Ask the Architect

The architect doesn’t answer our calls

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Q. Our air conditioning was replaced last fall when we moved into the house, and is now a heater and air conditioner with gas pipes. The installers said it would work fine, but the utility company won’t turn on the gas until we get a plumbing inspection, and the plumbing inspector said we needed an architect’s plans for a building permit before he would inspect the pipes. We hired an architect who came to the house and looked at the heating and air conditioning, and we hired him with a down payment, but he never measured anything before he left. We haven’t seen him since, and he doesn’t answer our many, many calls, so we had to move out to my parents’ house for the winter. We have a 3-year-old and one on the way, so we want to get this done. What do we do? How do we get our money back and hire someone else? Can this get done in time, before it gets cold?

A. There are some really complicated projects that architects deal with, some that take a few years to complete if they’re large and complex. Your issue is at the opposite end of that spectrum, and should have taken a few weeks. You need to fire that architect with a letter demanding a refund, put him on notice that you plan to report him to the state Board of Licensing and, if necessary, sue. In New York, the office of professions through the State Education Department is the one to contact.

You should then seek other architects and ask them for examples of how they’ve done this type of thing just to be sure they know what to do. Anyone who does this knows that they have to measure the area of the unit, check its size and location as well as the piping and ductwork leading off it, photograph the labels on the unit for energy rating and safety testing information and then prepare drawings showing how the unit is either hung from roof rafters or resting on the floor of an attic, first floor or basement. The condensing unit outside needs to be located on a site plan as well.

By now, every company that installs air conditioning and gas heating units knows that every building department requires some form of permitting, but it isn’t unusual to see that they didn’t apply for or get a permit, leaving the homeowner with a false sense of security that it was taken care of. I see this so often when people are closing on their home and find out right near the end, and are sweating baseballs when they’re not sure if the drawings and paperwork can be approved and the units inspected by an electrical inspector on time. In your case, a plumbing inspector is also required. Hopefully you can find the right professional for the job and be back in a warm home this winter. Good luck!

© 2019 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.