Ask the Architect

‘Our contractor knows what he’s doing’

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Q. My addition is under construction, and the work was stopped by the inspector, who claims he wasn’t called to inspect the foundation and the insulation before the walls were finished. He said he needed to either see the insulation or have the architect write a letter. He also said the walls seem to be in the wrong place, according to the plans. Why should this be such a big deal? We’re confident that our contractor, who got the job done, fast, knows what he’s doing.

A. Imagine that every day you have to check something in whatever field you’re in, and imagine that after checking hidden work, you have to sign for that work — not the person who did the work, but you. Now, imagine that every week, you get veiled comments about work you signed for many months or even years before, where you have to stop what you’re doing in your job flow just to look up old files to see what the issues were. Imagine your horror when you see that the hidden conditions you signed for had to be redone, and while they were being taken apart, it was discovered that the work was done slightly wrong, though almost right, and now something is terribly off and expensive to correct.

Since you weren’t there when the work was first discovered, you didn’t hear the initial gasps and conversation implicating your responsibility. You didn’t get to defend yourself or address the first question being asked, which is usually, “Who’s going to pay for this?” That’s what inspectors and architects get all the time. Rarely is it a blatant design error, and since I’m asked to sign for work done either differently or incorrectly nearly every day, it becomes a part of life to have to ask how we can change this to prevent it from happening over and over.

Construction projects usually have three parties, and, depending on whether there are good legal contracts (so often there aren’t) and whether they’re followed, the parties rarely respect the level of responsibilities each has. For example, the architect was charged with designing a building that met structural code requirements and was done according to the owner’s request. The contractor’s separate agreement said the work would be carried out following plans provided, which (it is hoped) received a review and a permit from the local government.

Simple, right? But often the architect is left out of conversations in which the owner and contractor deviate from the contract plans, which have been reviewed and permitted, and do something different, usually with great confidence that there will be no consequences or problems. Move a wall here, a window there, eliminate a beam or two … which unravels the whole project when, years later, the floor or roof begins to sag or a sliding door won’t open. That’s why it’s a big deal for all responsible parties to the work.

© 2018 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.