It doesn't take an architect to replace windows or rehabilitate floors. An architect is probably also not necessary if you have a "pull and replace" kitchen remodel, says Bruce Wentworth, a Washington, D.C.-based architect.
But to attempt a major remodel without a licensed architect is folly, experts contend. Not only could your added structure end up an eyesore that actually diminishes the value of your house, it could also have structural problems that could either send you back to the drawing board or create costly long-term problems.
On the other hand, if you're simply rehabilitating a kitchen or bath, you may not need an architect. But it can make great sense to hire a designer who specializes in that area. These specialists are intimately familiar with the vast variety of product choices you'll face.
Kitchens are particularly complex because there are so many products, ranging from refrigerators and stoves to pop-up vents, warming drawers and designer cabinets, not to mention tile, granite, faucets, hot water and soap dispensers, hinges and knobs. A good designer can tell you whether a particular choice matches in style and can often suggest "just-as-good" products that are less expensive.
Those on a budget that's too tight for either architects or designers can get plenty of free help on the Internet or at home improvement stores, such as Home Depot and Ikea, which offer computer programs that can lay out your space and show you three-dimensional images of various cabinet choices.
However, going it alone requires more homework on the consumer's part. Make sure you check out several design Web sites--they pop up by the dozen with a simple search--and look through magazines and books explaining kitchen design. Remember that the practical is every bit as important as the aesthetic.
One unhappy consumer explains that the kitchen she designed has a big and beautiful center island that looked gorgeous on the plan. Unfortunately, it also divides the sink from the refrigerator and stove.
"You need roller skates to make dinner around here," she grouses.