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yslahny

Floor Plan Design Dilemma for New Build (Need Architect Advice)

5 years ago
Hi. My husband and I are planning to get a house built, but I’m not completely happy with the floor plan.

We’ve hired an architect, told him what we were looking for and showed pictures from here as inspiration. We referenced one of his previous designs (because we had previously walked through it) and discussed what we liked about the flow of the house and what we would change. At the next meeting, he showed us the plan which was largely similar to his old design, just with a few things flipped around. I brought up some concerns (i.e. the extra long family room, positioning of the stairs). He suggested getting a builder estimate and opinion and then we would go from there. Being unfamiliar with the process, we went ahead and did that. The numbers came back a lot higher than we wanted (which I was fine with because I wasn’t entirely happy with the plan anyway), so we returned to him to get changes done to better suit our needs. He seemed resistant and said that if we were to change a lot, it would be an altogether different project and would have to pay anew. This took us completely by surprise. Is this common practice? He also doesn’t have many ideas to make the plan fit us more. I’m pretty much coming up with the ideas then I’d run them by him to see if they would work from an architectural standpoint. I feel like we’re stuck. It’s been beyond frustrating, to say the least.

I’ve attached the first floor plan below for reference. This is a two-story home with a full basement.

The lot has room to go wider or deeper and will be east-facing. It will also have a little bit of a view from the back.

We’re thinking of shrinking the garage width a few feet so it doesn’t jut out too much and also lining up the left side walls of the house.

My main issues:
- Too much space between the living room and kitchen
- Very long (almost narrow) family room. We had said we preferred it wider than longer, but moving the fireplace to the back wall would probably obstruct the view. We asked to maybe push the back wall a bit but he said that would require changing from a 2x10 to a 2x12.
- I prefer the kitchen island facing the fireplace but that will even create more space between that and the living room
- Is it weird to have the back of the stairs the first thing you see entering the house?

We spend a lot of time in our study/office (where we’ll have two desks) and wish there was some way that extra square footage between the family room and kitchen could be incorporated to the office instead.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Comments (158)

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Alison - Some people use that as if there is something wrong with using an architect. The fact is there is a myriad of reasons why houses are not designed by architects ranging from "the architect cost too much" to "grandpa could draw a straight line so he draw the plans" to "we used canned plans" to" the builder designed it" to "the interior decorator designed it" to "I don't need an architect, I can do it myself" and the list goes on forever. It bothers me when my profession is attacked with twisted statistics.

    It bothers me when someone perceived to be an "architect" offers the OP to "design" a home for her by starting with a design for someone else. It does not bother me when an ignorant person make condescending remarks that expose them for what they are.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    In 2016 the AIA said that, on average, 500,000 houses are built in the US each year and only about 50,000 of them cost over $500,000. Of the 80,000 architects only about 10,000 concentrate on houses and they design between 5,000 and 10,000 houses. That is 1 to 2% of the total houses built but 10 to 20% of the houses over $500,000.

    The numbers for renovations and additions almost doubles those numbers.

    In the East, the majority of houses are built for owners and there are a lot of renovations and additions. In the West an overwhelming majority of houses are built by developers for resale. I'm going to guess that increases the percent of architect designed houses in the East relative to he West by 10% but no one really knows the number.

    So, architects in the Northeast might design 30 to 50% of the total residential construciton work. I believe its higher in my area. I couldn't tell you what the percentage might be in the West but I know its a very tough place for residential architects except in a few areas that are growing fast.

    But those percentages should have no effect on a homeowner's decision to hire an architect unless they live in an area where architects who focus on residential design are unable to stay in business.

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  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Remember, almost all states require an architect to design commercial, assembly or multi-family building so the other 70,000 architects are probably designing about 98% of those buildings and the fees are much higher.

  • 5 years ago
    No one has made informant remarks. People have commented on their experiences and offered the personal advice they have to share. Mark your list of reasons why people don’t use an architect even has an air of disdain for those that choose otherwise.
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    To complete ksc36's thought, the primary reason for the low % of houses designed by architects in the West is that developers buy the available land in large parcels far in advance leaving individual buyers few opportunities unless they are very wealthy or willing to drive a lot but that's changing like everything else.

    So, in many locations, its not architect vs designer; its architect vs repetitive developer designs from unknown sources with a list of upgrades like at a car dealer.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Bry911 you say one isn’t more expensive than the other but then proceed to try and prove how the value of an architect is likely better and talk about costs associated with this.

    I suspect that you introduced a bias into what I wrote, rather than actually interpreting what I wrote.

    First, I never said that one isn't more expensive than the other, where you got this I don't know. One will always be more expensive than the other, however, that one will not always be the one who collected the biggest fee. The amount you pay an architect or draftsman is only a part of the overall cost of designing and building a home, and almost everything you spend on a home will flow from the design. I thought this was amply illustrated in the car example.

    If otherwise smart people used this criteria to make other decisions, we would get medical advice from someone with two years of community college. It is cheaper and all, hell if the guy ever stabbed anyone he has surgery experience, right?

    Next, I absolutely noted that there are benefits to an architect over a draftsman, to claim otherwise would be ridiculous. But value isn't simply recognition of the benefit, it is the analysis of the benefit versus the costs. So whether an architect is the better value is dependent on the marginal savings (if any) he provided less the marginal cost to provide them. If you read my post I clearly gave a list of things that would reduce costs, which would increase the benefit, but then that has to be weighed with costs to achieve the benefit.

    I do think that architects are typically a better value than people give them credit for. Because weird ideas like total cost and benefits of ownership never manage to make it to the brain. So people are pretty bad at assigning cost to its actual driver. Additionally, I think architects are pretty cheap when you consider the service they provide. I don't want to pick on real estate agents as I use them, but when you consider that a real estate agent gets 6% of your house's value, it does add some perspective (and really you are paying interest on that).

    tack on the interest to that $40k over the next 15-30 years and architects become even more expensive.

    If you manage to stay in the same house for 30 years and pay interest on it all that time, then the money you spent on an architect was well spent indeed. I have spent triple that in realtor fees in the last 10 years alone.

    Let's also mention that the marginal cost of hiring an architect might well be more or less than $40k and is really project dependent.

    There's a reason why 98% of new houses aren't designed by architects.

    From personal experience, I typically find the best answer to any finance question is to align yourself with the general public and then walk backwards as fast as you can.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    People here pay 6% to sell a house and 6.25% sales tax on building materials and are happy to pay 6% for an architect. Lawyers and Psychiatrists bill many times more per hour so they make good clients.

    The idea that you pay interest on everything you buy is sick. In addition to your quest for wealth you should take advantage of opportunities to live well and be happy.

  • 5 years ago

    Bry911 - Sometimes I need a doctor, and sometimes I can run to the minute clinic at the CVS drug store and get adequate care. On more than one occasion, when working in the animal industry, I have gotten medical care from one of the veterinarians who I worked with.

  • 5 years ago

    I think sometimes it is wise to hire the top level professional, if you have the disposable income to afford the best of the best. I grew up in a privileged household and most of my siblings have done pretty well for themselves. I like nice things, but I made a choice to make a living by serving my community. I have worked with mental health systems, humane industries, have worked to help the elderly and terminally ill. My life has been rich in many ways, but I am not rich.

    It doesn't surprise me that only 2 % of homes are designed by architects. It is the 1 and 2 percenters that can afford to build a custom home without a lot of worry over how they are going to afford their new home. Many people do worry about the 6% realtor fees and the taxes on the building supplies.


    When I sold my last home I interviewed several realtors. I knew the pricing in my neighborhood and was rather disappointed when one realtor after another gave me pie in the sky numbers trying to swoon me into giving them the listing. They also all fell into the cookie cutter ideals and told me I needed to re-paint in lighter neutral colors. I read their listing on the internet and found the same boring descriptions and mediocre photos. I owned an older home that was near new golf course communities. I didn't think that I would do well trying to compete, so I marketed my house by pointing out the differences. Large private back yard, walking distance to great schools and a designer color pallet. My kitchen was painted a deep burgundy which made my honey maple cabinets pop. I didn't use a realtor, but offered a 3% commission to selling agents, took my own pictures, wrote my own description and paid $300 to have the house listed on the MLS. I had 9 showings the first day it was on the market and got a full price offer on day 3. I may have hired a realtor if one of them impressed me with their ability to price and market my home, but I honestly felt I could do a better job than the "Professionals".


  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Jennifer, nothing in your experiences is grounds for not using an architect. Why is this such an important issue for you? Do you feel threatened by trained professionals? This has been a tiresome argument on the forum for over a decade.

    Why would anyone care who you use to design a house, prescribe medicine or sell a house.? Is this some kind of social media for you?

    If members keep taking statistics out of context and demeaning architects, the architects will stop offering their opinions; I've seen a dozen leave the forum. In the interest of the needs of others, you should take what you need and leave the rest.

    For the record, I don't believe the architects on the forum have done anything to justify so much criticism. Telling a member they need an architect or that they need a more skilled designer has almost always been true. This thread is evidence of that and evidence of the incredibly generous and helpful assistance architects have provided the OP online and offline. Its almost impossible to provide professional help on the forum so forum architects do it by email. Would you deny yslahny that assistance? Do you ever think of how your opinions might hurt others?

    I have agreed to help several members but instead of doing that I'm debating the value of that assistance with you and wondering why I should spend the time to help strangers when I could be billing outlandish fees for the same worthless advice.

    yslahny thanked User
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Jennifer, I for one have kind of tapered off posting on line ideas addressing small issues to folks asking for design help here simply because of posts like yours and KSC36's. With folks continually posting "You don't need talented design help", then fine, let's have it that way. I took one down a few days ago, in part, because of a recent KSC36's post. And the poster I was trying to help, in the middle of an expensive building endeavor, is likely the poorer for it. There's a definite collateral effect to your kind of posts. It would be naïve to believe otherwise.

    Of course, as I've written here before, don't confuse that with me not putting pen to paper for solving these design problems. In the evening, when sitting in my recliner, if I'm short a crossword puzzle, I think "Now how WOULD I fix this plan" and start free handing. They're fun design exercises with no pressure. Some are brilliant (at least I think so...LOL) and some go nowhere, but most are somewhere in between, from very good on down. But they all have one thing in common, because of the "you don't need good design help" posts here, they all are sitting out on the curb with the rest of the Monday morning trash.

    yslahny thanked Architectrunnerguy
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Sometimes I need a doctor, and sometimes I can run to the minute clinic at the CVS drug store and get adequate care. On more than one occasion, when working in the animal industry, I have gotten medical care from one of the veterinarians who I worked with.

    There are so many problems with using this as allegory for architects, that it is ridiculous. Small clinics and veterinarians are scope limited. In other words they limit the cases they will take based on the complaint. Go the minute clinic at CVS drug store and write down "Chest pain radiating to the lower back and arms," and let's see what they do. Building a custom home isn't the flu shot of the construction world.

    It is illegal for a veterinarian to give medical advice to a human for very legitimate reasons. So when one goes to the vet for their medical advice they are foolish, however, upon receiving medical advice from their vet they are a victim. Oddly enough, veterinarians are barred from rendering aid that a person without any training isn't, because their training educated them on the dangers of treating humans. Veterinarians have actually been prosecuted for providing life saving care when doctors were present.

    -----

    I do agree that there are times when people don't need an architect, the problem being that people are not great at identifying those times. Specifically, I think when quick resale is planned an architect may be unnecessary, as you are essentially building for profit and cash outflows are justified by future cash inflows.

    Mainly I think the architect vs. non-architect problem suffers from bad information. You can't make good decisions using bad information.

    ------

    It doesn't surprise me that only 2 % of homes are designed by architects.

    As someone who works with statistics a lot, this is one of the dangers of statistics. That 2% number is worthless. Only about 8% of new homes have the ability to hire an architect and thus 25% of those who can hire an architect, do. For architects to become a much more significant percentage you only need to start looking at homes where the the customer, rather than the builder, owns the land prior to starting construction.

    If you are deciding between a draftsman and an architect for a custom home, then to be relevant you would have to know the percentage of custom homes designed by draftsman vs. the percentage designed by architects. To add in internet plans, you would really have to know the number of internet house plans that get built compared to the number that are homeowner, architect and draftsman designed. Statistics sometimes just don't tell us anything useful.

  • 5 years ago

    Crikey - lots of folks getting wrapped around the axle here.

    Yes - agree with bry that since so much new building is done in large scale communities by production builders, it a much lower OPPORTUNITY to use an architect. In these communities they have co-opted the term "fully custom home" (when it's really not) and further limited demand / access to residential architects. Add to that the "one stop shopping" they provide from sales, financing, decor, etc and it's FAR EASIER to go this route than buy land, design house from scratch, manage your own financing, find builder, etc.

    It's sad though, that when folks have a specific need and are building a custom home, that there are so many that steer them from professionals. Can small issues be resolved by the forum - sure. But when someone is going down the true custom path - and they are stuck with a personal and specific issue - what's wrong with sending them to someone who makes a living solving issues like this?

    My taxes now are simple. I can use Turbotax. When I had a small business, I used an accountant. When I had few assets, I used a standard will template and health care directive off the internet - later, I used an estate attorney for a trust and other documents. I think the more complex and specific your needs (challenging site, specific needs for the space like 2 people working from home, additions / remodels, a specific type of "look" that you want [modern, gothic, Craftsman]) the more benefit you will get from an architect.

    Maybe this is all simply indicative of an overall feeling that with the internet you don't need professionals for anything anymore - as witnessed by the number of internet crackpots with a platform for them to share their "theories" on things like alternative medicine, vaccines, curing cancer with sound waves, etc.

    I am actually heartened to see the millennial generation embracing authenticity and 'quality over quantity' in everything from craft beer to work/life balance. I suspect if we last that long, they may rekindle the interest in architecture AND Architects.

    yslahny thanked just_janni
  • 5 years ago
    I for one have never said don’t use an architect but have pointed out there are more than architects as design professionals. My problem on the forums, as of late, and I think Jennifer was actually trying to highlight it, is the ongoing knee jerk reply of get an architect. The spectrum between those who want nothing to do with design help from a professional and those who will pay for full service is big but one many will consider wading into if it is phrased well. I’m over the cranky folks on both sides of the debate who seem to think it’s us vs them and only and architect can solve a problem or you never need one. Why not just be respectful and cordial with one another and offer the advice we can in a kind manner and that’s it.
  • 5 years ago
    JDS you made several of the off topic comments when you folded in the can people get work via the forums comments! You actually flagged comments in another post and brought them into this one...totally off topic. I haven’t said anything off side at all. It’s great architects have commented and given advice and it is also great that other people have too.
  • 5 years ago
    And to be clear I only added my experience of using a designer vs architect and highlighting it as successful once people started saying draftsmen were unable to visualize and make a good plan. My comment was a direct rebuttal to that.
  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Off-topic comments I made were after you and others hijacked the thread. I consider that to be the height of rudeness. Take your own advice.

  • 5 years ago
    So you are aloud to comment on something but I’m not? Really? Someone can make a comment that draftsmen doesn’t have vision and then I am not allowed to reply? Reread the thread and own your role too. Yes this has gotten wildly off topic but don’t blame three posters for that because you disagree with their experiences.
  • 5 years ago

    In the evening, when sitting in my recliner, if I'm short a crossword puzzle, I think "Now how WOULD I fix this plan" and start free handing. They're fun design exercises with no pressure.

    LOL Architectrunnerguy! I do the same thing and I'm not in any way, shape, or form, a trained architect. It's just critical thinking fun for me that I hope keeps my old brain sharp. I would never feel comfortable posting anything either. A lot of times, though, there are plans on this forum that make me think "What in the world are they thinking?" or "There's no fixing this, they really need a professional!"

    I also feel it shows great kindness and graciousness when the pros on this forum offer their FREE advice. People should at the very least consider what you have to say.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    And to be clear I only added my experience of using a designer vs architect and highlighting it as successful once people started saying draftsmen were unable to visualize and make a good plan. My comment was a direct rebuttal to that.

    Alison you seem to forget that a draftsman in Canada has different requirements than one in the states. Since the majority of respondents live in the states, your experience differs significantly from what a draftsman usually does here.

    So when you come in and say use a designer/draftsman because I did and it worked for me, it's like trying to compare apples and oranges.

  • 5 years ago
    CP you’ve said that before but I can’t find anything that suggests there is a regulatory body here beyond an opt in interior design one but that is far from regulatory.
  • PRO
    5 years ago

    A number of countries, including Canada, (but not the U.S.) have a university program of study called the Architectural Technologist, also known as a Building Technologist. I'm not sure if every province in Canada allows and licenses Architectural Technologists.

    This field provides technical building design services and solutions and is trained in architectural technology, i.e., a primary focus on building technology, but in some Canadian provinces, at least, is allowed to design small buildings.

    In most countries, architectural technology is an easier university program in which to be accepted and enrolled, and the time for study for a degree is shorter than architecture.

    The U.S. has no such comparable field of study or licensure.

  • 5 years ago

    I think that everyone here needs to take a breath and step away from the keyboard. I assume we are all grown adults and with a little time not reading or responding could see that this has gotten out of hand and completely afield of where it began. I value the opinion of people on here as architects, professional designer types, as experts in their field, even if it’s “just” being a mom who lives in her home with kiddos. We all have valuable input from our unique perspectives. I certainly hope that no one leaves the board because of disagreements like this one.

    All the best,

    Arothm

  • 5 years ago

    @ Alison

    Can you please link to the thread with your plans? I think I remember you posting them but I couldn't find it.

    Thanks

  • 5 years ago

    Good heavens! What a thread. I had no idea why there were so many replies--but now I see we've had a little hullabaloo here.


    I think there are many frustrations born out of the constant, incessant spouting of the same words in the same order. There's nothing new, nothing thoughtful - it's all canned regurgitation of an opinion.... spouted as truth and the ONLY WAY things must be done.


    As for OP's disappearing, I can see why. It takes some tough skin to ride out the all-but-guaranteed ripping apart of a dream.


    And I've seen "fat" houses with humongous roofs designed by REAL architects (grad school/exams/experience and all).

  • 5 years ago
    Bry911 I’ve never posted my plans. Hence your inability to find them. I don’t own them so legally cannot share them.
  • 5 years ago

    Oh, I’m still here. Still reading all the posts and replies :)

    If anyone was wondering, we went ahead and hired a new firm to work with. We lost so much time (and $$) with the previous architect but are excited to move forward and get the process (re)started.

    Thanks again to everyone for all the helpful advice.

  • 5 years ago
    The only people that would need to “take a breath or step away” as was suggested are the ones that feel “bullied,” so that they may check the definition of bullying.
    The term is rather over- used these days.
    In most workplace manuals and school systems bullying is described as an individual being subjected to unfair, discriminatory, harrassing, intimidating, threatening or abusive behavior by another who is their superior or has some power or greater physical strength and/or there is the fear of retaliation (or by a group of individuals.)
    There is no power differential between total strangers on an internet chat room, and there is no importuning of anyone to virtually gang up to lob virtual spitballs at anyone else.
    When one casts aspersions on others’ motivations, thought processes, profession, professional qualifications, integrity and necessity for being, one will be asked to answer for it.
    There is no tossing of digs and then playing a delicate snowflake.
    When one interprets humorous remarks as insults, one needs to realize that the internet has no font for humor or sarcasm, and rather than being defensive, just chillax.
  • 5 years ago
    Loobab who said they felt bullied?
  • 5 years ago

    yslahny - I am glad that you found a new firm that made you feel like they will listen to you and work collaboratively with you to design the perfect home for your family.
    Best of luck on this wonderful journey.



  • 5 years ago
    Virgil I assume people can opt into that program if they choose? Our designer appears to not have as her credentials, according to her website, are from the interior design side of things. If a program exists that’s great but if people don’t have to have completed it to design homes it’s not really that great...
  • 5 years ago

    yslahny, I'm looking forward to seeing what your new firm comes up with for you.

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    Allison, I don't know where you are and what your Provincial regulations may be regarding design of single family homes. I'm sure that there's a Provincial source you can Google for the information.

    If you designer is an interior designer it sounds as if there are no regulations about the design of single family homes, or at least those of your square footage.

  • 5 years ago
    Monday- Allykat -
    “There is offering your opinion and then there is bullying and trying to shame someone into agreeing. Learn the difference.”
  • 5 years ago

    yslahny - good news that you have found another firm. Best of luck that they design the perfect plan for you!

  • 5 years ago

    If a program exists that’s great but if people don’t have to have completed it to design homes it’s not really that great...

    In the US one doesn't have to complete any program at all to design homes. I chose to attend the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, something I didn't have to do to design homes but elected to do so. I thought that that program was (and I think still is) fantastic. It not only taught me how to think differently, it taught me a way of thinking, both valuable intangibles for any designer, architect or otherwise. But at the same time I didn't have to "complete it to design homes". So, since it's not required to design a house in America, I guess it's "not really that great".

  • 5 years ago
    No you are misunderstanding. I’m actually saying the same thing as you. CP and Virgil were implying that Canada has more oversight or control of better designers because of an opt in course of study. My point is that isn’t the case. That unless it is regulated and required it is in fact exactly the same here in that anyone is allowed to design a home. I don’t doubt that the schooling required to become an architect is well worth it. That is not at all what I am talking about though.
  • 5 years ago

    Ok, I'm with you Alison. I miss understood. Thought about taking my post down but decided to leave it up as good design (architecture or otherwise) is mostly about intangibles that can't be easily quantified. But we're all good!

  • 5 years ago
    A friend of mine is an architect and watching her go through school was gruelling. The expectations were insanely high. I’m sure one of the reasons there is some tension between the architect vs untrained design market is just that. Seems counterintuitive that someone with no credentials can access the same business as someone with extensive education. Complicated matter for sure!
  • PRO
    5 years ago

    "...CP and Virgil were implying that Canada has more oversight or control of better designers because of an opt in course of study..."

    Nope, sorry, but you misunderstood my post. My point (and perhaps CPA's) is that Canada (or at least some provinces) simply has a level of university educated and licensed professionals--Architectural Technologists--that the U.S. does not have. Worthy, for example, has posted that he often used Architectural Technologists to design the homes he builds and finds them less expensive than architects.

    Architects, by law in the U.S. and Canada, are required for the design of many types of buildings and buildings over a certain size, including multi-family residences. This is the chosen area of practice for many (most?) architects.

    Designing single-family homes may often be unregulated in many jurisdictions (but not all), at least below a certain size home. Architects will make a lot more money (often in less time) designing commercial buildings, compared to single-family homes.

    Architects who practice in whole or in part in single-family homes do so because they genuinely love working at that scale, on a personal level with the home owners and occupants.

    In most cases, there is simply no comparison in the level of quality and thoroughness of a single-family home designed by an architect, compared to one designed by others.

    But since many of us still live in a free world, we have choices and many choose to have a home from sources other than an architect. And that's fine, so long as each person understands what they're getting and is satisfied with the result.

  • 5 years ago

    In Ontario any homeowner can submit their own drawings, however, they will be reviewed by the planning department to ensure the drawings meet code.

    However, a professional I,e, draftsman, designer, architectural technologist etc must complete and pass exams and thus obtain a (Building code identification no) BCIN.

    An architect does not require a BCIN, however, they must be licensed in the province in order to have construction drawings approved.

    Some further explanations http://www.andythomson.ca/2016/11/15/why-a-bcin-is-not-an-architect/

  • 5 years ago

    Alison: When I was studying architecture I was dismayed to learn that less than 1% of homes were designed by architects and less than 5% of commercial buildings. I don't know what it is these days, but I doubt it's gotten any better.

  • 5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Interesting....... I just looked out this morning and saw someone had gone thru the trash I had set out by the curb last night.

  • 5 years ago

    Probably looking for artifacts...

  • 5 years ago

    "Probably looking for artifacts..." At least you "got" it and you detest architects!! LOL! I thought the joke might have been too subtle. Congrats!

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    I will put back everything I took.

  • 5 years ago

    ARG - you might check Mark's pockets for extra clouds...

  • 5 years ago

    I have really enjoyed reading this thread - hilarious! But learnt a lot too - thanks to all the architects and designers who offer their time freely on this forum!

  • PRO
    5 years ago

    They just have not received their invoices yet.

  • 5 years ago

    K D - Yes, I've learned a lot, too! It's been at least six months since I started this thread, and hopefully maybe someone else can learn from it as well.


    Again, thank you to everyone who chipped in with their comments and advice. Special thanks as well to JDS and Architectrunnerguy.

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