Cost per drawing


I'd like to know how I can determine the cost per drawing for a small residential project. A potential client is asking what would it cost for a set of plans for a house. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Jul 11, 07 4:25 pm

don't charge per drawing. i would suggest a per sq. ft. charge or an hourly rate. or a per sq. ft. charge up to xx hours, then $xx.xx dollars per hour beyond that.

that said:
be careful what you're getting into - if you don't have any experience putting together a set of CD's (even a small,simple house) it will be difficult for you to not create more problems for your client than solutions. make sure that you understand what your local building dept. will require of you, that you are in communication w/ the contractor, etc.., etc.. . If you don't have the right experience - and you're doing this on your own, it will be a nightmare that's not worth it in my opinion. i only say this becuase the nature of your question makes it seem like you don't have much experience - please forgive me if i've assumed incorrectly.

Jul 11, 07 4:51 pm

anticipate plan check corrections and let the clients know that there will be additional hours beyond submittal...

Jul 11, 07 4:57 pm

Believe it or not a very large multi-disciplinary firm I know does it all the time. They prepare a proposal via , % thn budget time and then check bacvkwords on a per drawing / sheet cost..... Tehy charge about $6500.00 per sheet, I am still about half that but it is amusing to track it a bit.

Jul 11, 07 5:13 pm

this seems like an odd way to pay for things. what if your cover sheet just has misc. info. project location, etc. next page, index, next page code review, next... you get the picture. and not to mention page size, and scale of text / drawings. what if they just want a 1/2 size set? will they only pay 1/4? what if you just toss a bunch of meaningless details on? this sounds like a shady deal for everyone.
do engineering drawings per sheet cost more than architectural? if you really want to know i dug through the flat file for ya kendogg, and we tossed togehter a smallish remodel,no consultants, design build for a contractor (i estimate) 350 K +/- on 9 sheets (including cover), building permit addendums revised on a couple of leftover spaces, so in this situation @10% fee around 3800 for each 24x36 sheet...

Jul 11, 07 5:17 pm
vado retro

are you designing a building? are you putting a permit set together? are you drafting something up? you need to be more pacific.

Jul 11, 07 5:17 pm

I prefer to be more south-eastern but to each his own.

funny that no one asked what size the drawings are. So what size are the drawings? I send tenders out at tabloid size (ofc formatting appropriately) but send out construction drawings at A4

Jul 11, 07 6:12 pm

2 posts up i thought i was cleverly metioning size of drawings...

Jul 11, 07 6:40 pm
Ms Beary

so when the client runs out of money, which drawing do they do without? the site plan? sounds interesting.
I did always want to give clients what they pay for, not what I actually produce: Sorry, but, uh, you didn't pay for a wall section sheet.

Jul 11, 07 6:50 pm
el jeffe

fred stitt (guidelines) publishes some documents on running an office, and one of the documents has a listing of hours per sheet for various project types.
considering this, i once ran a spreadsheet analysis of a dozen or so projects in the office that had been completed through CD's.
if i can find that file i'll open it to check, but here's the interesting things that i recall.
the hours per sheet didn't vary a whole lot by project type, as much as by project manager and familiarity and the hours per sheet didn't change much at all based upon sheet size.

the end result was that we felt we now had another pretty reasonable benchmark with which to help analyze fees.

Jul 11, 07 6:50 pm

DAMNIT...wrong thread...

i'm done for the day :(

Jul 11, 07 6:59 pm

Thanks for all your responses. The questions was meant to be much simpler, but I can understand how it evolved.

My understanding is that "architectural design" for a residential project can be designed and drawn by anyone without a professional architectural license. Those home plans that you see at the supermarket register are most likely not drawn by architects, but can be used to provide a contractor/home builder to build a house.

My situation is similar in that my client/friend asked me to draw up a house plan that can be used to build the house, but not as construction documents. There are architects (licensed and unlicensed) that sell (generic) house plans and I wanted to know how much they charge for each plan or a set of plans. I looked up a few sites and noticed that depending on the house size, type and # of sets, they would charge from $500 to $1000. (

My scope of service will be extermely limited compared to a typical architectural service. My friend simply asked for a house plan that will be used by a contractor who would make it more "real" so that it complies with all the codes. Has anyone had this experience before?

Jul 11, 07 9:47 pm
Ms Beary

$500 or $1000 for a set of plans is a set of plans that was developed, tweaked and reproduced. They get $500 to $1000 each time that plan is reproduced.

How big is the house? What type of lot? You are going to provide plans, and probably elevations? No site plan, no roof plan, no sections, no details?

Jul 12, 07 9:22 am
Ms Beary

What does your client expect? Is this a rigorous custom design from scratch, or perhaps they are looking at plan books already and just need some tweaks to a plan they kinda like?

Jul 12, 07 10:03 am

maybe you should propose a schematic design set or limited services set, be upfront and proactive so that it is clear what is included (i.e. these drawings are for preliminary design review only and not intended for permitting purposes...)

Jul 12, 07 1:05 pm

kendog--In case you can't tell, the people on this forum have been assuming that you are formally trained, have interned with a professional architect, and know everything but the business end.

The idea that someone with no architectural experience is going to do some design drawings for your friend, which they can take straight to a contractor is like selling your friend an old car that you know is going to break down, but an order of magnitude worse.

The fact that you don't need to be licensed to do the design work on an architectural project doesn't chance the fact that you need to have some idea of how to put a building together, and what the drawing elements actually mean. If you do this, you will be lucky if you don't end up in court with your former friend. The fact that he can't sue you for pretending to be an architect doesn't mean that he can't sue you for preparing documents that disagree with what he asked you to do.

Any contractor that is going to accept a building project without plans drawn by a licensed architect is clearly incompetent--at the moment there is so much work going around that anyone who is any good is book up for months to come.

If the two of you really want to wreck your friendship this way, I suggest you hire an architecture firm to work with you on the design -- at the very least, this should reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit, will help you get through code review, and will ensure your friend has someone to assist him not getting shafted by a shady contractor. If you don't have any idea what your design input is worth, than at least the architect should, once he looks at what you can actually do.

Jul 12, 07 1:32 pm

My friend and I only casually discussed this project as he wanted a rough idea for the cost of obtaining just "house plans" for a "custom" home. I guess by custom, I mean a preliminary design sketch not intended for permitting as emaze put it.

If this were a typical custom residential project, my friend, the client, would hire a licensed architect and go through the proper procedures to build his house. However, he would like to know if he can limit the design portion of the house to a basic "house plan" and then let the contractor/builder deal with all the permitting, code compliance, and details. Now, I know that this is undermining the typical scope of work that architects do, but I do want to provide him several realistic options for his needs.

Maybe a better question to ask you all is whether you know of a process that is most economical, but built to standard, given all I know about the project: Site is in San Francisco, on a 2 lot parcel. Client wishes for a 1500 SF 2 story home on the second lot. Budget is limited (of course), but is in the range of $300-$500k total, including design, material, labor, permits, etc. I have discussed with him that prefabrication may be an option, but I am not sure if that is truly economical and or desirable.

Personally, I have a little experience with residential design and construction, having worked at a small firm for about 3 yrs. The last 3yrs, I have been working on corporate jobs, so am out of touch with residential construction. I am an unlicensed architect almost done with the ARE's.

I do value the work of an architect, but the reality is that not many can afford the traditional design build process for their home. As an architect, I would like to provide a range of possibilities to meet my client/friend's needs.

Jul 12, 07 10:22 pm

In aggregate, the posts on this page don't get to the detail of the question asked, which seems to be, "How much should I charge?" This is partly due to lacking clarity in the original question, as noted by emaze, vado retro, and architechnophilia, who began assumptively clarifying issues like sheet size, number of sheets, scope of services, and other matters.

However, the profession's reluctance to discuss fees and management issues may also contribute to the vagueness both by the person asking and in the broad range of answers. This is a bigger problem that must be resolved by the profession. It further results in a gaping range of fees, the breadth of which contributes to confusion among practitioners and distrust among the public. Those less scrupulous among the adversaries of our profession are quick to use this distrust to advance their own primacy where possible.

An example, not uncommon among architects, is the 2003 circumstance in which my firm was asked to quote a custom residential architecture fee and scope for a successful professional on a premium lot with a view of Lookout Mountain at the Georgia-Tennessee border. He wanted a premium design for about 5,000 square feet livable area (two levels), plus unfinished and future-planned basement area built to premium residential standards. My associate and I carefully calculated our historic hourly figures for recent projects, pared them, then reviewed against market indicators (like those mentioned in other posts on this site), such as per-sheet, area-based, and flat-fee comparables that we documented (based on 2-1/2 decades of practice each). As insisted by our prospect, we included our civil engineering site fee of $9500, but carefully segregated it in our proposal. We lost.

To whom did we lose? No, not some yokel drafter, but to another architect, whose "bid" did not include civil, but whose architecture portion was half our $39,750.00 proposal. (We were assured by the disingenuous client that he was not "taking bids", though I learned later that he had about six, including non-architect drafter-designers. We might as well have been ditch diggers.) I assume for this argument that our successful competitors looked at project requirements and developed numbers that worked for their respective financial structures. Nevertheless, the firm receiving the commission proposed half our fee for what appears to be a similar amount of hourly activity. They were vague, but the prospect told me that they promised "everything you need" without clarification, which differs from the advice of most published advisers to the field, as well as our private ones. Some "drafters" proposed more than architects did!

In dismissing our proposal (rather curtly), the prospect ("suspect") questioned our honesty. He believed we charged excessive amounts as some sort of undue "profit", since the "winning" firm had charged so little, or that, if they had undercharged, that they were "incompetent" (his wording) and thus "unprofessional". (He was glad to hire the incompetent in this sense, so long as they were cheaper.) In his field, he told me, most doctors charge very close to the same hourly rates and fees for similar services. This is despite similar restrictions against "collusion" and other anti-competitive practices.

We think, "Odd", or else we think doctors collude on some golf course we can't afford (as the lowest paid professionals), until we re-consider the amount of the discrepancy and realize that this large range is not due to our non-collusion, but due to inadequate understanding of our real overhead and cost structures. Thus, when we understand these, we should provide accurate fee proposals.

Using our numbers, we offered $30,250 for about 28 - 30 sheets of architectural drawings, though less with separate text specs, for a 5000 square foot house, or about $1043 per sheet, or a little over six bucks a square foot near a small metro area of the southeast (Chattanooga). We have minimum enforcement of code in Georgia, plus no licensing or qualification of contractors until 2008 (so CYA!), no review of docs by authorities having jurisdiction in the instance of residential in our prospect's county. No permit expediting, pricing assistance, or construction administration was included in our fee. (Thus the "winners" got the job for $3 per sf, or about $1020 a sheet, though their offices were in a different location, no indication of their scope of services or if their number of sheets matched our guesstimate, though owner said "identical". Despite our careful calculation, owner accused us of trying to "steal" the differential. We haven't worried about his accusations regarding our "honesty", as we know our numbers. However, I hope our competitors know theirs, but having practiced nearly 20 years as a Registered Architect, and having taught business practices more than a dozen years in a local accredited college, I think many architecture and related design firms do not understand their cost structures.

Jul 22, 07 2:02 am

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