We made two important decisions early on in this project. 1: We will get an architect to help us. 2: We will get builders to do all the work, and a general contractor to co-ordinate it all.
We’ve seen with our own eyes how bad the results can be when you don’t engage an architect. All we need to do is look at the newer half of our house, the one we’re now redoing so extensively. If you’re going to spend a lot of resources on a project (building or otherwise) it makes no sense at all to skimp on the planning.
And we’re busy people, Eric and I. Neither of us has any particular expert skills or experience in the construction industry. We don’t want to spend endless weekends and evenings doing a bit of painting here, a bit of sanding there, all the while living in an unfinished house – or coordinating between the various specialists we’d inevitably need anyway for electricity, plumbing etc. We’d rather pay an expert to take care of it all.
I’m very happy with both these decisions. The architect came up with ideas we’d never have thought of. On our own I suspect we’d have tweaked the house a bit here and a bit there, but he could take a step further back, view the whole thing with fresh eyes, and propose more radical changes. And he can easily throw out lots of quick alternative solutions to any area we discuss, whereas I myself would probably have locked onto one path early on and found it difficult to step far away from it. At the same time he is good at listening to our needs and opinions. If we say we don’t like x, or don’t think that y would be useful, he has no difficulty accepting that.
The builders are equally good at what they do. We’ve had no hassle at all. The right people are in the right place at the right time, with the right materials and tools. The right things get done the right way: no skimping, no shortcuts. And, last but definitely not least, they clean up after themselves! They protect the floors and the furniture as needed, they vacuum after themselves, and have even mopped the kitchen floor after doing something particularly messy.
We found both the architect and the builders via friends and family. It seems that this is the only viable way of finding good builders: we’ve heard several nightmare stories from people who have found theirs some other way. The architect was recommended by friends of ours who live just three houses down the road, and they had nothing but praise for his work. The builder has worked for various relatives of Eric’s.
The architect is Hans Dahlgren. I’d link to his web site but it is not at all confidence-inspiring; I’d never have contacted him if that was the only information I had. He is much better as architect than as web designer.
The builder is Bygg-Anton. That’s him in the photo, hard at work laying floor tiles in the new bathroom.