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An architect can handle major home projects

Updated May 16, 2011

Many of us don't have the expertise to build a new home or room addition, add a garage or renovate our home's interior. The architect is the one professional who has the education, training and experience to guide you through the entire design and construction process. Here are a few tips for finding a professional.

First step

First, stop by the Community Development counter on City Hall's second floor. You will need to obtain City Planning approval and a building permit from the Building and Safety Division before starting any construction. City staff can advise you on the general requirements for your project.

Selecting an architect

To find a good architect, ask for recommendations from friends or relatives, and consult the yellow pages. After finding a few that specialize in the type of project you're planning, schedule an interview with each.

Ask for the architect's California license number and for proof of insurance. Then talk with him or her about previous experience, the services he or she will provide, an estimate of all fees that will be involved and whether the architect can meet your schedule. Also, check to see if the architect is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Membership in the AIA means that the architect subscribes to a professional code of ethics and has access to a variety of professional and technical resources.

Check references

When you have a final candidate in mind, call the California Board of Architectural Examiners at (916) 445-3393 to verify that he or she holds a valid license, then call the references your architect has provided.

Get it in writing

Once you've chosen an architect, you will need to draw up a written contract detailing the project, time frame and costs. Remember that this is a legal document, so check it very carefully before you sign. In this agreement, be sure to include the total cost of the project, the number of payments you will make and the amounts and dates of these payments.

As a service to consumers and architects, the American Institute of Architects provides a range of standard written contracts that can be adapted to your project. For more information, visit the American Institute of Architects' website.

Reviewing plans

As your architect designs your project, be sure that his or her drawings are explicit. Not only will they be used to obtain a City building permit, they will be used by your contractor to complete your project. Don't leave room for confusion.

All of these tips and many more are contained in a free booklet, called "Consumer's Guide to Hiring an Architect," available from the State Architects Board website.

For more information on completing home improvement projects in Cerritos, check out a new video called "Right From the Start" from Cerritos Public Library, or call the Building and Safety Division at (562) 916-1209.

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