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It is always recommended that the construction work you plan on doing in your house is drawn by a professional such as a residential designer or an architect. There are no licenses required to prepare drawings for a home design project or any kind of project for that matter, specially if they are considered standard construction and the details for construction follow the general guidelines from the city or county. But sometimes depending on the job, even when the job seems simple, the city and county officials ask for the stamp and signature of a structural engineer. That is the only license anybody needs to officially submit plans at the city or county offices and to get them approved. If the designer follows the city standard details and notes, the project can be approved easily and sometimes even without a structural engineer’s stamp. It depends on the project.
Hiring someone who is not a residential designer or architect to prepare your plans is not advisable. There are construction companies called “design build” that offer design services along with their construction services and guess what? They do not emphasize on the design but the construction because that is where they make their money. So they really do not care about the look or the feel of the projects in terms of design. Do not hire contractors to prepare your home design layouts because contractors build and their specialty is not ‘design’. Get a residential design professional to design your addition or remodel and to prepare your home design plans and then hire a contractor to build the project.
In the state of California, as well as in many other states, there is no license required to prepare plans, to submit them at the city/county or to even get them approved for construction when it comes to single family residential projects. But not everybody can do it either because it is not that easy. Home design or residential design is a very specialized field. When you hire someone who does this kind of work for a living, not only they should know about home design and everything related to it but they usually also know how to work with the city and county officials, which is a job in itself and not very easy for regular people. Residential designers should know what is required for the different types of home or residential design jobs (remodels, additions, new construction, etc.) and they can usually expedite the process which is usually a tedious and boring ordeal.
If the residential designers or architects do not hire outside help to take care of the submittal process, they are the ones who have to spend hours at the city and county offices waiting to meet with the different officials from each and every one of the disciplines to make sure they all approve and stamp the plans, so you can get a construction permit. Believe me, you do not want to do this yourself. If an inexperienced person meets with the officials and he or she does not provide the answers to the questions the officials have at the time of the submittal or on their correction sheets, they would have to get them and come back as many times as necessary until the officials are satisfied with the answers, which would unnecessarily delay the process. If the officials notice this person has no clue, you can rest assured, they will not make it easy for you.
Another reason why you should hire a residential designer or architect to prepare your plans is the fact that they can also refer you to consultants they work with like soils engineers (if the city requires a soils report), land surveyors (if the city requires a property line survey or topography map), energy consultants who prepare the energy calculations showing how much energy your project would save or waste which is required no matter how small the project is, etc. Residential designers and architects usually have a team of consultants they work with which is always a plus. You never know what is going to come out when you submit the plans to the city or county, so having a team of professionals handy is a plus.
The architect and residential designer’s job is to prepare your home design layouts first and later on the construction documents required to get approval from the city or county officials, whichever has jurisdiction. Never let anybody prepare plans for you and just give them to you without the approval stamps. Their job is done only when all the disciplines at the city or county have reviewed and stamped your plans as approved.