2. Hire Pros Who Know — and Like — Each Other

All architects have contractors they've worked with frequently whom they have come to trust and would recommend. And there's no law against getting a contractor you trust to refer you to an architect. Los Angeles builder Pat Qualey, who worked as an architect's assistant for six years, says a pre-existing relationship can smooth out the construction process, even if there aren't any mind-bending problems. "A lot of architects have styles and details that they replicate on projects," he says. "If the contractor is familiar with what the architect wants, so much the better."

Tom Silva points to the ongoing relationship he has with Stephen Holt, an architect he first worked with in 2001 on TOH TV's project in Manchester, Massachusetts. Having done numerous jobs with Holt, Tom's mental files now contain a lot of details that the architect commonly uses in his designs. "I know that when he extends a windowsill beyond the casing, it should look a certain way," says Tom. "Or that he's partial to a particular crown molding." The two have developed a kind of design shorthand, which means Holt doesn't have to create intricately detailed drawings to explain his choices— saving the homeowner billable hours.

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