First-time homeowners will find themselves in unfamiliar waters when it comes to renovating their new abode.
Some might consider DIY-ing that place right up, but without the skills or the contacts, it’s tough to imagine doing something beyond cosmetic works like painting.
The next option is to look into hiring a contractor or interior designer. But what is the difference? They both come with their own pros and cons that factor into the decision on whether to go with one or the other.
It’s all about the money
First thing to look at is whether the price is right. Without a doubt, contractors are significantly more affordable than interior designers. They even offer free consultations.
But the reason interior designers’ services cost more is because of their higher level of involvement – they act like project managers.
Interior designers handle most aspects of renovation work; from creating designs based on the provided floor plan, to hiring and managing contractors and subcontractors, and arranging important documents for structural renovations.
Verdict: If you have a tighter budget, hire a contractor. But note that this requires more research and project management work on your part.
If you have a little more room to splurge, hire an interior designer who will handle everything for you while giving your house or space a look that you will enjoy.
Do you know what you’re doing?
If you have a basic idea of what you want for your space, or how you want it to look, hiring a contractor would work. A contractor would follow your instructions and carry out the specifications of the job as you want it, plus basic consultation.
It’s not a contractor’s job to point out glaring faults in the plan, like using a wooden door for the bathroom (which may cause rot). The onus is on you to have the necessary knowledge on interior planning when hiring a contractor.
For the rest of us who are just as oblivious to the difference between an accordion fold (pleated fabric) and a niche (a recess part of a wall), then an interior designer’s expertise is needed to ensure that your ideas are safe, logical, and practical.
Verdict: For the regular folks who have close to zero knowledge on what a logical layout is supposed to look like, hire an interior designer.
Manage your expectations
Having an understanding of what will happen to your house and what it will look like at the end of the day can take a lot of worry off our shoulders.
On top of taking care of any middling legal matters, an interior designer will be able to give you a detailed visual of what’s going to happen to your house and how it’s going to look.
With contractors, the most you would get is a visual reference of the final work.
Verdict: Go with an interior designer if you’re looking for peace of mind.
Is the look of the space important to you?
For very basic renovations, a contractor’s expertise would suffice. But if industrial kitchen islands with wooden countertops and wrought iron room dividers get you excited, then a contractor would not be able to give you the expert advice you need.
Verdict: If thematic interior aesthetics is important to you, then it’s best to work with interior designers who have aesthetic expertise.
In most cases, interior designers are responsible for all stages of the renovation work from pre-sale until the job is done, and then some.
Skilled interior designers would be able to cater to your wants, anticipate your needs, and advise you on all aspects of the process.
Got a lighting question? An interior designer would know the answer to that. A vintage coffee table or a modern one? A designer would have an input on that as well. Down to the finest detail, a designer’s biggest asset is his or her keen eye for what fits the theme.
A contractor, on the other hand, would try to finish the project as efficiently as possible in order to move on to the next project. This is a necessity in their line of work as they charge considerably less and cannot afford to expand as much energy on a single project.
Verdict: A designer might offer more post-sale services as their involvement requires a longer term working relationship. Contractors want to complete jobs as quickly as possible, so their contribution is more focused to the requirements and specifications of a project.
This article was originally published as Contractor vs. Interior Designer: Who should I hire for my renovation? by atap.co and is written by Christyna Fong