits!

Dyno, it's a good thing I specialize in miracles, huh?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

An old friend runs an auto body shop. Someone towed a real wreck of a vehicle into the yard and asked him if he could fix it up. He walked into the shop and came out a minute later with a roll of toilet paper in his hand...he threw it at the vehicle, turned around and walked back into the shop.

I think the architects are throwing a roll of t.p. at your carriage house...only politely.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Maybe I'm just a dreamer, but I think it's great! I think it's wonderful you're willing to save it. I hope it goes well for you. Be sure to keep us posted, I'm looking forward to seeing it!!!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Thank you, sweet-tea!! I will be sure to post the finished product!

Anniedeighnaugh, I think you may be right. I will have to return their tp to them along with a photo of the finished product. Politely, of course.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Gosh, I never saw the picture in the other post. But I could just tell by the post that you were way over 40-60K and in over your head.
Maybe leave the really good architects out of it, and go to a draftsperson? They can draw your stuff up, don't care what it costs or if you build, and can get get their plans stamped.
Also, low cost area or not, this is a big job. For the federal minimum wage, you will still get crap work. Using the cheapest materials will give you a cheap look. Your building needs fixed before a company will lift it, which needs to be done to put a basement under it. You are minimum 20K for a basement under that, if you are doing the work yourself and just renting beams, dealing with the dirt yourself, etc. Do you really think you will replace windows, roof, paint. Drywall, flooring for 20-40K. You are being taken for a ride before you even start.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I have renovated more than a million s.f. of abandoned mill buildings in CT and MN. The biggest problem was the condition of the heavy timber structure if the roof had been open for many years as appears to be the case for this building. The timber frames required extensive and expensive testing to determine if fungus was present in the wood even if it looked intact. If it was, the frame had to be replaced because when the wood is enclosed in new sheathing and finishes, it can begin to aggressively rot and eventually collapse.

I stopped doing that work because of the unusually high professional liability and the difficulty in getting professional liability insurance for it.

I don't know anything about the frame of your carriage house but from the condition of the roof I would guess that it is not something an experienced architect would want to be responsible for no mater what the fee.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Renovator8, thank you so much!! That makes perfect sense and is an absolutely understandable reason for declining to work on a project like this. I should hear back from the new architect by the end of the week so I will let you know what he has to say about it.

Thanks again!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I would estimate the cost of rebuilding this building at over $100,000 and the architect & engineering fees might be as much as $10,000.

I doubt anyone would be allowed to live in it or for it to even have plumbing unless the lot is very large and/or there is no zoning ordinance.

When the city folks said you would need architectural drawings, that should mean an architect must draw them but they might have been speaking in general terms and only meant you would need a full set of design documents.

What you will definitely need is a structural engineer preferably one who has experience with forensic testing services. I can't imagine why that engineer's drawings would not be sufficient for a building permit.

As for a foundation I seriously doubt the existing structure is sound enough to be lifted. I suspect it is a timber frame and after the siding and sheathing has been stripped the structural frame could be rebuilt one piece at a time and then it could be lifted but that would probably be more expensive than tearing the entire building down and rebuilding it and that might or might not be allowed.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Renovator8, you are just full of excellent information! I really do appreciate you taking the time to respond. Of course, good information generally leads to more questions! I apologize, in advance, if these are "simple" questions.

What are design documents (versus architectural drawings) and what does a full set consist of?

What does forensic testing involve and why would I need it for this project?

What type of zoning ordinance would prevent plumbing in the building?

The numbers that I mentioned in my posts were not my made up estimates; they were given to me by the contractors that I had go into the carriage house and quote the work. There were a few different approaches mentioned for straightening it and getting a foundation under it but none of them have even hit the $70K mark, even on the high end. And before anyone asks, these are licensed contractors who specialize in restoring barns and carriage houses in this area.

It will certainly be an adventure with plenty of challenges but, in the end, I firmly believe I will do nothing but smile when I look out of my kitchen window and see the beautiful end result!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Some thoughts on what Reno and others have already posted:

--Remodel construction is always full of "oops" and "I wonder how this happened" and "I wish I had seen that on my first walk through..." If one hasn't seen and done remodel construction, just watch some of the HGTV shows--they always "discover" cost additive conditions;
--This often means that experienced builders will not build on such projects for a fixed fee, rather a time and materials fee, where all financial risk is passed to the owner;
--A contractor's walk through and "estimate" is worth exactly what s/he was paid for it--often nothing! The only contractor's numbers that mean anything are those found in a contract for construction signed by the contractor and owner. Even then there will often be additional charges resulting from conditions outside the original scope of service;
--Wood structures, left for extended periods in the weather, will enivitably incur dry rot, mold, mildew and wood-eating insects, which means complete replacement of affected wood members.

It's clear you are committed to the reconstruction and I hope it works out well for you and your checkbook! Best wishes!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I'm thinking, skip the zoning ordinance and opt for ordnance instead.
;)

Sorry...I can't resist a pun...


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Thank you, Virgilcarter! Your words of wisdom are not falling on deaf ears. I am going to use this thread to create a list of questions for the contractors who bid the job and possibly be able to create some language to add to the contracts. By the way, all of the contractors provided detailed written proposals, ready for signature with the total amounts clearly spelled out. None were time and materials.

I have had the main house under construction in some way, shape or form continuously for the past three years so I have lived some of the HGTV shows! I believe that with the right team, open communication, a little luck and a little more money, it will be a worthwhile endeavor.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Of course, I immediately thought "Annie, Get Your Gun" !


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

A picture is worth....

Maybe the architects were too polite to say what they really thought of your request: משוגע


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

How were these architects going to bill for their time? On many sorts of projects I think they bill 10% of the projected overall budget (which I think is undercompensated), and perhaps $4-6000 is not enough for the responsibility of taking on this sort of job with many unknowns. 10% may be adequate for an empty new structure copying the old over which they have control of the structural aspects.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Ineffablespace, I will be able to answer your question after I speak with the third architect. I never even got that far with the other two!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

To answer the thread question bluntly:

Because to me this looks like a total teardown. I would not set foot in it because it looks unsafe.

I understand your emotional attachment and admire your attitude but you asked a specific question and this is my unbiased opinion.

About cost: How this could cost less than 100k anywhere in the USA to fix (with an added basement) is beyond me and I have experience stretching dollars for construction.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

The fact that you can buy a house inexpensively where you live has only a slight bearing on the cost to renovate.

In many areas of the country homes sell for far less than they cost to build.

Building costs will be less where you are due to cheaper labor, but you won't save much if any on materials, and the discount on labor , esp professionals is not enormous in my experience.

I think the architects believe (as i think everyone here does) that this goes beyond folly (and I am all for a good folly for those who want to spend the money) into the realm of wasteful, untenable, and unethical.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I can see the attraction of the doors, the gable, the roofline and think it would be worth replicating on some level...

With our old house, before we tore it down, we had someone come who has moved historic homes and he turned it down. We had another guy come who salvages historic parts and he found very little worth while. We ended up salvaging a few items from the old house which we added as accents to the new house, but the rest went.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

"Design documents" is a way of describing architectural drawings without implying that an architect is required to do them.

A forensic engineering investigation attempts to determine the cause of a structural failure. An engineer who is skilled in this work can be very helpful in investigating the condition of a wood structural frame.

The construction of a dwelling unit in an unattached building on the same lot is governed by zoning ordinances and the determination of whether or not a space is a dwelling unit is if it has the elements required by the building code to be occupied and that is usually based on the existence of a bathroom and possibly a kitchen.

I base my assumption that the structure is seriously damaged by water and fungus by the appearance of the roof opening. It looks as if it has been open for many years and I see no evidence of any attempt to protect the building.

The only way i know to test for the presence of fungus in a wood member is to take a drilled sample and test it in a lab. A faster and possibly cheaper approach is to replace all of the wood and I think the contractors might have underestimated that cost or are willing to take a chance that the structure will not fail after it is enclosed.

But I know almost nothing about the structure or the climate. I don't even know how you will use the renovated structure. You asked us to guess so I did.

The most important advice I can give you is to get an engineer to look at the structure and get some more accurate information about the condition of the building.

Here is a link that might be useful: wood inspection guidelines


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Thank you, again, Renovator8, for that very detailed response!

I have spoken very briefly with the Zoning and Permit office and they are very sensitive about its intended use. As you said, there are certain elements that, by code, will put it in the category of a dwelling unit, which would mean it has to adhere to additional code requirements and has tax implications. I believe it can have a bathroom but not a kitchen and a bathroom. The person I spoke with basically said just get the drawings and apply for the permit and we'll tell you whether or not you can do it. This is also one of the things I will verify with the architect. The building will be for entertainment space so I would like for it to have a bathroom.

I have, actually, had two structural engineering companies come and take a look at it and have provided stamped and signed reports. Both have verified that the structure can be repaired and outlined the steps for doing so.

You are correct in that it has been exposed to the elements for several years before I bought the property and the entire time I've owned it. We get all four seasons here so it has taken a beating. The contractors that have submitted proposals have both proposed replacing the wood.

Again, you have provided me very useful information and I appreciate that. The linked document will help me to speak to the contractors and will even be useful for the main house so thank you very much for that!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

In our town, you can't have a kitchen sink. If you have the sink, it's considered a kitchen. So we saw one house with an in-law set up (not allowed) where they had the kitchen but no hole cut for the sink in the counter top. Presumably new owners can do that later if they wish and just not tell anyone...


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I am not understanding something. You stated I have, actually, had two structural engineering companies come and take a look at it and have provided stamped and signed reports. Both have verified that the structure can be repaired and outlined the steps for doing so.

You are correct in that it has been exposed to the elements for several years before I bought the property and the entire time I've owned it. We get all four seasons here so it has taken a beating. The contractors that have submitted proposals have both proposed replacing the wood.

What wood are they proposing to replace? And what wood is not proposed to be replaced? If the wood has been exposed to the elements for many years, how much would not have to be replaced? I am trying to figure out where the line is between a restoration and something more than a restoration. What is being restored/preserved?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I apologize, Dekeoboe, for the confusion. The wood that would be replaced is that which has had prolonged exposure to the elements. That is predominantly at the roof and the flooring and joists inside directly beneath the holes in the structure. Much of the siding can be reused as well as the unexposed wood inside the structure.

Anniedeighnaugh, there are many people here with illegal dwelling units on their propoerty that they rent out. Mostly over garages or in their basements. Perhaps the next owner of my house will do that with the carriage house but I'll be dead by then so I won't mind!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Perhaps some of the terminology is causing some confusion. Restorations cost so much because they attempt to duplicate with actual historical accuracy. Many times, the beams that are rotten for instance, may not be available except by custom production. Old lumber 2x4s are not the same dimensionally as new 2x4s and certainly not the same quality. To get the same quality and the same profiles as are now rotten in the structure costs substantially more than if standard off the shelf components are able to be utilized. More than double in many cases. Perhaps the estimates that you received did not account for that restoration element and only accounted for a repair mentality. I personally cannot even see having the structure stabilized, lifted, and a basement dug for under 100K. And that wouldn't include any custom production items for restoration authenticity.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I also wanted to address your comment that you could buy a well appointed house in your area for the estimates that my two acquaintances have gotten for porches.

I am sure that is absolutely correct. But you can often get a house for much less than it would cost to actually build it. My parents, for example, carry full-replacement coverage on their house and it would cost four times to build their house than what they could sell it for in their location. (can you even get policies like this anymore? I don't know). The cost differential between my lot empty and my lot with a house on it, is almost negligible compared to what it would cost to Put a house on it.

As for the people with the $120K and $300K porches. I have no idea what the market value of the house requiring the $300K porch restoration is, but in no way will the cost of the porch affect the future selling price of the house. The future buyer will have considered that a part of required maintenance as far as they are concerned.

With the $120K porch house, the cost of redoing this porch is a Significant percentage of the overall value of what they would be able to sell the house for. Many people would opt to remove the porch in its entirely in that location. The house would have better curb appeal With the porch but not so much that people would pay $120K more for that house than the one next door with no porch.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

You may be right, Live_Wire_Oak. I did not know enough to ask if any replacement wood would be of the same size and quality as the original but I will be sure to make that distinction with any other contractors who submit proposals. Thanks for the knowledge!

I agree 100%, Ineffablespace, that it costs far more to build a house, which is why I was somewhat confused by the architect's position that there would be more value in tearing down the carriage house and rebuilding it.

My insurance agent has suggested getting full replacement value on my house so it is still available. I will likely do it after the carriage house is done so that it can be included.

I wish I could say that money was no object but it's a giant honking object planted firmly in the middle of the room! Having said that, however, I'm not at all concerned with the value of what I put into it versus the value of the house. That is an issue for my heirs. The time that will be spent in the structure with family and friends has all of the value that I'm looking for.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Chubb provides insurance for full replacement cost on historic structures.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I am not sure that I am explaining things well but that's not exactly what I mean. Restoration or extensive renovation of an existing structure is often the most expensive at all.

I've worked with two clients, one for whom it was cheaper to tear down a house and build a new, larger house, than it was to renovate the existing house extensively. Another, it was cheaper for them to buy and gut two adjoining row houses than it was for them to add onto one where they had room.

It wouldn't cost $800K for my parents to build a new house of the same size or larger on their lot, it would cost them $800 K to replicate their old one.

There have been a number of projects in my neighborhood where the initial proposal was to renovate an existing structure where it was more cost effective to start from scratch, including one where the shape of the new building replicates the old (but other than that was not striving or historical authenticity)

There is a lot of existing stock here compared to empty lots, and there are two tracks, one is to essentially gut the house and fill it with brand new infrastructure, the other is restoration. It's less expensive to gut than it is to retain historic interiors and work in new systems and structure with the existing.

The two recent extensive Restorations that I know of in the city have both topped $5M. (plus whatever the cost of the house is). There are few new houses or completely rehabbed (but not restored) houses in the luxury category of the same size at even half the price.

I realize yours is a simple structure and will stay a simple structure so the differential will not be as extreme as I have discussed.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

It took a minute for the clue bird to reach me, Ineffablespace, but I get it now! Similar to what Live_Wire_Oak was saying above, to recreate the structure with the same materials that were originally there or, similar to what Anniedeighnaugh was alluding to, trying to retrofit the new into the old, is more expensive than starting from scratch with "off-the-shelf" materials due to unforeseen challenges and the necessity for custom work. I get that, I really do. It's the motivation for homeowners to take a house down to the studs.

I won't know what my threshold is for that until I get the contractors in there, with more education than I had before, and find out where the line is for me between a restoration and a renovation.

Maybe I'll end up with a restor-vation!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I think we all may have missed one key here.
Since you see this as a wise allocation of funds, how do you propose paying for it? 60K is ALOT of cash and takes quite some time to save. You can't get a construction loan for a project like this. It has also gotten much harder to get home equity loans, and about impossible for anything above 80%


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

When we were talking about our old house, we used to say we'd have to "gut" it down to the foundation, and even that wasn't so hot.

I'm not sure how we would've ever gut the old house...my FIL finished the unfinished attic in all tongue and groove pine paneling to create 2 bedrooms ... back in the 30s when pine paneling was real wood planks. Seems it was the precise job he did putting the tongue and groove together creating a solid box that was holding the building up and helping to keep it from racking and collapsing. But we didn't know that until we were tearing it down. Had we tried gutting the upper floor, it would've damaged the structural integrity even further.

Not sure what's holding your carriage house up or what will happen to it once you start taking it apart.

There's another consideration. I've seen a lot of homes in our area that were "restored" or "remodeled" or call it "heavy maintenance" and the problem is, it doesn't last. I've seen homes that were repainted or stained and it looks lousy again in a couple of years. I've seen homes that had some structural changes that 10 yrs later, look in need of it again. So, at least in my experience, restoration requires much higher ongoing maintenance costs than starting over with all new materials.

So I guess I'm in the architects' camp to take lots of pics and measurements, figure out the function you want from the building, then come up with a new design that honors and maintains the look and character of the old, but meets your modern needs to a tee, and you'll get the perfect building and even save money doing it.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

As I'm reading through this thread, I'm still a little confused. You said that you have multiple quotes from contractors, that spell out scope of work and fees, and include contracts ready for signature. What exactly is it that you expect the architect to do? If you haven't had engineering drawings done, what are these contractors quoting on?

What benefit do you see for restoration as opposed to renovation?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Hmmm....this shape reminded me of your carriage house.

You can scroll through the pics on line. The interior is fab. And if you're putting less money into the actual structure, you'll have more money to devote to the interior finishes.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Hi Pixie_Lou!

I had the contractors come in and create a proposal based on what it is I wanted to do with the carriage house at the time. I mistakenly thought I could just sashay into the permit office, fill out a few forms and be on my way. It wasn't until I spoke to the people downtown that they mentioned the need for drawings. Especially after they saw it!

I have used the word restore and now realize that it has specific connotations that may be unintended. In the simplest terms, I would like to restore the structure to be safe and functional while retaining as much of the original structure as possible. Hope that helps!

Anniedeighnaugh, that is quite some pool house! The roof is certainly similar to mine but I never would have guessed it was built around 1900. I'm sure that homeowner got what they wanted but I want people to be able to tell that my carriage house was built around 1900.

I hope you took lots of pictures of the old house because it sounds beautiful! It's rather fascinating to think that it was being held upright by paneling! Was it unoccupied for a long period? Gutting to the foundation is funny!

I have attached a link to my inspiration carriage house. The interior is still a bit modern for my tastes but I have a lot of respect for the journey from what it was to what it is.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heywood Carriage House


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Are the contractors unable or unwilling to help you with the permitting process?

Do you have photos of what the original carriage house looked like? So you know what you are trying to restore to?


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Can a contractor really give a good estimate of such a project without drawings? I know that someone who is an estimator with experience can eyeball certain projects and give a very accurate estimate, but this building's needs seem very complex.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Whichever contractor does the work will certainly help with the permits, Pixie_lou. I just didn't know, at the time, what the process was so I pretty much put the cart before the horse. And I would LOVE to find a picture of the carriage house when it was functional but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Pal, I can only guess that they based their proposals on a combination of what they knew needed to be done based on the condition of the carriage house and what I said I wanted to do with it. The bulk of the effort would be to get the structure straight, set soundly on a foundation and protected from the elements. I got the quotes last year before having a really clear picture of what I wanted the inside to look like so the next contractors that come through will be able to give a more complete proposal. I can admit that until the city told me that I needed drawings, it hadn't really occurred to me how useful they might be to a contractor! I figured since I wasn't adding any walls and the structure was pretty much built, the contractor was good to go! Live and learn.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

You will find plenty of contractors willing to work without drawings (or at least without detailed ones).

Here, you will find contractors not only willing to work without drawings but fairly Unwilling to work with them or follow them more than as if they are vague suggestions. I've done drawings for jobs and then had the contractor complain to the client that he was expected to Follow Them. I've also gotten bids from contractors who suggested to Not pull permits because it "complicates things."


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Part of my degree course work touched on historic restoration. We were mostly interested in structures in the Galveston area for our projects and I can say that your carriage house unfortunately looks like it should come down. In Galveston, Ike took many of these borderline buildings down- they were filled with rot, mold and termite problems. Ironically, those buildings have been active rentals down there up until the bitter end in a lot of cases. It is very praiseworthy to try and restore older buildings. From the condition of the roof in the picture, can't imagine the rot that has occurred through the original wood substructure. Best of luck in whatever you decide to do-


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

You might ask the contractors if they can recommend an architect. I think you mentioned that they were experienced in restoring carriage houses, so they might have an architect they've worked with before on this type of project.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Part of my degree course work touched on historic restoration. We were mostly interested in structures in the Galveston area for our projects and I can say that your carriage house unfortunately looks like it should come down. In Galveston, Ike took many of these borderline buildings down- they were filled with rot, mold and termite problems. Ironically, those buildings have been active rentals down there up until the bitter end in a lot of cases. It is very praiseworthy to try and restore older buildings. From the condition of the roof in the picture, can't imagine the rot that has occurred through the original wood substructure. Best of luck in whatever you decide to do-


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I've certainly interviewed those contractors, Palimpsest! It doesn't take them long to figure out that I don't 'speak the language' so they throw around some fancy terms and explanations on why a permit would not be in my best interest. Fortunately, I'm rather patient so if I need to take a few days to research some phrases or proposed methods, that's what I'll do. Now, if it gets to the point where I have paid for drawings, believe me, I will make sure it is in their best interest to follow them!!

Cercis141, I hadn't considered asking the contractors for a recommendation but I will now! Thanks!

Thanks, Musicgal!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

The value of the architectural drawings is also in getting 'apples to apples' bids from the contractors, since they will all be bidding based on the same specs.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I would never dream of tackling a project like this without town approval and a permit! In our town, they will stop construction...which is bad enough. But they have also issued "cease and desist" orders with daily fines which accumulate until you put whatever it is back to what it was. They have also had people tear down buildings if they were over the permitted build area even if only by a few inches. Further, the permit process gets the building inspector involved, who can really be your friend in the process as s/he will spot things that are not safe or not correct and can yield a better finished product than without their involvement...depending on the skills and capabilities of the inspector.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

I wouldn't dream of it either, Anniedeighnaugh! The city has inspectors who walk the streets regularly to check for violations and a transformation like this would certainly not go unnoticed! Besides, the city has been very patient with me so I don't mind them being involved. I want this done right the first time.

Cercis141, that is exactly the thought I had!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Deletion of duplicate post.

This post was edited by sapphire69 on Sat, Apr 19, 14 at 8:54


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

The architect is signalling that your proposed restoration project has no possible economic feasibility. There is too little of the original structure left to save, because of water, rot, and insects. The best allocation of resources is to document the old structure and recreate it.
I recall seeing your pictures over a year ago on Wavyglass or Old House Web, and since then have you taken any steps to mitigate the ongoing damage, or have you allowed the deterioration to continue? If, in the years you have been there if you haven't at least covered it with tarps, you have been part of the building's problems not its savior.
Last year we took apart, labeled and reassembled a 4-room tenant house of about 500 square feet, that was in almost as bad shape as your carriage house, with the advantage of a stone foundation that was 85% intact. It had a leaking roof for 40 years, and finally had large missing areas of roofing; half of the rafters rotted away, 24 feet of wall framing was turned into mulch by the decay, all but two of the floor joists were unsalvageable due to rot and powder-post beetle damage, and just 1/4 of the flooring was usable, etc. This project was not done because it made any economical sense, but for educational purposes, being part of a museum property. It cost over $80,000 to stabilize, treat for bugs, recreate missing areas, and make the structure safe for its intended use. $160 per square foot. Were it not protected as part of the museum estate property, the structure would have been burned down or bulldozed long ago, because it had no practical reason for existing, cost far more to restore than any use it could render, and was a blighted eyesore.
Restoration work eats up a lot of money quickly if you have nothing to start with, and that's the basis of the architect's desire to steer you away from what in his professional experience is a fraught pathway to disappointment and failure.
Casey


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Architect, schmarchitect. These guys are somehow venerated and often unnecessarily. If you're building a hospital or a high-rise, yeah, you need one. Restoring a an old carriage house? Hardly.

Unlike others, I don't do cost estimates from a single photograph, but I could tell you in a 10-minute walk-through if it would be cost effective to restore that building in the context of its historical contribution to its neighborhood.

Remember, demolition is forever.

To answer your question, he's not interested for whatever reason. Women have been giving men fake phone numbers in bars for years, but that doesn't stop us from asking. Don't be discouraged either.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

If I understood the earlier postings, I believe the first two architects may indeed have been suggesting that it did not appear to them to be "cost effective" to restore that building.

Based on her comments, the OP may not be concerned about "cost effectiveness". She wants what she wants--and if she can afford it, why not?

Such interesting comments. Good luck on your project!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Interesting comments, indeed, Virgilcarter!! And, thank you!

Casey, thanks for remembering my pictures! Had either of the two previous architects actually gone into the carriage house to determine its state, I might be inclined to agree with you but such is not the case. At the root of my initial question is the fact that we never once discussed a budget. For all they know, it would not be economically feasible for me to tear it down and rebuild it yet they were completely on board with that plan had a I chose to pursuit it.

Trebruchet, if you're ever in the area, you should stop in for a glass of iced tea! Sounds like you and I would have a grand old time!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

If this project ever does get off the ground, do start a thread about it. I'm really curious what's inside and how the whole thing goes. From seeing the pic I could go either way on it, that it's totally doable or borderline nuts. Can't tell because none of the structural stuff is visible and none of the surrounding area is either.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Eventually in this kind of thread someone gets around to maligning architects as if they were all cut from the same cloth.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I thought the reason architects were being interviewed was that one was required by the building department to draw the drawings. It is still not clear to me if the building department meant that an architect's stamp was required on those drawings or just that the drawings needed to contain that level of information.

It is quite possible that the building department would accept drawings from a designer or builder if the structural framing plans and details were stamped by a structural engineer. These issues need to be clarified in order to prevent the conversation from drifting into off-topic observations and personal grievances as so many of them do at the GW.

Regardless of who draws the drawings, I recommend hiring an architect, zoning lawyer or surveyor to determine the local requirements for zoning, conservation, wetlands, drainage, etc. If you hire a builder, he is likely to turn to you for this information so you should do it first.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

You can certainly count on an update, Schicksal! This is a project I have been dreaming of since the day I came to look at my house with the realtor. She thought I would be disappointed that this was the "detached 2 car garage" in the listing!

You're right, Renovator8. In the brief discussions I have had with our Zoning and Permit office, it seems that they don't wish to be in the business of educating homeowners on the code requirements so they refer you back to the professional you've hired for the job, be that a contractor, engineering or architect. After pulling up the picture of the carriage house, the direction I given was to bring the drawings and those will determine what permits will be granted. When I asked how I would know what was allowed to be drawn as part of the project, his response was that the architect who draws it up should know the code. That is what started me on the journey to find an architect. I'm also unclear if it has to be an architect but I am fully expecting to be able to answer the questions about codes and stamp requirements and such after I meet with the third architect.

In the event that this third architect declines to work on the project, I have been given the name of someone at a structural engineering firm that also does drawings. I would also check to see if one of the engineering firms that provided the first reports offer that service. Hopefully, it won't come to that but I would explore every other possible avenue before going to a builder for drawings.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Did you meet with the new guy yet? I'm curious as to what he had to say about your project....


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Hi AnnieDeighnaugh!

Thanks for checking up on my project! I spoke with him on the phone and he would like his contractor to go through it with us so I am waiting for an opening that works for all three of us. And, hopefully, a little warmer weather!

As soon as I have an update, I'll be sure to come back and post!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Just returning with an update!

The third architect came by and didn't remember the carriage house and wasn't thrilled about the idea of going inside. He went through the spiel of tearing it down and building new versus restoring and we settled on him sending his contractor over to have a look at it. If his contractor said it could be saved, he was in. We tried to work out a time where all three could be there and it just wasn't working so his contractor went alone. He came back to the architect and said I was nuts but the architect agreed to take on the project anyway! I just received his proposal on Friday for approximately $4K and I responded with a series of questions. Provided I am satisfied with his responses, I will sign on the dotted line and we will take the next steps of getting a survey done and sitting down with the zoning officials to figure out how much of my bubble they intend to burst.

Additionally, I had another contractor go through that I really hope I get to work with! He was here for over six hours and spent a lot of time in and around the carriage house and was very excited about the amount of material he would be able to reuse. I vomited all of my ideas, dreams and wishes at his feet and, like any respectable contractor genie, he told me that I could have it all! I sent him packing with a 65-page document (half for the main house) that outlines all of the things I would like done, including many pictures, and I'm waiting for his proposal. He would have to be well outside of my budget and completely unwilling to negotiate in order for me not to sign it!

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin around the end of July or early August. I will be sure and update this thread when there is more to report!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Run fast from the guy who suggests he can do it for $4k. Simply impossible. It would cost more than $4k for a new roof...and you don't have a structure you can attach it to!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Hi AnnieDeighnaugh!

I apologize for the confusion but the $4K quote was for the architect services. I have not received the quote yet from the contractor. As much as I would like the carriage house not to put me into the poor house, even I wouldn't entertain a $4K quote from a contractor!


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

Oh I see. My bad. I guess then he's thinking it would be $40k-60k for the barn redo. If so, it's still a bargain.


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RE: Why would an architect decline the job?

4K for architect seems low. That carriage house looks so bad I can't imagine desiring to save it. It doesn't appear to have any significant features, is rotting and falling in on itself. Seriously, why not bulldoze it and save the money???


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