We get a lot of calls at our Long Beach architecture firm from homeowners looking to do a home addition or a home remodel. Many of the people we talk to have done some amount of research before they call us. They’ve talked to a general contractor or someone they know who has recently completed a home remodel. And then there are those who are in the very early stages of the home remodel process. These people typically call and ask a lot of questions and may even ask for references, but they are still a long way from actually beginning a project.
We don’t mind talking with homeowners who are still early on in the process. We are happy to answer questions and hear your initial ideas and thoughts for how to improve your home. But here are three things that we think would be helpful to understand before you make that first phone call to a Long Beach architect.
Have a Realistic Timeline for Your Long Beach Home Remodel or Home Addition
One of the most common things that potential clients aren’t aware of is how long the design and approval process actually takes. We often get phone calls around September that include the statement “…and I was hoping it could be ready for the holidays.” We usually say that as long as they are talking about next year’s holidays, we should be in good shape.
Every jurisdiction is different and has different timelines. The City of Long Beach, for example, currently runs about four to six weeks for the first plan check and then about two more weeks for the subsequent reviews. The County of Orange on the other hand, (which encompasses Rossmoor, where we have several ground-up builds and remodels under construction) is currently undergoing a transition from paper to electronic submittals. This has caused their typical 14-day turnaround to almost double.
Special requirements for each jurisdiction can also play a part in timing. Many of our projects along the California Coast have to comply with hillside ordinances or go through the Coastal Commission. These special reviews can add months, or even a year, to the project timeline.
Having a Realistic Budget is also Helpful
Once we got a phone call from a client who told us that she wanted us to draw up the plans for an entire bathroom remodel. She said she had $2,500. At first, we made the mistake of thinking the $2,500 was what she had for design fees. Later on during the conversation, we realized that was her budget for the entire project, including design fees and permits. When you consider that the cost just to replace a bathtub can be $2,000-$3,000, you can see that it would have been nearly impossible to complete the bathroom remodel that she had in mind within her budget.
It’s not necessary that you know exactly what your project will cost, but understanding the average costs of remodels in your area will help prepare you for that first conversation with your Long Beach architect. It will save you from some sticker shock over the phone or at that first meeting, and let your architect know you are serious when you come in with realistic expectations regarding budget.
Yes, Your Project Has to Comply with Building and Planning Codes
Another comment that we get rather frequently is, “How can the city tell me what I can do in my own house?” This comment most often comes from older people or from those who are transplants from somewhere that has looser standards than California when it comes to building and planning codes.
In an era gone by (and still today in other areas of the country), people used to build their homes out of whatever materials they could find and lived a great distance from their neighbors. There was an accompanying life philosophy of independence. When people began living closer to each other in cities and suburbs, their lives began to impact each other. If a fire started in your home due to shoddy electrical work, it could burn down the whole neighborhood, for example. So, building codes have been developed over the years for the protection of those living in the home, as well as those in the homes surrounding them.
Along with building codes, planning codes were developed to provide guidance on how high, how large, and how close together buildings could be built. These codes have increased over the years to address issues such as energy conservation, seismic concerns, accessibility, erosion control, and many others.
As a Long Beach architecture firm, we are required to follow all building and planning codes that pertain to our projects. These are not always cut and dry. Some of them are open to interpretation and may seem unnecessary or even silly at times, but all of the projects we undertake need to be permitted, and that means meeting all applicable codes.
The code changes approximately every three years and each jurisdiction interprets it differently. Our clients often think that it is our job to know the ins and outs of every code on the books, but I’d say that we are more experts on the process and where to find most answers. Because the codes are constantly changing, even colleagues who specialize in certain aspects of the code sometimes have disagreements with city code enforcers and plan checkers. For example, we work with an ADA expert who is regularly called upon by the State of California when they are updating the accessibility codes. Even he recently had a hard time convincing one of the cities of his interpretation of the code on one of our projects.
All that is to say that designing projects according to the codes can be a challenge, but we are required to do it for all of our projects. We do the best that we can to make the process as smooth as possible for our clients, but please don’t ask your architect if he or she will help you with an unpermitted home remodel or addition.
Like we said in the beginning, we don’t expect our potential clients to have all the answers before they call us. But knowing these few things upfront will help your Long Beach architect know you are serious about working together and may also save you from some of the disappointment that can come with having unrealistic expectations.
If you’re ready to get started with your Long Beach home remodel or home addition, we’d love to talk with you. Get in touch with us today by phone or through our online contact form.