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Hire an American Society of Interior Designers-designated designer. California designers are not licensed, but all ASID members must pass an extensive examination process in order to receive the society designation. Many interior designers also hold degrees in interior design.

Verify the credential; ASID, (714) 643-1549, will confirm the credential of an individual.

Interview 3 designers. Ask for referrals from friends or contact the ASID for a list of designers. Ask to see a portfolio and photographs of completed projects and obtain permission to visit a home(s) remodeled by their firms.

What to assess in the interview? You should come prepared with a list of design problems and a realistic budget. Discuss the problems, your ideas and needs and provide the designer with information about your family's life style. A good designer will then suggest a variety of solutions within the framework of information you've provided. Fees vary widely and can be based on a fixed, hourly, cost-by-square-foot, percentage or cost-plus schedule.

Ask which services are included. Services vary, depending on the nature and scope of the job, but generally include layout sketches, working drawings, on-site supervision and assistance in contractor bid gathering and selection.


Hire a licensed architect. Architects must complete academic studies and/or serve an apprenticeship under a licensed architect before they are allowed to apply for a license from the state Board of Architectural Examiners. A license is granted to an individual only after a rigorous state exam is passed.

Verify the license. Contact the Board of Architectural Examiners, (916) 445-3393. They can also tell you if the individual is an architect in good standing.

Interview three to four architects. Ask for referrals from friends or contact the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects, (714) 557-7796. The AIA keeps a membership roster categorized by type of architecture practiced (commercial, new residential, remodeling, etc.), which it makes available to the public.

What to assess in the interview? Can you communicate clearly and comfortably with the individual and vice versa? Review the architect's completed projects and decide whether his approach and style appeals to you. Does his work schedule coordinate well with your preferred timetable for completion of the remodeling? How much does he charge? Fee structure varies from one architect to the next, and design charges average between 5% to 12% of total construction costs.

Ask which services are included. The architect will generally provide you with a schematic design (image sketches, relationship diagrams), preliminary design phase drawings (floor plan and elevations) and construction documents (the basis for contractor bids and building department permits). The architect may also assist in obtaining bids and selecting contractors as well as providing on-site construction observation.


Hire a licensed contractor. Following the successful completion of an examination, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will issue a license.

Verify the validity of the license number. The CSLB, (714) 558-4086, will confirm the license and provide information about any complaints filed against a contractor.

Interview 3 contractors. Obtain referrals from friends. Generally, companies with long and solid track records are good bets. Ask to see photographs of completed work and request the names of references.

What to assess in the interview? In addition to the design ideas and communication abilities of the individual, a responsible contractor makes it a practice to carry the following items: A payment and performance bond (it guarantees that should the contractor run out of money, all subcontractors will be paid) and a certificate of insurance for workman's compensation and liability (it protects the homeowner from liability should a worker be injured on the site). Contractors should also make a commitment to stand by their work, preferably beyond the 1-year warranty mandated by the state. On average, contractors receive 20% above material and labor costs, although this figure may vary.

Ask which services are included. Service provided will vary with the job, but you may expect to receive a set of approved plans (some contractors request that homeowners obtain these themselves) as well as all permits, on-site supervision, final cleaning and debris removal.

Source: Jacob's Construction; American Institute of Architects; American Society of Interior

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