Getting The Plans For Our Dream Kitchen

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

View into kitchen/dining area with thick blue lines indicating change to ceiling line and where wall will move opening up the space.

Last we left in the grand saga that will become (already is getting to be?) this kitchen remodel, we had dreamed up some major changes.

A lot of them were aesthetic.  New cabinetry with a new layout and new flooring are the big aesthetic changes, which is pretty standard for a DIY kitchen remodel.  And the great thing about aesthetic changes is that most of the time they don’t need to be permitted*.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our city employees.  (Seriously, I was just telling Mr PoP how fabulous of an experience I had with our city’s public works office the other day.)  But if I don’t have to deal with an added layer of bureaucracy to make a minor change to our house, I’ll be glad to omit that step.

Sometimes Looks Aren’t Everything

But in addition to the aesthetic changes, we had some bigger ideas for the kitchen – vaulting the ceiling and moving the kitchen wall by about 3.5 feet to expand the footprint and make it feel much bigger.  Those ideas were definitely structural changes and we knew before we could move forward with the ideas we would need some help finding answers to these two main questions:

1.  Is the wall that we want to move load-bearing?  That would obviously impact our plans pretty dramatically.

2. How on earth can you convert a double fan truss to something more like a vault truss with three bearings?  Basically, how to turn these suckers that currently make up that roof and ceiling line

double fan truss

into something more like this:

vault truss with three bearings

without sacrificing any of the structural integrity of our roof or making it any more susceptible to the hurricane force winds that can cut through Florida on occasion.

While we can google and figure out what we want the ceiling to look like and sound cool like we know what we’re talking about by looking up truss types on the internet, we REALLY didn’t trust our rusty memory of college physics and zero base knowledge about the structural integrity of various construction materials to figure this problem out**.  We knew we needed an architect/structural engineer to (1) tell us if we were off our rockers with this idea and (2) draw up plans for these structural changes that would please our local permitting office.

But that turned out to be easier said than done.

We Felt Like Goldilocks

So the “to do” list got a new item added to it about 6 months ago.

  • Find an architect/engineer to provide plans for structural changes in kitchen.

Sounds simple, right?  This part was anything but – at least, while avoiding spending a small fortune.

It was March when we were pretty sure that we wanted to vault the ceiling and move that wall.  In April we started making calls to local firms.

Turns out, our timing with this remodel isn’t the best.  Remember that relative building boom causing our flat tires?  Turns out all the building designers around were pretty busy at the moment.  Just getting several firms out to get quotes was a challenge and made us feel all too similar to Goldilocks.

The first to come out to quote was a full-service building firm with an in-house architect who would be doing the bulk of the work.  They would supply the plans for $10,000.  My eyes almost popped out of my head when I read the quote.  5-figures!?!  For just the plans!?! No way!!  (As a side-note, the owner of the company who gave the quote remained convinced that despite this being a DIY remodel, we wouldn’t be able to do it for less than $60,000.  That’s probably why he felt $10K was a fair price for the plans since plans are often a percentage of the job’s total cost.  I look forward to proving him VERY wrong.)

The second to come out was a building firm that out-sourced design work but had a guy on retainer so could get jobs done in a timely manner.  That was going to run around $2,500 for the plans.  While that sounded better than $10K, it was still a lot considering we had ball-parked the cost of moving the wall and vaulting the ceiling at around $3,000, so this would almost double it.

The last was from one of the few strictly planning and design firms in the area.  Finally we were cutting out the middle-man on this idea.  However, these guys had so much work coming their way they barely returned our phone calls and it took weeks to get them out to give a quote.  But we liked the quote.  We really liked the quote.  Heck, we really liked the owner of the firm and he liked us too! – enough to be very fair even though he could have easily turned down the work since it was going to take up time.  We would pay the engineer’s hourly rate, probably around $500 total was the estimate.  3-figures!!!!  This guy was talking our language.

It still took another several months for the measurements to be done and for us to get the plans, and the total did come to a bit more than the original ball park, but now we’re sitting here with plans in hand that cost $800.


That’s right.  The plans sitting next to me cost less than 1/3 of the next highest quote, and less than 1/12th of the first quote we received.  Yet another reason to make sure you get multiple quotes when contracting out work around your house, ESPECIALLY if it is a firm or company that is new to you.


Now we’re moving on to the permitting process where hopefully our history of fabulous exchanges with our city employees will continue.  *Fingers crossed*


* All comments on permitting are specific to our knowledge of our little town.  Your town may be different… so don’t hesitate to call your permitting office and ask before doing any work.  Remember, since you pay taxes, they work for you!

** Seriously, would you?  We like DIY as much as anyone, but this is the structural integrity of our home!


What’s been your experience when quoting our projects around your house?  Have you ever gotten such a huge range in quotes like we did?

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