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Design-Build Might Be the Best Method for Your Next Remodel

Posted on Oct 5, 2017 in:
  • Remodel
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Homeowners

By Howard Chermak, Chermak Construction

Q: I keep hearing the phrase "design-build." What does that mean?

A: There are three approaches to home remodel design. If you are creative and have a good eye for structure and color, you can use design software to create your own model. Another approach is to hire an independent designer or architect to help you think through and visualize what you want to achieve.

A third alternative is to use the services of a design-build remodeling firm. Design-build is a method used in the construction industry to deliver a project where both the design and construction are handled by a single company, instead of using the more traditional architect-and-contractor model.

This approach integrates the role of the designer and the builder to create a single point of responsibility. This helps to minimize risks and overall costs. Using the design-build model also creates a more collaborative bond between the builder and the homeowner.

Let's take a closer look at each of these approaches.

DIY design

For those who are looking to keep costs down, this sounds like a great way to go. After all, do-it-yourself design software can be relatively inexpensive or even free. A person with good design and computer skills and a sense of structure can put together a simple model that will work. The problem with these packages is that they may require a large learning curve to master the program and the inexpensive ones may not have the range of features needed to create plans that are permit-ready. And if you are moving walls or changing electrical or plumbing, you will need a permit.

Building designer or architect

This approach uses an outside professional to help you focus on a design that includes all the things you want in a remodel, and in most cases, the plans can be submitted for building permits. However, building designers/architects can be expensive and, because they are reflecting everything you think you want, the design may exceed your available budget. Building designers/architects can provide rough cost estimates but because they are generally not directly involved in the building trades, there can be construction or cost issues not taken into consideration.

Design-build firm

To get what you want and do it within your budget, many believe this is the best approach—and it is often less expensive than the building designer/architect approach. Benefits of using a design-build firm include:

  • A hands-on understanding of current construction techniques and what each locale requires. Designing to permit can involve state, county, and city codes.
  • Professional 3D modeling programs more tightly integrate design, structure, and building standards than do-it-yourself programs.
  • Use of 3D modeling software, which provides the ability to "walk through" the design before any permitting or construction begins.
  • Access to other professionals to address specific issues you may face in your project, such as structural engineering or hazardous materials issues.


Howard Chermak is the president of Chermak Construction and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties. HomeWork is the group's weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question, write to

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