One question I’m frequently asked by friends or family is, “When do you have to use an architect? If I want to build a custom home, do I (by law) have to use an architect, and if not, why would I want one?”
It’s always a tricky answer because typically, someone building a single family residence is not required to use an architect, BUT there may be exceptions to this based on the square footage or area of the country (things may be more strict in an earthquake zone like California). These laws are determined by states, and some are more strict with their rules than others. I was recently looking in to my registration in Texas (I know, I live in Virginia, but I took my exams in Texas and am therefore registered there, which doesn’t really have much consequence for my job now since I am not a principal in the firm and will therefore not be signing and sealing drawings) and I found this great chart on the Texas Board of Achitectural Examiners (the folks that gave me a license) website which explains when to engage an architect in the state of Texas:
(Click on the image to see source).
I think this chart is really valuable for explaining which types of projects require an architect, though I doubt an architect created it because it is so hum-drum. I’ve been looking and looking online and haven’t found one similar for other states, though I will keep you posted if I find one for Virginia. The rules in this chart more than likely are applicable for most places, but this was of course created specifically for Texas so keep that in mind.
While searching for similar charts for other states, I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal about the value of hiring an architect, even if it is not required. I heartily agree.