A drafter, otherwise known as a ‘draftsman’, draws plans and specifications for building projects. If you are building a new home or doing renovations that require a building permit, your plans will probably have to be drawn by a drafter, architect or building designer to obtain council approval. In most cases, a drafter will be less expensive than an architect, but how much will they charge for their services?
Who Can Produce Your House Plans?
An architect is the first profession we think of when we start thinking about hiring someone to design a house. They are not the only game in town when it comes to producing house plans.
Drafters and building designers are equally qualified, though they are often better suited to smaller projects. The one thing they all have in common is that they can draw house plans that can be submitted to council for approval and that builders can work from. A drafter can draw up plans based on the hundreds of plans they’ve drawn before. Drafters who take a more creative approach often advertise their services as those of building designers.
What Does A Drafter Do?
Sometimes also called “architectural drafters,” drafters do scale drawings of everything from house plans to extensions and granny flats. Drafters often work behind the scenes for architects, flushing out the details of architects’ plans. Many drafters also choose to work for themselves, and will often do the preliminary and final drawings for private clients and builders.
Architects have a higher level of training and are legally qualified to oversee construction projects.
The important difference between drafters and building designers and architects is that architects have a higher level of training and are legally qualified to oversee construction projects. They also generally have studied for longer, with 7 to 9 years of university training and post-graduate experience. This gives them a holistic range of specific skills, including a strong foundation in design principles.
Building Approval Red Tape
After your house plans have been produced, they need to be submitted to council for approval. Depending on your project, a Development Application and Construction Certificate could be required. Once these are approved, you can begin to formally can then proceed to construction arrange for builders to tender on your job.
It is important to remember that the council approval process is designed to protect public safety and property rights. The approval process also differs from council to council and could take anywhere from 30 days to 100 days, so you may need to be patient. The best way to ensure that your application will be processed quickly is to have all the right information and documentation in your initial submission.
Typical Fees When Working With an Architect
A licensed architect is a highly educated and trained design professional who, aside from creating beautiful designs, are licensed to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public when they stamp their drawings. Because they are licensed, more is legally expected of them, making them liable for their actions.
While they translate your project requirements, dreams, and ideas into a cohesive design, they are also considering other variables like zoning and code regulations, site characteristics, land conservation, environmental issues, and cost data to name a few. They work for you as your advocate and can help in reviewing cost estimates and selecting a contractor. They can even manage your project for you!
The extensive design experience, increased exposure to liability, and the amount of work that architects can do for you and with you are the reasons why licensed architects charge more than other design professionals.
Design fees when hiring a licensed architect can range between 8% and 20% of the construction cost for full architectural design services depending on any number of factors mentioned above. Full design services can include pre-design analysis, design, approvals and permitting, bidding and negotiation, and construction observation. The more services the architect helps you with, the higher the design fees.
To give you an example of typical rates to design a custom house: if you’re engaging an architect for full architectural design services, you’ll likely pay over $30k. For large-scale or high-end projects with a lot of designing, detailing, and attention, the fees will be higher.
Architect fees are stated as a percentage of construction cost, a fixed fee, an hourly rate, or a combination of these. Hourly rates vary between $80 and $250 per hour, depending on the architect’s reputation, experience, and business model.
Architects can also help you if you need only a few design services instead of the full range of services offered. They can prove to be extremely valuable in the early stages of the project to come up with a concept design. They can also help you navigate the approvals process or fix your floor plan. Rates for smaller services like these are typically stated as hourly rates or a fixed fee.
Typical Fees When Working With an Architectural Designer
Whereas architects are licensed design professionals, architectural designers are not. The biggest difference between architects and designers is still the fact that they cannot provide a set of stamped documents, which is sometimes required by various building departments to get a building permit.
The education, training, and skill level of architectural designers vary drastically across the board from one designer to the next. Some have all the creative and practical skills that architects have, but their fees are still lower due to their reduced liability and less licensure.
Design fees for architectural designers range between 5% and 15% of the construction cost of $70 and $150 per hour for full architectural design services. Again, this depends on location and reputation, but the rates are usually still lower than those of licensed architects. Then again, interior designers can sometimes charge as much as $300 per hour, so there’s that.
Because a designer isn’t qualified to help with all the design services an architect can, the total cost of design fees will be less. For a new custom house, you might expect to pay $15k-$20k for design and documentation services.
Typical Fees When Using a Draftsperson
Draftspeople can perform some of the tasks that architects and designers do, but not all. Their expertise is in drafting and using computer-aided design and drafting software (CADD) to create drawings for construction. They don’t usually offer much design services.
Draftspeople can charge by the hour or by the project with approximate rates of $50/hour or 3%-10% of construction cost. Their rates are lower than designers and architects.
For additions and small remodel you could expect to pay between $1k and $2k for their drafting services. For larger projects and whole house remodels you could pay between $2k and $6k.
And remember, if your drawings need to be stamped by a licensed architect, you’ll likely pay another $1k-$3k for the architect to review and stamp your drawings.
Besides using an architect, architectural designer, or craftsperson, there are other ways of getting the house plans that you want.
The two most common ways are working directly with a builder and using a stock plan.
Typical Fees of Working With a Builder for the Design of Your House Plans
There are two types of builders you could work with to create your home: a custom home builder and a production home builder (also known as a high volume builder).
Using a Custom Builder and a Designer/Architect
Suppose you are working with a custom home builder. In that case, you can usually choose to work with an architect or designer for your home design separately or work with the builder in a design-build situation (where a designer is hired by the builder to provide the design services).
Working separately with an architect or designer gives you the freedom to select whomever you want to work with to design your home. Their design fees fall in line with those mentioned in the above sections based on the type of design professional.
Using a Production Home Builder and Their In-House Design Team
If you are working with a production builder to create the design, they have designers (either on staff or contracted separately) that they typically work with for their homes. You don’t want the freedom to select the designer in this scenario. And the cost of their design services is usually rolled into the construction cost of the home.
Because many production home builders have a library of pre-drawn floor plans to choose from, there isn’t much design work involved besides picking finishes in their design centre later in the process. If you choose a pre-drawn floor plan, you might have a $300-$500 line item in the contract for the drawing and construction rights to the floor plan you chose. And if you’d like to customize the floor plan and make some small changes to it, you would pay an hourly fee for the drafting time or a fixed fee depending on the company and the extent of the changes. You might pay an additional $1k to $4k depending on the scope of changes and square footage of the house.
Fees for Stock Plans
Stock home designs from a book or online include a vast selection of ready-to-build house plans.
If you decide to purchase a stock home design, the cost typically ranges from $750 to $2,000 and is related to the size and features of the home as well as the drawings or files you’re requesting.
If you want the design customized, the cost varies and is usually based on the hourly rate of the person reviewing, redrawing and making the changes. It might add $1k to $4k to the total price depending on the scope of changes and square footage of the house.
The Cost of Doing the Design Drawings Yourself
And lastly, you can always design and draw your new home yourself. If you have the skill set, the capability, and the confidence to do it, you can save a lot of money. It would, however, be at the sacrifice of the large time investment to do it.
Creating a good home design takes a considerable amount of time -That’s why design professionals charge what they do. Do you have the time to create the design yourself? Do you trust yourself with something as important as your forever home? Can you live with the result even if it’s less than ideal?
A drafter costs most homeowners between $828 and $2,697. The size and complexity of the project will impact the price. A new home or office complex is more complex and time-consuming than adding a room to an existing structure.
Pricing also varies significantly between urban and rural areas. Urban centres, like New York and Los Angeles, can see double or triple the rates of rural or suburban areas. Engineers, architects and draftspersons are all trained in drafting techniques.
Drafting Service Hourly Rates
These services usually run an average range of $80 to $130 per hour. A typical project takes 10 to 13 hours to complete, though larger complex and commercial projects take far longer.
Drafting Fees Per Square Foot
Fees run anywhere from $0.40 to $3 per square foot. Architects charge more, from $1.25 to $5 per square foot with some as high as $10.
Freelance Drafting Rates
Rates vary significantly due to freelancer experience levels and locations but are typical $50 to $150 per hour. Many freelancers charge by the project which will also run near the average total of $1,750.
Architect vs. Drafter Costs
Architects cost $80 to $200 per hour while drafters come in lower at $50 to $130 an hour. Architects end up costing over twice as much or an average of $5,000 per project. They tend to deal with large scale commercial buildings or large, complex homes.
Many are also trained in drafting professionals and often do simple house plan projects outside of other architectural work.
DIY vs. Hiring a Blueprint Designer
It’s easiest to take your idea to an engineer, drafter or architect. They can do in 10 hours what might take you weeks or even months. Save yourself the time and hire a drafter near you today.
Accessible software for blueprint designing makes it possible to create your house plans. However, you will need to invest in AutoCAD or an equivalent program and spend hundreds of hours learning the program and building codes.
Floor Plan Drawing Costs
Floor plan software costs anywhere from $25 to $75 with some basic online free apps available. These apps create a 2D overhead layout of a single floor without elevation. They are a great starting point to help you convey your ideas to a professional. Whether you’re having a draftsperson or contractor layout the final technical plans, having a visual representation of your ideas helps simplify the process.
These apps shouldn’t be confused with professional CAD software. They aren’t blueprints or technical architectural drawings and shouldn’t be used in place of them. They are for event planning, furniture layouts and sometimes to sketch rough design ideas.
How to Know If You Need an Architect
An architect is not always a requirement for a project. If you answer yes to any of the following questions below, then you may need to hire an architect:
- Do you need blueprints for a commercial project? Most commercial projects require blueprints and plans as a financing requirement.
- Do you require a permit for your project? Before issuing a permit, the issuing authority needs a plan.
- Do you need help designing your room/house? The architect plans will fit what you want even if you didn’t know you wanted it until you saw it!
- Do specific areas of your project require an architect’s seal? Depending on your municipality, a licensed architect may be required to place his or her stamp, or seal, on your plans.
- Is the project anything more than a simple remodel or home addition plan?
- Are there special structural considerations, such as balconies, roof-decks or multiple fireplaces? Some design elements may require an architect’s touch to look good, others to function well, and yet others to do both. Architects combine form with function.
- Is your remodel complex enough to need more than an engineer or draftsperson? Most normal remodels, and simple additions don’t require an architect. However, if you plan to literally “raise the roof” and add a second story, add a wing to your existing house, or build an entirely new house, only an architect or engineer can help.
In Conclusion: The Best Advice
While there are various ways, you can arrive at a design for your home, in the end, the best and simplest advice I can give you is that you usually get what you pay for.
While an architect will be the most expensive, you will end up with a great outcome and have a good chance of recouping the cost of design fees over time in the home. If you don’t have the budget for an architect, choose a person or design service that has a proven track record of creating great home designs that are also of a style that you like.
There’s nothing more expensive than building a home that has a poor design and realizing it after its too late—making changes after the fact is more expensive than getting it right from the beginning. And choosing to live in a poorly designed home may also have lasting physical and emotional costs that may haunt you for years to come.
So don’t make the mistake of choosing the cheapest design option just because of the price alone. You’ll pay for THAT mistake for years and decades to come. Instead, focus on getting the design you want and working with the best team to create the bespoke design. You’ll save time, money, and headaches in the long run if you do it that way.