When remodeling your home, the number of people you need to hire (and all the associated costs!) can be daunting. You don’t want to hire professionals you don’t need. If you already have a general contractor, do you really need an architect as well? Are architects just for new construction or should you consult one every time?

While some cities will require an architect to sign off on construction plans, in most communities, it’s optional. Find out more about the profession and what an architect will bring to your project. You may want to include an architect in your plans in any of the following situations:

You want help creating a design

An architect can take your needs and wants and translate that into a viable plan for remodeling. A contractor will follow that plan to make it a reality.

If your plans are still a little vague, like “I want my house to feel more open” or “We’ve outgrown our space,” talk to an architect to flesh out that vision. An architect’s area of expertise is seeing the big picture. They can help you maximize your space, create interesting designs, make sure the house flows well, and use the light to your advantage.

While your general contractor will be focused on the most efficient way to update your space, an architect is most concerned with how you plan to use the house, that the design is useful for your family, and that the result is visually appealing. If you want big windows, your architect will make sure you have the best view possible. They can make your bedroom a sanctuary or include an outdoor living space if you spend a lot of time in the yard.

Your project requires structural changes

A high-stakes construction project that involves moving walls or altering the exterior should have an architect. When you want to completely change the style of the house or add a room, you need to consult an architect for confirmation that your plan is possible and safe. If structural changes are done incorrectly, there could be serious safety and financial repercussions. An architect is an expert at understanding how homes are built and what is essential. Their recommendations will make your project stable and safe for your family for the long-term.

If your home is older or unique, an architect will let you feel confident in your design choices. They will understand the time period’s structure and building methods and can anticipate what will need to be updated.

You want help managing a large project

Most architects work with a general contractor they trust. An architect will help you plan and manage the follow through. They are aware of permissions you need and will immediately spot any potential problems. Particularly if you are inexperienced in remodeling, an architect can inspect all the details of the project on a regular basis and keep the team on track.

You need someone who pays attention to all the details

Architects see the big picture and notice all the little details. They will plan things like which way the doors should open and where outlets are best situated. All of these details may not make it in your original plan if you are doing it alone. Then you will have to make a snap choice or the contractor doing the work will make the decision for you. If done incorrectly, you could spend a lot more money fixing these small mistakes in the future. It’s these details that make a project go from just OK to something you absolutely love.

Involving an architect in your remodeling project will add 10-20% to the total cost. For small projects that you know exactly what you want, it may not be worth it. However, on large projects, hiring an architect at the beginning of planning can save you a lot of money in the long run. Because of their expertise and training, they are great at seeing both the big pictures and the details of a project, and can integrate these things into one cohesive picture that matches your grand vision.