Are you thinking about remodeling or planning on adding to your home? What do you need to do first.

We recommend to start by making a list of the things that you don’t like about your house or what is bothering you about it. Why isn’t the space working for you? For example, is your kitchen big enough or does it need to be larger or more efficient? The next step is to gather together images or ideas of spaces that you really like. Pinterest, magazines and design or lifestyle websites can be helpful in gathering ideas. Another helpful resource is talking with your friends and neighbors or an interior designer about it. They may have some helpful tips. This step can help in the interview process when hiring the professionals who will work on your remodel. One last thing to keep in mind is your maximum budget and what amount you are unable to go over. Hold 10% of that amount for unseen items. Check out our blog post on budgets for unforeseen items.

What is pre-construction planning?

Pre-construction planning on a project is the process of deciding whether the project is feasible within your budget and your future goals for the property. It’s the planning you undertake before you have any drawings, or minimum amounts of drawings, produced. It’s always good to plan for unexpected things that may come up which can push the project cost over your budget. Having an experienced professional in your team can help you anticipate unexpected costs. One question to ask during your pre-construction planning is if there are any pre-existing conditions of your home or property that will drive up construction costs.

Do I need to get a civil land survey?

If you are doing just interior renovation, no, you do not need a civil land survey. You will need a survey if you are planning on building an addition, decks, or detached buildings. A civil land survey is something we need before we start work on any exterior addition. The Metro Historic Zoning Commission requires a survey and site plan to receive a historic permit. Surveys are affordable and will ensure that you are building on your land. Many times, we have seen fences, garages, etc. built on the neighbor’s property. It is important not to be cheap in this regard. Even if a contractor,  Residential Architect, MHZC or a Residential Designer tells you they don’t need it, we totally disagree. In addition, we recommend that you verify that the surveyor actually did it. For more detailed information about surveys check out our blog post on “Why do I need a civil land survey of my property?” for more info on our thoughts on surveys.

What is the benefit of using a residential designer or a residential architect? Can I just call a contractor?

An experienced residential designer is able to help you with the pre-construction planning of your build, and assist in solving any problems encountered. They’re also able to be able to keep you on budget, know current construction costs, and guide you through the entire process. When you are remodeling, you will have less problems with an experienced residential designer and a good set of construction drawings. Your residential designer is your personal advocate!

How do I find a residential designer, residential architect, and/or interior designer?

It can be worthwhile to ask your friends, neighbors, and realtors on how their own remodeling experiences were, and if they have any recommendations. Ask contractors, too, because they usually know which residential designers, architects and interior designers know what they are doing. Your local contractors and sub-contractors know who puts together a good set of construction drawings and which ones works best with the homeowners.

Do I need to hire an interior designer? Aren’t you an interior designer?

Lynn Taylor isn’t an interior designer. Lynn Taylor believes in doing what she does best and hiring others at what they do best. You will find that some of the work that we provide and the work of the interior designer may overlap a little bit. You are not required to hire an interior designer, however, we believe that interior designers do an awesome job of making your house look great. They are kind of like the icing on the cake! Some interior designers are geared towards clean modern design and some lean more toward traditional or even historic styles. This is helpful to keep in mind when hiring. Make sure you communicate to your designer what style you are aiming for and if you want to repurpose what you have or buy all new things. Ask if they provide design drawings or consultation only.

I don’t know if I can get the space and function that I need from a renovation. How do I decide if I need an addition? Do we just need to move?

We recommend that during a pre-construction planning consulting meeting, you ask this question of the residential design professional. When we conduct our pre-construction planning, sometimes we advise someone that it might not be feasible to renovate, and they may need to move to achieve their ideal goals. This happens rarely. Occasionally, people’s budget may be too small and we recommend instead looking at other homes that may be better suited for their needs. Keep your options open. You may decide to renovate instead of adding onto your home. We can start with renovation drawings first to see what’s possible before deciding if you need an addition.

How is the square footage of my house calculated?

Square footage includes all heated and cooled space. This is considered “gross square footage.” It includes the exterior wall frame and any brick. It does not include decks, porches, garages, unfinished basements or unfinished attics. We list the square footage for these items separately.
Finished attic square footage is calculated by the headroom greater height than five foot or more. You can use a space less than five foot tall, but it will not be countable for real estate square footages.

I don’t have a large lot. Is an addition still possible?

Depending on your property zoning, in Davidson County, there is a percentage of the lot that you can build out and you will need to make sure you check with your local zoning. Property zonings are different in different areas, so it’s important to always check for your area. Usually, it is possible to add on to your home. You will need to have a civil survey done of your property, so you can figure out the percentage of existing buildings on your lot and to determine the setbacks. Please do not let anyone tell you, “That you don’t need a survey.” It’s not true”, even if a design professional tells you that.

Why do I need a structural engineer to look at my house and/or the drawings?

In most cities, you are not required to hire a structure engineer. However, we think it is a good investment for your property. Our process is to have a structural engineer come into the house at the second phase of the construction drawings when we know for sure that we are going forward with the project. We will draw the foundation and framing plans for your project and we will schedule the structural engineer to meet at the house. They will inspect your house, review the drawings, and will mark up the drawings that we have drafted for them. It is important to keep in mind that the structural engineer review fee and site visits are not included in our design fee because they can range greatly depending on the complexity of the project.

How much are design fees for drawings?

The design fees for construction drawings on additions and renovation projects vary. If we have a renovation project where the renovation occurs under the roof and inside the house, the costs are usually lower than design fees for an addition and renovation. The reason we can’t quote flat rate drawing fees is that every project is a little different. A two-story addition versus a one-story addition will have a higher design fee. In the design industry, professionals set their own fees according to experience, location and industry trends. Our personal opinion is that you are not hiring your architect based just on the construction drawings. You’re hiring a professional Residential Designer to guide you through the entire process, to help keep you out of trouble, and to keep the project on track. Many of our clients say she is their personal advocate throughout the process!

What is included in a set of construction drawings? (CD)

1. Addition and renovation house plans include:
● Detailed floor plans, including demolition, new construction
● Electrical layout plan, showing location of fixtures, outlets, and switches, etc.
● All exterior elevations, including exterior materials, details, and measurements
● Wall sections and details
● Porch details
● Foundation and floor framing plans
● Foundation and framing details
● Ceiling, floor, and roof framing plan

2. Renovation project only includes:
● Detailed floor plans, including demolition, new construction
● Electrical layout plans, including demolition, new construction

3. Attic conversion or renovation with dormer addition includes:
● Detailed floor plans, including demolition, new construction
● Electrical layout plan, showing location of fixtures, outlets, and switches, etc.
● All exterior elevations, including exterior materials, details, and measurements
● Wall sections and details

Check out our video of Construction Drawings of Additions and Renovations

What drawings are included in the Schematic Design Phase?

● Minimally detailed floor plan(s), demolition floor plan(s)
● New construction floor plans(s)
● Minimally detailed exterior elevation

These drawings are used for:
● Submitting and obtaining historic commission approval
● ‘Ballpark’ construction price
● Mortgage appraisal (from most banks, but not all)

What is aging-in-place? How do we plan for that?

Aging-in-place refers to any kind of renovation work or an addition that is geared toward enabling the resident to stay in their home as they get older. This also means providing for people with and without disabilities. People can injure themselves at all ages and may have limited abilities for a short period of time.
For an aging-in-place design, doors will be designed at 3 foot wide and bathrooms made large enough so that you could turn around in a wheelchair or walker. Perhaps even a ‘roll in’ shower would be incorporated, sometimes referred to as a European shower. It’s smart to keep these things in mind, because they may open the door later for more possible buyers when selling or even become necessary if your remain in your home into your 80’s and 90’s.

How do I determine if my budget is realistic?

The only way you can determine if your budget is realistic is by consulting with an experienced designer and residential design professional or residential contractor. Sometimes contractors just want the job and low ball the guesstimate number, or maybe they are inexperienced and don’t want to deal with a design professional. There are some contractors that are cautious don’t want to provide you with a number if they are unsure of the expected cost. With an experienced residential designer, you should be given an idea of what the cost range is as an estimate.

How much is this addition going to cost? Are pre-construction estimates reliable?

Any kind of pre-construction estimates are what we call guesstimates. Sometimes estimated costs are inaccurate, because of unforeseen house or site conditions. Check out our blog post on Evaluating Your Existing Property Conditions.
Without any drawings and clear intent on what you want, costs will always be guesstimates, unless it’s a simple small project. This is why having an experienced designer and a contractor is helpful. If you have a large project and a tight budget, you should always proceed slowly and deliberately so that you utilize your resources effectively. Check out our Taylor Made Plans process!

I live in a historic district. Can you help me understand all the additional requirements of my historic zoning overlay?

Yes, the Taylor Made Plans design services include submitting the application for the historic zoning to the Metro Historic Zoning Staff Commission (MHZC). We do the submittal during the schematic phase. We can walk you through whether MHZC will approve the plans, but some projects are easier than others to guess if they will be allowed. Besides submitting the application to the Metro Historic Zoning Staff Commission, our design phase includes attending meetings if necessary to answer and clarify your project to the staff or the commissioners. Lynn Taylor is your personal advocate!

I live in a historic home, but I really love modern design. Can these two styles go together in my project?

Yes, we have seen it done several times and have designed some historic houses with modern additions. With a historic house, there are different ways to do it, for example, at the back of the house you might take more liberties with creativeness. There are ways to mix and blend modern design with a historic home, experienced interior designers can help with this process.

Why do you keep repeating “…hire an experienced designer and/or contractor?”

We do recommend you hire an experienced designer or contractor for your project. Every house, budget, and project is different, so not every designer or contractor may understand the aspects of your home and project. Do you want an inexperienced person learning about renovation or historic house renovation while working on your project?

For example, not even all registered architects would have designed an addition or renovation to their own home. Architects specialize in different types of projects, but not every building type. Some architects design only hospitals or churches, or schools or residential projects. Some architects do design commercial and residential projects, but not all.

What’s the difference between schematic drawings and construction drawings? Do I need both?

We define schematic drawings as drawings (SD) that are minimal detailed demolition floor plans, new construction plans, and partial exterior elevations. Demolition floor plans show items that will be removed from an existing house. A new construction floor plan is shows the relationships between the old existing parts to remain and the new part that will be built. Schematic drawings are drawn with a CAD program and drawn to scale.
Sometimes with extensive remodeling projects, it is difficult to estimate a construction cost without first obtaining quotes from contractors. If the homeowner or Lynn Taylor has concerns about whether the project is feasible based on their budget, Lynn will start by creating schematic design plans at a percentage of the overall construction drawings package cost.

Schematic designs will include:
1. Minimally detailed floor plan(s)
• Demolition floor plan(s)
• New construction floor plan(s)
2. Minimally detailed exterior elevations

Although they will not include details or notes suitable for construction bidding purposes, these drawings will be sufficient for obtaining a “ballpark” estimate from one of our trusted contractors before proceeding further with the project.
We can stop at this point if the “ballpark” estimate isn’t what we expected, before you proceed any further and spend more money on design fees. You are in the driver’s sit! If the homeowner is comfortable with the “ballpark” estimate, We will proceed with the construction drawing phase. We do not recommend the schematic drawings set go out for general bidding.

In addition, if the home is located within a historical district, these plans can be used for obtaining historic commission approval. Our design fees include submitting drawings and all necessary applications to the Metropolitan Historical Commission. And if necessary, we will present before the MHC when the homeowners’ plans are considered.

Our construction drawings (CD) are the documents which form the basis of the contract with your builder. Think of the CD’s as a “graphic contract” between you and the builder. This phase consists of refining the previous schematic drawings (SD) and adding detailed construction plans, including:

• Foundation layout plan
• Foundation details and sections
• Electrical layout plan(s)
• Framing layout plan(s)
• Wall sections and details

At the construction drawings phase, we will schedule a licensed structural engineer to review the house conditions and the drawings. The CD design fee includes drawing the foundation, structural details and framing construction drawings, which will be submitted to the structural engineer for review. We believe it is always in the best interest of the homeowner to have an engineer size all beams, footings, framing, etc.

Here is a video of the type of construction drawings we provide with an addition & renovation project.

Some smaller projects such as attic renovations, dormer additions, kitchen & bath renovations or just renovation projects do not have the 2-step phasing.

Taylor TIPS: If your Residential Designer or Residential Architect tells you that you don’t need any detailed drawings and the contractor will take care of it, they really mean one of two things: 1) They really don’t want to be bother with drawing your detail drawings OR 2) they do not have the experience to draw the needed details, framing plans, etc. Either way it’s not a good recommendation for you.
Keep in mind, with a good set of construction drawings, you will receive better and more accurate bids, you’ll be less likely to have misunderstandings, and you’ll be less likely to be over budget, so there are a lot of great reasons why you should use an experienced design professional.

Since being in business, Lynn Taylor has have had several architects who have consulted and/or hired her to design their addition and renovation project, because they did not understand the process. They were smart enough to know they did not understand the business of residential design and construction enough to do a good job of it. For most industries today, it’s a specialization game.
In addition, most clients want professionals that are reliable and can be trusted to do what is expected, on time and budget. Is that possible with a less experienced person? Maybe or maybe not.

How do I start the contractor bidding process? Do you have recommendations for contractors?

Yes, we do recommend contractors for your project. Our clients want contractors that are reliable and can be trusted to build their addition or renovation project. Connecting homeowners and contractors on the right projects is part of my process. We have many contractors to select from, but there are only certain professionals who will be best suited for you and your home. Things we keep in mind when recommending are: the type of project you have, the size of the project, your personality type, and your budget. We also think about the contractor’s experience and expertise, personality, and schedule, which helps me recommend the best fit.

How many sets of blueprints should I order for bidding?

This depends on how many contractors are bidding the project. Keep in mind that you, the homeowner, pays for all blueprinting costs. The more contractors bidding on the project equals a higher printing bill. We recommend only three contractors bid on your projects.
Once a contractor is selected, there may be more required printing for local codes department. The number of plan sets you will need will depend on your builder and your local codes department. However, you will need:
• One set for yourself
• Five sets for each contractor and maybe one additional set for each sub-contractor
• One set for your local building department (may or may not be required)
• One partial set for your mortgage lender

For some projects, you may be able to use PDF files of the construction drawings for the contractors and others listed above.

How long will my construction project take to complete?

We can only guess at how long it will take to complete your project, as this will rely on your contractor. We don’t want outsiders telling us how long our work should take, because we know exactly what needs to be done, and it’s the same for contractors. Renovation projects can range anywhere from three months to twelve months. Every project is a little bit different because every house is a little bit different.

If we run into problems during the construction phase, will you still be available to help?

Sometimes we have clients who start to freak out a little at the end of the project, because they think we are going to go away now that they have selected a contractor. One of the things that helps make Taylor Made Plans successful is getting the right contractor for your project. We always tell homeowners that if at any point you have a problem or a concern or a doubt, just call or e-mail and we can talk about it. We are here for any questions or concerns you have.

Does Lynn Taylor interview and research the contractors during or before the bidding process?

Even if we refer contractors to you, it is still important for you to do your part. It is your responsibility to interview the contractors and learn about their processes, then decide if they are a good fit for your project. Check references, check online presence, look at their work, drive by some of the houses that they have done built additions on or new houses they have worked on and see how the work looks one or two years later. We try and keep up with things, but it is important for you to do your own due diligence.
Some cities have a ‘Do Not Hire List’ of contractors or a ‘Problem Contractor’s List’. Make sure you check out Nashville’s (Davidson County) ‘Tips for Hiring a Contractor’ page. There is a section on Check Disciplinary Action / History of Complaints’.

What is Construction Administration (CA) on a home remodel project?

Construction administration is when someone comes out to the job site on a regular basis. They are looking for anything that might not be correct. General contractors who check and monitor the subcontractor’s work is very important.

Do you provide Project Management after the construction drawings are complete?

We do not provide Management of projects. A Project Management professional or company can hire a contractor for you. They would do this through their company and will manage the contractor for you. There is an additional fee for this service. The Construction Management professional would act as your representative. We can provide Construction Administration (CA) for an additional fee during the renovation phase. We have a proven process. And if we get the RIGHT contractor during the bidding phase, Lynn Taylor believes CA isn’t necessary.

What are the differences in contractors?

General Contractors come in various types, skill levels and experience. First, there is a handyman or handywoman who does repair work (keep in mind some smaller work does require a building permit). A “Contractor’s” license is required if the total construction project cost is between $3,000 and $25,000. Even some smaller specialized projects require a building permit; such as a roofing, electrical, or plumbing.

Home Improvement Contractors can build projects such as kitchen and bath renovations that come in under the $25,000 amount. Home Improvement Contractors information

General contractors have the ability to obtain building permits up to their financial limit, which would be over $25,000. So if your project cost is over $25,000 then you will need a general contractor not a Home Improvement Contractor. When times are great in the construction industry, general contractors may not take projects under a certain amount; such as $50,000. So we recommend talking to the construction company over the phone to figure out which type of contractor license they have, their construction limit amount and if they do work valued under $50,000. Types of Contractor Licenses

Design Build contractors provide a one stop shop for designing your addition and renovation project and building it. They usually have an Architect, Residential Designer, interior designer and/or drafter on staff. They design your house and your addition and then bid it and build it. Design Build contractors can be a good way to keep your project on budget and turnkey process.
This type of service allows for a single point of responsibility, which can reduce risks and overall costs. The Design Build process can be great for some homeowners but not for others. If you start to work with a Design Build contractor, keep in mind that you are probably going to stay with that person through the whole project. You probably aren’t going to be able to take your drawings to another contractor to bid. Many times you will be required to sign an agreement in which the Design Build contractor owns the decision drawings. The one con to this process is that their designer on staff may be less experienced than other Residential Design firms.

Subcontractors are those who contract directly with a general contractor and not with the homeowner. Subcontractors could be a mechanical subcontractor, a plumbing contractor, electrical contractor, which are required to be licensed. If you just have one issue in your house, like something wrong with your plumbing, you can call them.
Building codes change and this is just a short description of contractors, so check your city’s building requirements. The State of Tennessee’s Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Do I need to pull a building permit?

The code in Davidson County at this time states that any work over $3,000 should have a permit pulled. Building code processes change so, for more information check out this web page for “Residential Building Permit Procedures” We recommend you verify that the contractor and/or subcontractor has actually obtained the permit.

The remodeler asked me to pull the building permit. Should I pull my own building permit?

There are some protections for you when your licensed contractor pulls a permit. By doing this yourself, you will be responsible for any work they perform which isn’t up to building codes. In fact, it is illegal in some cities and states for licensed contractors to NOT obtain the permit when they are doing the work for you. Check with your local building codes for requirements. Check with your local building codes for requirements.