Do You Hire a Design-Build Firm or General Contractor to Remodel?

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design build firm

Are you ready to remodel? Deciding what company you’ll hire to handle all the work is one of the most critical decisions you will make. But before you can select a remodeler, you’ll need to decide whether to go with the all-in-one design-build process or hire a separate designer/architect and contractor commonly called “design-bid-build.”

Here’s a snapshot look at the key differences between the two processes: design-build and separate contractor. We’ll go into more detail below.

design build vs general contractor


Working with a Contractor (Design-Bid-Build)

The traditional remodeling process is via a contractor. If you’ve remodeled your home in the past, you may be familiar with this process. You work separately with your own designer and/or architect and a general contractor.


Homeowner responsibilities include:

  • Hire an architect/designer for blueprints/designs/plans.
  • Shop on your own or use and interior designer to select and provide materials such as flooring, cabinets, counters, appliances, and fixtures and color selections.
  • Obtain bids from contractors based on the design plans and revise plans if needed. Materials may or may not be included
  • Select a general contractor.
  • Serve as liaison between architect/designer and general contractor.


There are a few challenges particular to using a contractor.

One challenge is that an independent designer or architect may create features and/or look for materials that best fit design and aesthetic but might not be cost effective for the homeowner. An experienced contractor can often use building experience to find a workable solution or workaround at a lower cost. But if the builder is not involved during the design phase, that alternate solution may never come to light.


Another challenge is the possibility that the architect or designer may design and specify a project outside of the homeowner’s budget from the very beginning using general budgeting “rules of thumb” such as cost per square foot. Actual costs can very widely depending on the size, shape, and amenities that will be put in the space.


design build firms


Choosing the Design/Build Method

Design-build remodeling applies the same concept to home remodeling used quite often in commercial construction. One company is responsible for the design and construction of the remodel from concept through completion. This gives the homeowner a single point of contact for the duration of the project.


Homeowner responsibilities include:

  • Hire a design-build firm. You work with a designer or architect affiliated with that firm.
  • Design-build firm assigns a project consultant and designer.
  • Project consultant provides an overall budget for the project from day one.
  • Designer assists homeowner with materials selection and shopping.
  • Materials ordered by design-build company.
  • Design-build firm is responsible for the entire construction and making sure the project is built to plan


Pros/Cons of Design-Build



Overall, the design-build process provides more predictable costs and can be less stressful than the design-bid-build model. Why is that? First, only one company has ownership from concept to construction. Better yet, a single company handles all the moving parts and keeps you updated on progress. The streamlined approach of the designer/architect and craftsmen working together means the time from design to construction is faster. Once in design, architects and designers may propose features or finishes outside of budget constraints. But when the designer works for the design-build company, the budget bounds the design as opposed to the design driving the budget. All of the costs from concept to construction are accounted for by one entity. For homeowners with demanding jobs and/or significant family commitments, busy schedules, and other priorities this can provide more predictability and piece of mind



Because there is no bidding process amongst builders, the homeowner may not be getting the project done at the lowest construction cost. But construction cost is only one component of the total project and quite often contractors assume that the homeowner has the other project costs such as permits, engineering, and design fees, covered.


Do you have more questions about remodeling using design-build versus a contractor? Schedule a free phone consultation with one of our remodeling project consultants.

Get Inspired
Whether you want to learn more about the remodeling process or are looking for some design inspiration, we’ve got just what you need to get the creative juices flowing!
Schedule a complimentary in-home design session today!