Developing a basement... Interior Designer or Architect Required?

I am interested in developing my basement. Our house is about 1250 sq ft. The basement is already framed but I want to make a few changes. I would like to remove a bedroom and make a large family room/games room with a fireplace. I also need to add some storage area. I have some ideas but I would like some additional input/ideas on how best to use the space to meet our current and future needs. I do not want this to look like a do-it yourself job.
So my question is this: who can help me with this task: an interior designer, an architect, or someone else? Also, about how much money do I need for these services. I see this as a very small project and my objective is to keep things simple.
I have detailed drawings of the house the existing framing and my new ideas.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I went with a contractor who gave some general ideas but he deferred to an architect for some of the things I wanted done (ex removing a bearing wall in the basement which required new footings, posts, etc). I also took the drawings to the city for a permit and they had their own suggestions to make. This kind of made sure I had someone to name in the lawsuit if my house came tumbling down! I mention this because you raised the point about removing of a wall.
I also started the project by listing what I wanted out of the space and doing a lot of research like looking at books on basement remodelling and the like. I probably spent the better part of a year thinking about the project. Plan out things like storage, closets, incorporating the furnace/hot water area, lighting, do you want a washroom, computer area, etc. Wire for more than less, add cable, etc. A lot will fall into place once you know what you want down there.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You know, a lot of this really depends on several factors, including existing type of structure, the size of the new opening you are trying to make (in the load bearing wall), and last but not least, local (building code) requirements.
In MY town, any time structural changes are to occur (especially to an existing load bearing wall), the City wants you to have a licensed architect (and/or a lic. structural engineer) design and detail all the necessary elements. That legal requirement varies by jurisdiction, but is common enough nonetheless.
Also, as a licensed architect, I can't tell you the number of times I've seen so-called experienced licensed contractors COMPLETELY mis-engineer some structural system ( projects where I was not the AOR.) I shudder to think how many disasters are out there waiting to collapse. Oh, the nightmares I've seen...
And I suppose if you (as Owner) have an agreement w/ a licensed architect and the A/E makes a major design/calculation error, there may be grounds for a lawsuit.
However, the reality is MOST construction errors (something like over 80%) are a result of Contractor errors-- not architect/engineer errors. You can have a set of plans that properly show the correct information, but that doesn't mean your HS level contractor is going to follow said plans (or even understands the plans for that matter).
The insurance industry has gathered statistics and facts from actual construction lawsuits, and can say objectively that most construction flaws and errors are a result of contractor error-- not design (architect/engineer) error.
So the idea of skipping the architect altogether and just relying on what a contractor recommends is an even larger risk in reality.
DS
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
snipped-for-privacy@canada.com (Rick) wrote:

I don't know what your floor plan looks like, so I'll only deal with generalities.
The only reason you'd need an architect or structural engineer-type people is for tearing out existing (and possibly load bearing) walls, joists, etc. -- anything that could make your house (or some part of it) potentially fall down, leak, or see some other sort of financial ruin-type disaster.
Turning basements into full-fledged living space is pretty much something you can do on your own because really, all you're doing is not only transforming dead or poorly-used space into productive space, but making virtually every single square inch *do* something -- or even better, have some spaces do more than one thing at the same time. And not only that, but taking into consideration the effect one room/space has upon the adjoining room/space. That's pretty much what interior designers make a career thinking about. I've found that the challenge in turning a basement (often a single dead and dank dungeon for lots of people, especially those with old/er buildings) into a nifty addition is to continually think about how you've been using the room until now, and then continually think about how you'd not only want to use the room tomorrow, but how you'd want to be using it 5, 10, 20 years from now. And then make it all work so you can use the same changes made for tomorrow in 5, 10, 20 years without having to do any (OK, not too much) renovation at all. For example, I planned our basement renovation to give us or a future owner the added ability to turn the whole 1,000 sq-ft level into an in-law or renter's apartment with its own separate outdoors entrance by doing nothing more than moving the washer and dryer 5-10 feet over to the other side of the wall and turning the laundry room into a full kitchen, since we already have a second oven and fridge/freezer in the basement already. The bathroom's already there, and we expanded a cramped bedroom/office a few feet to 12'x12' to provide more closet space as well as using a god bit of dead under-stairs space to allow for a dresser or bed or desk in the room without those large pieces of furniture actually *being* in the room and taking up floor space better used for actually moving around the room without having to bump into too much. And the rest of the basement has transient-use areas (workout equipment, shop/workbench areas, small wetbar) that could be easily turned into additional storage space or other-type space within a day or so if necessary.
All in all, everything and everyone should flow as easily as the stuff you can't move (utilities, load-bearing posts, etc.) allows without first having to turn it into a major public works project. I've found the one thing DIY renovators don't give much mind to is traffic patterns/room flow -- in other words, how a room is/will be actually used every single day -- and then designing the room around that instead of trying to get people to conform themselves in unnatural ways to the way *you've* built the room. Fer instance, it's common knowledge that the kitchen collects the most people during a party, yet how many people do you see with remodeled kitchens where everyone's constantly running into each other going in and out doorways, the door swings into where people naturally congregate instead of away from them, light switches aren't where you'd naturally expect them be, or where everyone still seems to be squished in around the seating or counter/bar areas, etc. etc. In the same vein, I can't count how many people with their bathroom at one end of the basement insist on putting up a wall, thereby cutting the whole space neatly in half, but they put in a single doorway between the two halves at the *other* end of the basement -- thereby making anyone who wants to go to the bathroom walk to the other end, cross over, and then have to walk back to where they just came from, except on the other side of the wall. Then they have to do the same thing in reverse to get back to where they were in the first place. Had they done any simple planning, simply cutting a second doorway into the wall on the bathroom end when building the wall in the first place would do wonders to improve flow and overall useability without sacrificing a thing. But it's amazing how many people never give stuff like that a single thought when rehabbing rooms.
AJS
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.