WRITTEN BY MEGIN POTTER

Congratulations! You’ve decided to renovate. If it’s just cosmetic – you’re changing out the fixtures, paint or flooring, for example – have at it. For anything more complex, like reconfiguring a floor plan or putting on an addition, the smart move is to hire a licensed architect or engineer to draw up the plans.

“We have the education; we know the codes and have the insurances that give a layer of protection to the client. By hiring a licensed design professional, home owners will save themselves money in the long run,” said Tonya Yasenchak, the Managing Principal Engineer at Engineering America, Co.

GETTING THAT STAMP OF APPROVAL

Don’t be fooled, just because you can go online and draw up your own plans doesn’t mean you should. That design app doesn’t have your local and state building codes programmed into it.

The same caution needs to be taken when a builder or draftsman says they can draw up plans. They often aren’t certified to prepare stamped plans and have to go to a 3rd party, leaving the home owner out of the loop.

In New York State, only licensed engineers and architects, collectively known as design professionals, are qualified to give their stamp of approval.

MISTAKINGLY MISJUDGING SPACE

Home owners often misjudge their space, said Yasenchak.

Walls have width:  A 10’ addition will only have interior dimensions of 9’-6”.

Doors swing and walking areas take up space.  Accounting for that 3’ of space can eat up a room quickly.

Proper insulation, heating and ventilation are very important, yet costly, components of every renovation.

One of the most expensive mistakes a homeowner could make is not factoring in the correct amount of egress (that’s how you get directly outside the house from a room).

For instance, if you’ve completed a beautiful full basement renovation on your own but still only have tiny transom windows, you are putting your loved ones at risk without a code compliant direct way outside, in case of an emergency. 

Furthermore, if and when you decide to sell your home, the bank may ask for a proper certificate of occupancy. Without it, that newly renovated basement will be considered an unpermitted space. You likely may have to go back and cut into a foundation wall to get it up to code, along with the proper building permits and inspections..

EDUCATING & EMPOWERING YOU THE HOME OWNER

Every renovation design evolves. Design professionals have the training to stay up-to-date on changes in building codes, materials, industry news, supply chain issues, and expenses.

“One of the biggest parts of my job is listening to clients’ overall goals and educating them about how they can reach that dream most effectively.  Involvement in the design process helps them to be more empowered during all phases of their renovation project,” said Yasenchak.

Stamped plans also give the home owners leverage.

They can take the plans that a design professional prepares and give them to different contractors for bids,” she said.

Engineering America, Co. typically does not charge for the first meeting.

“It’s a sales call.  I meet you and I meet the house. Even before you hire me, I can tell you if your project is reasonable or feasible.”

For more information, find Engineering America on Facebook or e-mail a direct inquiry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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