No license... how much to pay licensed architect to stamp drawings?


I was wondering what the general practice is for unlicensed architects to get their drawings stamped prior to construction by a licensed architect. Is their a typical rate or fee applied to such transactions?

Aug 8, 12 9:09 am

go get your license.  then you can stamp your own work.

Aug 8, 12 9:15 am

Can I get my license by working for myself?

Aug 8, 12 9:20 am

Isn't this against practice ethics? I could swear it is...

Aug 8, 12 9:24 am

the architect of record won't just stamp your drawings - they're assuming liability over the project, which means they'll need to review the drawings for code and program issues, and various things related to construction quality (and they're required by law to monitor construction) - and this will be reflected in the price (it will be a lot more than you think - probably anywhere between 5-20% of the total construction cost depending on the size and complexity of the project - and how knowledgeable you are - I'm guessing not so knowledgeable because you're asking how much an architect will charge to stamp YOUR drawings).  You should solicit proposals based on the assumption that they'll probably take quite a bit of time to review/revise your drawings and create a complete set of construction documents and specifications.


no legitimate architect will just stamp drawings.

Aug 8, 12 9:45 am

I am planning to review a set of plans and specifications for code compliance, safety, MEP coordination of plans, quality control, etc. and stamp. Won't do any production work, but will include job site visits. You have mentioned 5-20% of construction cost. Did u mean of architectural fee? Thanks.


No, you can't get your license by working for yourself, and no, there isn't a 'typical' fee for any such transaction because it is a really bad idea.  What architect is going to want to take on professional liability for a project they didn't design?  If you did find someone who was willing to do it, you can be sure that they're likely not a good/professional architect.  I suppose you might find an architect who was willing to completely review all your drawings, revise as necessary, etcetera so that he/she was completely comfortable submitting them under his/her own stamp... but that's likely to take a lot of time & therefore cost quite a bit.

For perspective, I'm stamping something of my own for permit this week - it's the simplest thing in the world, just a non-structural repair that requires no drawings, just a description of the proposed repair and affidavit from arch. or structural engineer, and I am still going over that statement with a fine-toothed comb.  My professional career rests on such documents - I would never risk my professional career on anything less than the absolute best of my own abilities, and cannot imagine stamping something I did not fully oversee the development of.  (Yes I know that's bad grammar...)

Aug 8, 12 10:10 am

sorry, didn't see toaster's response before posting mine...  a bit redundant now, sorry.

Aug 8, 12 10:12 am

Thanks for all of the good advice. I am feeling a little frustrated by the registration process having just completed a fairly rigorous accredited program. How come in some countries like France, Chile, Switzerland, students can build right out of school but not here?

Aug 8, 12 10:14 am

Most accredited programs are "rigorous". And its because we have a much stricter system of codes for public safety than most European and South American countries (you'l notice a drastic difference in egress).

Aug 8, 12 10:30 am
wurdan freo

The key in your position is to find another small company that you can partner with. When they need help, you can provide assistance in production or management or whatever. When you need help, they can help you. Essentially you are being mentored by the other company, but you are also bringing something to the table. It would be beneficial to develop this relationship prior to getting the work that way you will know if it is a good fit or not.

Aug 8, 12 12:11 pm

Oooh, major faux pas. The provincial regulation boards in Canada have been cracking down on this from happening. It prohibits old hermit architects from making money stamping drawings while living in the mountains wearing capes like FLW.

Aug 8, 12 12:36 pm

"no legitimate architect will just stamp drawings."'re forgetting that there are a lot of illegitmate architects out there who will do any number of things for money.  I just got back from a "meeting" with an architect and, yeah, she even swallowed it too.

"How come in some countries like France, Chile, Switzerland, students can build right out of school but not here?"

If you've ever been to any of those countries then you would know that their architecture is atrocious and they have nothing to lose by letting anybody build.  Also they have alot of inbreeding and bad hygiene.  Really, just not even a good comparison.


Aug 8, 12 1:13 pm

Perhaps the comment was before A. Aravena won the Pritzker price.


  I just got back...

so did you pay her or just tell her there is a prospect that might do some tenant work in a few weeks and you might keep her in mind?

Aug 8, 12 1:32 pm

Well just like anything else you have people commenting on two extremes. What you're referring to is rubber stamping. There are plenty of architects willing to rubber stamp construction documents, especially in a bad economy. 

I'm in the middle of taking the ARE and it's not that bad. It is rigorous but fairly so. We don't want to cheapen the profession now do we?

The NAAB accredited school thing is bullshit though. There was one state school in NY that was NAAB accredited that was all the way up in Buffalo. All the others were 40-50,000 a year and were a horrible investment for most  people. I went to a 4 year architectural program and was much more knowledgeable when I graduated than a lot of the people I have met from 5 year programs. (I was a carpenter for 5 years before and during school too.) The 4 year school I went to was more tech based than design based. I never planned on being the next Le Corbusier and this helped a lot when practicing in the real world. 

 The biggest problem with architecture in America is the AIA and NCARB. I never plan on using the AIA documents, why have them on one of my exams? It's them trying to brain wash everyone if you ask me.  I will also not be able to join NCARB because I didn't pay $50,000 for an extra year of school or move to Buffalo. Thank God I can still be licensed in NYS but I will also only be able to practice in NY. It really is unfair that two COMPANIES have American architecture in a choke hold. 

Aug 8, 12 1:56 pm

And I also think it cheapens the profession by calling it exams. Lawyers have the bar, doctors have boards, architects and high school students have exams. Why not just call it a test? Just had to vent.

Aug 8, 12 2:02 pm
toasteroven're forgetting that there are a lot of illegitmate architects out there who will do any number of things for money


oh - I didn't forget.  that's why I couched my statement.  I'm sure once you're knee-deep in lawsuits you'll wish you hadn't risked your license and career just to make a couple bucks.  You'd have to be pretty desperate to do that sort of shit.  Besides I'm not sure you even want to be associating yourself with this sort of disreputable behavior - talk about a bad way to start out your career.

Aug 8, 12 2:08 pm

or gauntlets for funsies

Aug 8, 12 2:08 pm

We have stricter safety codes, as Rand H mentioned, and also the legal code throws more liability onto the heads of professionals in this country (and contractors are not seen as professionals).  In Europe builders are a) more experienced / better trained and b) more legally responsible for the buildings they build. 

As an architect in this country you are potentially liable for even the most extreme, odd things that you couldn't have even really had any control over.  I have seen the stupidest shit go into lawsuits...

Aug 8, 12 2:11 pm

I like it! Im studying for the architectural gaunlet. Sounds good. Lol

Aug 8, 12 2:17 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

My office has performed the service of executive architect on several projects for design architects who are out of the state or from another country.  We just finished an enormous residential estate for an American client, and partnered with his design architect, who's from France.  But we would never sign someone else's documents.  We always do some or all of the Design Development, and draw all the CDs and write the specifications.


We establish a fee for this kind of project by fee-splitting: conferring with the design architect, and agreeing to a mutual scope of work for each phase.  It's usually something like 90% Design Architect-10% Executive for Schematic Design, 40%-60% for Design Development, 10%-90% Construction Docs, and 10%-90% Construction Administration.  Then we pro-rate our normal fee based on those percentage splits.


I'd never assume responsibility for a project that we didn't coordinate and draw.

Aug 8, 12 2:45 pm

10, how do you know you need a stamp for this project?

I can't add anything to what has already been said here, but I don know my state (Indiana) explicitly states in their code that plan-stamping - their term - is illegal.

Aug 8, 12 9:44 pm

Agreed, don't start your career on this foot. Check with the building dept in person to verify if you need a stamp. I've always thought of it as being illegal, and I'm amazed at how prevalent it is within the profession.

Aug 8, 12 10:32 pm

I'm not quite sure I understand where this ethical quandary is coming from - the architect of record is usually completely separate form the design architect.  There are people whose entire firms are built around "plan stamping".  It is in no way unusual for an RA licensed in multiple states to stamp for a firm doing work out of its usual jurisdictions, and all the stamper's I've worked for have been completely professional, made wise comments and got paid very fat fees for very little work.  If anything, it's one more level of eyes on the sheet before it hits the review table, and that's never, ever, a bad thing.

Now people who stamp drawings without looking at them on the other hand...

Aug 8, 12 10:38 pm

He isn't looking for an Architect of Record to create his technical drawings and handle other aspects of the process, he is wanting the last thing you mentioned and that is the ethical issue. He clearly asks how much it would be to have an RA stamp HIS dwgs. This is pro-practice 101 and enters the realm of affecting public safety (what the stamp represents). 

Aug 8, 12 11:59 pm

Well, if 10 is professionally competent, with alot of experience, he/her has every right to seek out someone who can look over their drawings, comment, and apply their stamp.  That's up to 10 and the person who stamps the drawings.  Why do we always assume everyone's motive is malevolent?

10- if you're actually on the up-and-up you can expect to pay the RA no less than about 20% of your take, most will probably charge more.  Understand your paying them for taking on all the liability, so don't turn up your nose if they ask for half.  You'll be very hard pressed to find the rare RA who will just stamp the dwgs for you, no questions asked, and frankly THAT is unethical and could get you both in court.

Aug 9, 12 1:19 am

If you read through some of the thread responses, he/she just graduated and the wording is just asking for a stamp. There's no assumption, just naivete on an ethical/safety issue. 

Aug 9, 12 1:47 am

To be honest you can find someone that charges $250 each time. Youll have to shop around but they're out there. Some architects will tell you 20% or more. Some times in todays economy 250 ends up being 50% for a legalization out something. It's kind of like buying drugs. They're out there you just need to know where to shop.

Aug 9, 12 7:11 am

My interpretation and experience is that being an architect of record and simply stamping drawings are two totally different things. Just an observation, but if we, as architects, do not respect or value what we do, how can we expect the general public to?

Aug 9, 12 8:38 am

The general public hardly even knows what architects do. They can't value something they don't understand and no one tries to explain it to them. There are no AIA campaigns for public awareness, the closest thing is a charity even here and there that is just good PR for firms. Almost every architectural organization I can think of is introverted.

Aug 9, 12 10:31 am

Also make sure you don't braid someone's hair without a license. 

A great planet money episode. In the '50s 1 in 20 jobs required certification or licensing. Today it's 1 in 3. Since most of the licensing is state controlled, it makes it really hard for people to go where the jobs are. Interesting take.

So you'll need a licensed professional to get your hair did. I'm still waiting from anyone to state exactly how licensing in architecture ensures better code compliance. It either complies, or it don't. And there is a whole review process that determines such.

Protection rackets are protection rackets. 

Aug 9, 12 11:16 am

Think of how many bad architects there are, now think of how many more there would be if there was no licensing. 

Aug 9, 12 11:30 am

After 2 days-ish of back and forth, including multiple meetings, with seniors in the firm dealing with a project that was due a month ago and is over-budget... I'm getting a lot of "does it really have to meet that code" and "isn't that just a suggestion" type comments as I work through what was clearly more of a DD set. Psh "hey, can you take two weeks and finish this 90% CD set for permitting" my ***


@rand - the general public doesn't know why it's a good idea to hire a licensed GC (and not your cousin who has a few tools and a truck) and can't even spend a few bucks to get a permit just for the inspections.   everyone thinks they're so clever cutting corners and doing things "under the radar" - or stubbornly doing things themselves...  Hiring an architect is the complete opposite of this attitude.

Aug 9, 12 11:42 am

If it isn't residential, it is sometimes because they are required to hire an architect, not because they choose to. And those who hire a residential architect aren't the majority of people.

Aug 9, 12 11:55 am

What kind of project is it? I've gotten by with just an engineer's stamp before. 

Aug 9, 12 12:01 pm
On the fence

What is an unlicensed architect?

Aug 9, 12 12:29 pm

A relative of the unicorn.

Aug 9, 12 12:46 pm

"What is an unlicensed architect?"

You (assuming you're licensed) visiting another state.

Aug 9, 12 12:59 pm

Sad: when I hear unlicensed individuals who don't know how to obtain a permit for their projects puzzle over why an architectural license might be necessary.  Frustrating: is when my teaching colleagues say the same thing, and then don't know how to use the building code.  

Aug 9, 12 2:22 pm

"What is an unlicensed architect?"

I would prefer unregistered architect. I personally do everything and I am not registered yet. I do everything from selling to expediting and even project management.  I calculate parking, structure, drywells, while designing, meeting, code research, and etc. I have not had a single complaint and most my clients even make me dinner when they find out I'm not married. (Very unusual for NY)  I do every single thing if not more than most architects. I am only 1/7th registered but I am still an architect. That's like the state telling me I cant be christian if I don't fulfill their requirements. Was Marcus Vitruvius a registered architect? What about Andrea Palladio? 


Note: All work mentioned above is under the direct supervision of a NYS registered architect. ;)

Aug 9, 12 4:15 pm

That's like the state telling me I cant be christian if I don't fulfill their requirements. Was Marcus Vitruvius a registered architect? What about Andrea Palladio?

like that, except without the separation of church and state thing in the constitution, and the state regulations that include requirements for when a person calls themselves an architect.  Vitruvius and Palladio may have been architects according what their state's regulations were at the time.  If they showed up in New York today, then a) no, they would not be architects and b) we would have other things to worry about.  such as the zombie apocalypse.

i stayed at a holiday inn once.  that does not make me a physicist.

go get your license.  then you get to call yourself an architect.

Aug 9, 12 4:27 pm

@10  What you should probably do is GET your license and then open a clearing house for set stamping.  Just sit back and rake it in.  Ask yourself why this hasn't been done yet and the prevalent quandary of this thread will be answered.

Before I was licensed, I did a little attic renovation.  I spoke with the building inspector prior to the work, and he assured myself and the client that no license would be required.  BUT, halfway through construction the same inspector questioned the dimensions of a ridge beam and subsequently required either an architect's stamp or engineer's stamp to proceed.  The client ended up paying an engineer 5,000 dollars to essentially stamp my solution (that I had calculated)  and the project was completed.  My total design fee was about 2,000 bucks.  Construction costs were around 20,000.

Moral of the story, when stamps are required and you don't provide them, they cost a lot of money.  Supply and demand. 

Get your license.

Aug 9, 12 5:22 pm

When I am licensed I will never SEAL the drawings of someone else.  For the assumed liability it wouldn't be worth it. I would also never rob a bank, however; there are plenty of crackheads that do. Keep searching and you will find someone to seal your drawings for a couple hundred bucks. They are out there.

Aug 9, 12 7:31 pm

1) $200 is probably the lowest you'll find for a structural engineer to seal your drawings.  And that is if your math is immaculate, your beams are all correctly sized and the drawings don't require markup.

2) No, of course nobody blindly seals drawings since people love to sue architects (and the legality concern is of course legitimate), but contrary to some responders' panic-stricken tone, your situation is really quite common in the industry among perfectly competent and professional individuals.  If you have a manageable project with no 80' cantilevers or anything, go buy one of your registered friends some beers and offer to throw a couple hundred their way or whatever, and bada-bing - done.  There should be no guesswork on a few beams and trusses unless you and everyone you know failed Structures.  If it is a huge sprawling complex, then obviously more intense calculation would be required, and nobody would want to touch that unless they become fully involved in the project (doing specs and CD's, etc.) and you will really have to cough up sizable fundage for a fair fee.

Good luck! 

Nov 2, 12 2:32 pm

why doesnt anyone seem to understand terminology, once you pass the exams you are licensed, when you are permitted to work in any particular state you are registered.  If you have neither you are not an Architect, period.  There is no such thing as an unlicensed or even unregistered Architect, unless you are retired and have surrendered or suspended your registration.  You cannot use prefixes, suffixes or any other descriptive language to circumvent the law.  The very word "Architect" is protected under NYS law and you may not use it unless it is in a sentence like, "I am not an Architect".  incidentally if you're toting yourself as being a capable and as smart as Architects, and that you do more than most, then why don't you sit for the exam?  Why deal with the legal issues, additional expense of getting someone to stamp it and the absence of liability insurance?  My guess is it's because you're a victim of your own delusion.

Nov 12, 12 11:51 am

I'm a REALARCHITECT look at my name it's REALARCHTECT...Your name is not REALARCHITECT its not even FAKEARCHITECT because you can't even use the ARCHITECT part...

Nov 12, 12 3:49 pm

Is there an age limit for this site, if not there should be.  jla-x, real architect made a valid point and quoted the law.  This site is for professional guidance and information not childish comments.  Grow up.

Nov 13, 12 1:06 pm
future hope

FYI: Chapter 1 of the IBC/IRC describes which projects require professional stamps.

Nov 13, 12 10:32 pm

But that is not where you go to confirm whether or not your project needs to apply. First you need to know if your jurisdiction is covered under IBC/IRC and which year and what ammendments


I interviewed for a job with one of the big residential builders in the city about half a year ago. They asked me about my professional goals, and were baffled to hear that I wanted to complete IDP, take them tests, and get registered as an architect.

They frankly didn't understand any of the reasons I presented for having such a 'lofty' future ahead of myself, such as a)wanting to work on a variety of projects of diverse scales; b)loving to design and being good at learning all matter of things in the process; c) thinking that the licencing process and membership in the professional association are there to protect the public from ethical and health/safety issues. At the end of the day - after I'd completed two schematic sets of reworked plans for two of their existing "home models" for the second interview - all they seemed to be interested in is my familiarity with the building code, and my ability to produce exterior renderings faster or cheaper than the guy that they were using at the time.

The vast majority of residential design in Canada is carried out by companies just like the one I'm talking about , companies managed by people with no respect or interest for Architecture and all the hopscotch gymnastics that accompany it in both the design and licensure processes. To add to Randh's point above, these same builders are excellent at marketing their services to the general public, which as far as I can tell, often equates these services with their understanding of what architecture is.

Nov 14, 12 12:16 am

To sum up - it seems to me that, with some exceptions, the value of a licence is artificially inflated by the registration boards and other professional associations, which cling to the words Architect and Architecture as a first line of defense against competition, while offering little added benefits beyond a relatively small contribution to liability insurance, and the option of actually expanding the scope of practice for those individuals that become registered. Although, based on some of the above comments, the system does seem to enable some people to feel respect and value for the work they perform - because their stamp carries with it the significance of their exclusive status in the industry...

Nov 14, 12 12:38 am

There are some jurisdictions that allow people to prepare plans for certain types of work.  This does not however entitle someone to use the work "Architect" or allow them to claim that they provide "Architecture" or "Architectural" services.  It just means that plans do not need to be stamped.  The stamp is the equivalent of an Architects testimony in court and it is the legal requirement to identify the individuals who have the authority to make such testimonies.  Furthermore it allows them to obtain professional liability insurance, have a board that they must answer to if they break the law or rules of practice and requires them to maintain their training through continuing education.  In addition, anyone who violates the rule that protects the word "Architect" and it's many forms is committing a misdemeanor and are jeopardizing their own ability of being issued a license later on down the road.  To obtain a license you must be of sound moral character, this would violate such a requirement.  This is not publicized even though it is a matter of public record.  Individuals therefore learn this lesson the hard way after they're caught.  A word to the wise it is certainly not worth the risk.  Also, there have been many cases that I'm aware of where individuals paid Architects to stamp their plans, and when it went to court the Architect simply claimed that he did not stamp the drawings.  So the Architect absolved himself of responsibility and the draftsman went to jail.  I think the penalty was two years, plus a fine and legal fees, not to mention being banned from ever practicing in the field again.  So if it's worth it for you, by all means go ahead and risk your life.  If you get locked up and banned it's one less person for me to compete against in the future.  PS - I am a real "licensed" and "registered" Architect jla-x

Nov 14, 12 11:43 am

If anyone was serious about protecting the integrity of the word Architecture, would this really be happening in a search for architectural roofing? What about the tired, but obvious example of the myriad information and systems architects out there - a field that continues to expand and propser, while the supposedly guarded "Architecture" continues to lose relevance to the general public.

Ted Moseby is probably closest thing most people have for seeing what architects do: the few times you see that whiny man whore work, he's either perched at a drafting table with a t-square or gluing foam trees to a cardboard model of a sloppy tower. I could argue that neither of those activities requires anybody to stamp anything, but that's what a bunch of people who watch TV associate with architecture. Even worse, people who have HGTV often think watching those shows (which compress an entire renovation into 20 minutes of television) is equivalent to a design education.

Bottom line is, IDP and the licence are hurdles, which when cleared do nothing to advance an individual's position in the discipline of architecture, and do little else than set architects apart from other licensed professionals in the building industry. Having a licence does not make someone a good architect or even a good businessperson, nor does it protect you from lawsuits. From what I understand, the codes of practice in Canada and the US actually prohibit an individual from being both the architect of record, and a GC on the same project - eliminating design-build as a legitimate form of practicing architecture. Where do the drawbacks stop and the benefits begin? If I am missing something, would someone please explain?

Nov 14, 12 2:38 pm

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