Builder or architect? Who to talk to first about your renovation


A question on many people minds when they think about renovating their home is ‘Who should I talk to first, a Builder or an Architect?’  


The first person that springs to mind for many people is, in fact, a builder.


But is talking to a builder first the best approach to take?


In a nutshell – the answer is NO.


Don’t get me wrong, the right builder is crucial to a successful project but this is about laying the best and strongest foundation for your project.


Presumably, you are undertaking this renovation journey to address your future lifestyle needs and improve the livability of your home. You will undoubtedly be about to outlay a lot of money, so you will want to get it right the first time.


One area where people go wrong when they start their project is that they think too ‘small’, focusing too much on the details – can move that wall? I need a new bathroom’ – you get the picture.


Think about the forest, not the trees.

But now is the time for The high-level thinking – think forest not trees. The ‘foundation’ issues need to be addressed first before the details are explored and when renovating the home – getting the spatial layout, functionality, and flow of your home sorted should be your first priority.  To achieve this successfully – you need an expert, which generally means you need design input. Doing the design yourself can mean that important opportunities your house may offer are missed. It’s often a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.


A builder is an expert at building

Builders are specialists in building from the plans and documents that you will provide to them. They have experience and qualifications in building not design. That’s not to say that they can’t and shouldn’t have input on the buildability of the design in question.


Yes – Your builder can and should help with a lot of decisions, but he isn’t looking at things from a design perspective.  He has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from but he’s thinking about the logistics, the delivery, not how a particular decision will affect the style or functionality of your home.


A beautiful functional and livable home is way more than just a beautifully built one even though that is obviously pretty important to get right too.


And an architect is an expert in design

Design, (and I’m talking about good design here) is the often misunderstood and underrated. Partly because there is a lot of not so good design out there,  Good design will make your home functional ( aka work how you want it too), more beautiful, and will take advantage of any unique opportunities offered by your home.


Creative thinking and good design don’t need to cost you a fortune. In fact, it can in fact save you money if done right. By making the most out of and creatively using the available space, material selection, and use, among other things.


A complementary relationship is key

Just as we’ve talked about that a builder is an expert in building not design, it follows too that a designer is not an expert in building. Although some will have more knowledge than others,  They have very different skill sets and roles to play in the renovation process. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive and should complement each other. So Ideally a Builder would be involved and consulted throughout the design process to respond to buildability and budget concerns.


Ideally, your architect and your builder will respect and complement each other’s skill and work, when this occurs your project will benefit


Like with any industry, there are not so great designers and the same can be said of builders. So it important to do your homework consider what you need and the type of project you are doing.  Find and choose team members that are ‘team players’ and have respect and the ability to work alongside and complement the other people on your team. Seek collaborative thinkers and encourage it to get the most out of your team.


How you start affects where you end up

We’ve said to before and we’ll say it again and again… 


The approach you take with your project is crucial to its ultimate success

You need to approach and address your project in the right order and in the right way. One that is best for your project. Every project is unique so one size fits all won’t help you maximise your outcomes.




Choose the best team members for you and your project.

Ensure that the success of your project is the priority and that everyone is on board with and understands your goals and circumstance. A one size solution won’t work with renovating as each project is unique and will offer up it own challenges and opportunities.


And you can miss out on possible opportunities if you approach your reno differently.


Renovating is a journey of many steps – not just one big one. And as with any journey, where and how you start out can often impact where you end up.


The first step you take will affect the course of your whole project
– so get it right



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