Illustration: Tim Bower
On a renovation, as in romance, compatibility is key — just ask any couple who's spent the night in separate beds after an argument over bathroom tile. But husbands and wives are not the only ones who need to see eye to eye when the blueprints come out and the walls come down. All too often the other principal players on a remodel — the architect and the contractor — are more at odds than in sync. Contractors say many architects don't understand modern materials or construction practices, resulting in costly, impractical designs. Architects complain that overscheduled contractors rush through jobs, making unauthorized changes and compromising craftsmanship. Guess who loses out when there's a conflict? That would be you.

Problems between architects and contractors not only cause delays, they can cost you big bucks. Conversely, a team that works well together can keep costs in check. Maine architect Eric Beckstrom cites the call he got from the supervisor on one of his renovation projects last year. Beckstrom's plan called for lowering the floor of a farmhouse to create a walkout patio off the kitchen, which meant jackhammering away five feet of solid granite ledge. But as the excavation crew got to work peeling away the stone, rubble began tumbling out from under the foundation of an adjoining barn.

The supervisor called off the crew — and called Beckstrom. "It turned out that the ground under the barn foundation had completely eroded," says the architect. Rather than let the contractor work out a complicated (and expensive) engineering scheme to hold the foundation in place, Beckstrom simply redesigned the space on two separate levels, leaving the ledge intact. "If they'd just forged ahead according to the plan," he says, "all hell would have broken loose" — and collapsed the barn. Instead, he says, "we worked together and saved the homeowner tens of thousands of dollars in repairs."

Like any good relationship, a strong contractor-architect alliance requires constant communication. Here's advice from experts on both sides to help ensure that any team you hire will work together without a hitch.

Ask TOH users about Befores and Afters

Contribute to This Story Below