Making changes is a natural part of the design process. It is the collaboration of the architect and the homeowner that make the remodeling process genuinely unique, but there are times I sense the homeowner is afraid to ask for changes. The process can be intimidating.

“This design is Great!”

I can remember one particular client, a husband and wife, that were adding on to their home. Their home was an older home and dated, but they liked a modern style. When I saw the house and their budget, I thought the house needed a different style. It was already a ranch style, I felt we could enhance that look. I worked away on the design for the next two weeks; afterward, I met to review the plans with the clients. I spent 15-20 minutes explaining the new spaces and how they all worked together, emphasizing how this would improve their home. We discussed the exterior elevations and the decidedly non-modern style and why I thought it was best.

I finished my presentation asking if they had any questions. They looked at each other and said together; “No, this is great.” and stared at me. Judging by their posture, I missed the mark, but they were afraid of hurting my feelings. Let me put this thought of hurting an architect’s feelings to rest right now. Most architect’s are not shrinking flowers. We spend years in design classes in college being ripped apart by professors who ask them repeatedly if they think they should be an architect. I know that is what I went through. There isn’t anything a homeowner could say that would hurt my feelings—other than when I miss a homeowner’s vision for their home; which I had done with this client. It took a little time, but eventually, they told me they liked the plan but hated the exterior elevations (the outside look of the house). I had not listened, or I thought I knew better. That was an attitude I had early in my professional career. Now with experience comes wisdom, patience, and listening to the client always works best.

Take away #1

Don’t be intimidated by the process. You are paying me to design your home. You have a vision for your home. It is my job to implement that vision. I will mold it to fit your existing home and will tell you how we can enhance it, but you are in charge of the process.

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When is the Best Time to Make Changes?
You can make changes anytime you need to make changes, see the post on Scope Creep. Of course, there are better times than others, but your team (architect, contractor and others) are working together to achieve your vision. If you think it is going off the rails, stop everything and ask questions and state your opinion. If changes need to be made to help reach your vision, then changes will be made.

The very best time and most logical time to make changes are during the schematic design phase of the project. This phase is a time where multiple ideas and plans are explored. The program for your remodel is pushed and pulled based on your needs, wants, ideas and by the planning & building restrictions. I have found that during the schematic design phase that the final concept is a combination of several plans that have been presented to the homeowner.

Ask Questions – Lots of Questions
Ask questions about the design. Push your architect if it doesn’t feel right. Trust your gut. If you look at a design from your architect and it doesn’t seem right or feel right, even if you don’t know why say something. I give you permission to say I don’t like it without a reason. It is my job, as your architect, to figure it out.

Making changes in the schematic design phase is a regular part of the process. Let me be very clear: Schematic Design phase is not complete until you are completely satisfied that the design matches your vision. I ask the homeowner to live with the plans for a few days. Post the plans on their wall and look at them every day. Once you have done that and we have discussed the final changes, we are ready to move on to the next phase.

Take away #2

Don’t finish the schematic design phase unless you are thrilled with the design the architect has submitted to you. This is the time to explore different ideas. If you are not excited, that won’t change in the next phases. It just becomes more expensive.

Design Development & Working Drawings
Changes made outside of the schematic design phase become more expensive. The more detail we develop for the project, as in the Design Development Phase, or the more consultants that start working on the project, as during the working drawing phase, the more expensive it becomes to make changes to the project.

Because you are adding detail to ideas that change, I have to backtrack and redesign some part of the plan. That time spent on the details of the design is lost. Changes will need to be made to the plans and make revisions to the details to support those changes. The changes to the plans are even more expensive during the working drawing phase. Because you have other people working on the project; consultants (structural engineer & civil engineer) are involved and not only my work needs to be changed and redone, but the consultants’ plans need to be revised. But if you think change needs to be made, then it is infinitely less expensive to make those changes during the design development or working drawing phases than during construction.

Take away #3

Try to limit changes during the design development or working drawing phases. However, if a change needs to be made, then make the changes during these phases and don’t let them go to the construction phase of the project.

Not During Construction

I know I don’t have to say this – but changes during the construction phase are the most expensive. You don’t want to make changes if you don’t have to. But I have had projects where we have made changes. Earlier the changes come in the construction process, the better.

So to summarize:

Make changes during the schematic design phase of the project
Don’t leave or end the schematic design phase if you are not happy with the design your architect has presented
You can make changes during the design development & the working drawing phases. However, it will just cost you more money
Don’t make changes during the construction phase.
If you have any questions about architects or your home remodeling project, email me at You can also connect with me on Facebook: Michael Smith Architect.

Good Luck,