REMODELS, REHABILITATIONS, MODERNIZATIONS & ADDITIONS FAQ
Existing Conditions Documentation
Most building departments will require that the existing building conditions within the scope of the project be documented. They usually will request for a site plan as well as the building plans. Architects are required to properly document the existing space to be remodeled. There is a lot of liability in not doing so or on relying on information they have not verified.
Things To Consider
Buildings are complicated structures and sometimes this means multiple visits to verify what has been drawn is reasonably accurate. In older homes, this process can be compounded by walls that are not straight or plumb. Occasionally, during the course of documenting the building, interesting aspects of how the building was originally designed and built may reveal themselves through the measurements (i.e hidden chases, spaces, walls not lining up etc.).
This process technically generates a set of drawings that could be called "as-built" drawings of what can be physically seen or measured. Both the reviewing agency and the contractor will need them to better understand what is there prior to demolition and construction. If we use the analogy of customizing a car, think of it as making sure an engine fits before you install a new more powerful engine block under the hood.
Therefore if you do have existing drawings, it helps shorten the process of documenting the existing structure. Be aware though that the design professional will still need to verify the drawings in the field and convert it to a CAD or digital drawing (if not already a CAD file). A remodel is not like new construction where you start with a clean slate. There will be surprises along the way but the more information you have and can provide to your architect, the better able they will be to deal with any issues that occur. Besides some "problems" could actually be turned into design assets in the hands of the right architect.
In Law Units
Many jurisdictions will not allow two kitchens on the same lot or property. Some cities have ordinances against the creation of "in-law" units. It's best to verify with your local planning or building department before proceeding with projects like these. Some agencies will consider them if you apply for a "Second unit administration permit". This involves additional fees, time and costs. As with any project you would need to comply with setbacks, and zoning requirements. Just because an option to have a second unit or "in-law" unit on your property exists, does not mean it will be an easy process.
Some cities now see "in law units" as a way of increasing density and are changing their attitudes about them. The present economy is creating a trend towards extended familes, where empty nesters are now seeing their married adult children returning to live with them. The opposite trend is also true of children taking care of their ailing parents and serving as care givers.