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[Preservation Tips & Tools] How to Find Contractors and Architects for Your Historic Home Renovation

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Renovating your historic home can be a significant undertaking depending on the scope of the project and the condition of the property – and selecting the proper contractor and architect is crucial to your project’s overall success. This toolkit offers those interested in professionally renovating their historic home a guide for selecting and working with contractors and architects.

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[Preservation Tips & Tools] How to Find Contractors and Architects for Your Historic Home Renovation

  1. 1. For Your Historic Home Renovation HOW TO FIND CONTRACTORS AND ARCHITECTS
  2. 2. Compile a list of possible firms. If you have seen projects in your area that you like, find out which firms were involved in design and execution. Resources include: your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), local historical societies, other historic homeowners, house museums in the area, the local preservation review board, and your AIA chapter.
  3. 3. Conduct background research on your list. The firms should all have websites where you will be able view the types of projects they have worked on previously. Look at the scale and scope of work they typically do and see if it is consistent with what you want to have done. For example: If the firm handles mostly commercial projects, they may not be the most suitable for a residential project.
  4. 4. Talk to the selected firms. Call the firms on your list that seem to have the most potential, and describe your project and timeline. If your project is not within the scale of work they do, ask if they can recommend another firm. If they do have the capacity to take on your project, ask if you can stop by their offices, request an example of a completed project, and ask about how they bill.
  5. 5. Arrange a site visit. For a more in-depth assessment, ask about who will be handling your job and whether you can arrange for them to visit your home. Heads up: Most firms charge a fee for site visits, so check beforehand if this will be the case.
  6. 6. Checking Qualifications: Architects Inquire if the firm can provide you with an Architect’s Qualifications Statement (B305). This statement will provide greater detail for you to judge the qualifications of the prospective architect. For most preservation projects, the homeowner should request something like “five years’ experience on similar scope and budget projects.”
  7. 7. Checking Qualifications: Contractors See if the contractor can provide a Contractor’s Qualifications Statement (A305). Make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured. Call the insurance company or private bond issuer to verify.
  8. 8. Post-Selection Tips Always make sure to have a written contract. Even if you know the contractor personally, having a signed contract insures that all parties are aware of the work that is expected and the timeline. Make sure they have insurance coverage. Also look into supplementing your home owner’s insurance during construction.
  9. 9. More Post- Selection Tips Include a retainage clause in the contract. This will allow the homeowner to ensure the project is complete and fully functional before making the final payment. Regardless of how small the job is, make sure any required permits are secured.
  10. 10. Lien Wavers Once a contractor has been paid in full, make sure that they have signed a lien waiver. This insures that both parties have signed off and stated that the terms of the have been met, and all necessary payments to materials suppliers, subcontractors, or vendors have been made.
  11. 11. The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America’s historic places. Preservation Tips & Tools helps others do the same in their own communities. For more information, visit Special thanks to the American Institute of Architects for the reference documents and Ashley R. Wilson, AIA, ASID for consultation. Photos courtesy: (pg.1, all) Joanne C Sullivan, Flickr ; Nicholas Eckhart, Flickr; Ronn aka “Blue”Aldaman, Flickr; Victoria Pickering , Flickr; Joe Wolf, Flickr; Universal Pops, Flickr; Robert Ciavarro, Flickr; Taran Rampersad, Flickr.