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Everything you need to know about finding a Drafter

Drafters must complete studies in their field before they are qualified to seek employment as drafting professionals. Typically, they will attend a TAFE college or private institution. They will learn about the building process, Australian building standards and how to produce technical drawings using CAD (computer aided design) programs.

Drafters take one to two year courses to a diploma level in drafting and/or building design. Courses are available for everything from residential construction to commercial projects. After their studies, many drafters go to work for architectural firms, larger drafting services or construction firms. When they have acquired more experience, they may set up their own business.

An experienced drafter may become a building designer. While they may not have the educational qualifications necessary to be registered as an architect, they have enough experience and design flair to design stunning residences, home extensions or interior renovations.

What Drafters Do

Drafters do far more than just draw plans. A qualified draftsperson can:

  • Do a site assessment
  • Prepare initial drawings for client review
  • Prepare final technical drawing for submission to council
  • Consult with structural engineers, if needed
  • Liaise with council to help the building permit process go more smoothly

A building designer will start by discussing your ideas with you and writing a brief. They will then prepare a preliminary design. A building designer may also use 3D computer modelling software to ensure your design is perfect. When you are satisfied with the preliminary design, they will use a CAD program to draw the technical drawings needed by council and your builder.

Drafters and building designers cannot act as project managers. In most cases, your builder can be your project manager, but if you have a complex design and feel your home designer should manage your project, you will need to hire an architect.

Choosing a Drafting Service

Draftspersons can work on their own or be part of a team in a larger organisation. A self-employed drafter can be a good choice or you may choose a larger drafting business. Either choice is fine, but your first priority should be finding a drafter who has extensive experience in the kind of work you need done. Many drafting services specialise in different fields:

  • Some prefer working on smaller projects like renovations and extensions
  • Some drafters have worked for construction companies that specialise in housing developments
  • A drafter may have worked for a residential or commercial architectural firm
  • A building designer may have experience in sustainable design

Renovations and extensions are fields that require specialised knowledge. A renovation may include structural work. Your drafter may need to liaise with a structural engineer, but their design will ensure your renovations fit in with your interior design and create a harmonious interior. A home extension requires knocking out exterior walls, which requires specialised knowledge. The finished design must also fit in with the rest of your home design.

A drafter who has worked for a large residential construction company will have had extensive experience drawing homes. When you give them your specifications, they will know from experience where to place the rooms in your house; how large the rooms should be; and how to create a harmonious flow through the house.

If a drafter has worked for a residential architectural firm, they will have had experience drawing plans for more upmarket homes. They may also have had to create drawings for homes on difficult sites and will have worked with architects and structural engineers.

A drafter who has worked for a commercial or residential/commercial architectural firm will know how to create drawings for larger projects such as apartment complexes, retirement villages and other larger projects. If they also have experience in larger residential projects, they may be a good choice for a complex design.

Building designers often work for architects before they go into private work. They might decide to go to work for themselves because they enjoy working on particular types of projects. Many drafters and building designers have studied sustainable design. They know from study and practice how to position a house to make best use of sunlight. They will understand your shading needs; the kinds of insulation you need; and how to design a house for solar power and other sustainable technologies.

When you choose a drafter or building designer, the cost of the service is less important than the service's ability to help you with the type of project you're hiring them for. Ask every draftsperson you get quotes from these questions:

  • What is your previous work experience?
  • Can you show me a portfolio of your work?
  • How much experience do you have in drawing or designing the type of construction we need?
  • Can you provide us with referrals from previous clients?

This information will tell you if you've found the right service for your needs.

How Much Do Drafters Cost?

Drafters may charge by the hour for a small project, but may also charge by the square metre or on a percentage basis:

  • Hourly rates can vary from $90 to $180 per hour
  • Square metre rates can range from $16m2 to $25m2
  • House plans can cost between $2500 and $6000

These are rough figures only. The rates can vary depending on a number of reasons. Some drafters charge more than others and some will charge more for projects that require extra attention. Their rates can also be based on the number of services you require. For example:

  • They may charge different rates for preliminary drawings and technical drawings
  • Changes will incur extra fees
  • They may have a different rate for helping you through the council approval process
  • A custom design often costs more than a standard design

Other charges may include soil testing, surveyor's reports or structural engineer's reports. For more details about drafting costs, read How Much Does a Drafter Cost?

Drafters and building designers are generally less expensive than architects. If you don't need someone to manage your project, they can be a cost-saving choice and if you choose your drafter or designer wisely, you'll be just as happy with their results.

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