Ask the Architect

Trust the framer or the architect?


Q. I am so frustrated about my construction. I am acting as contractor, and the guy framing my house, whom I trust completely, is saying my plans are ridiculously over-designed, and the beams are much too big and don’t even have columns in the plans. Can I switch architects in the middle of construction, and what would it take to do that?

A. Picture if you will a group of people sitting in a courtroom. One is your framer, another is your architect and the judge is hearing the case in which you spent way too much on beams, or even worse, your lawyer is going over the damages of cracking and sagging ceilings and walls. Who do you imagine will be the responsible party in the eyes of the law? Your framer? No, your architect.
Why? The state grants a license, upon proof of a rigorous education followed by an internship and one of the longest exams given to show competence, not to your framer, but to the architect. Your County Office of Consumer Affairs, which licenses contractors, not framers, can confirm what the qualifications are: no formal educational background, no particular experience, not even an exam. Your framer gets elevated to the status of a licensed professional by you and you alone. He may be smart, even experienced, but the call isn’t for him to make, any more than a couch potato making the calls for a professional football team.
There are no consequences for framers whether they’re right or wrong. If they choose not to put in beams prescribed on the sealed, permitted plans, just to make a point, and the house seems sturdy on the sunny day when they drive away, they may pat themselves on the back — that is, until the wind blows like it did recently in one of many heavy storms, or until the first heavy snowfall, when the roof begins to creak and sheetrock cracks. At that point, the amateurs you trusted are long gone. Framers can say anything, and they often do, confusing homeowners into believing their bold, unsubstantiated claims and calling into doubt the designated professional’s judgment or competence. “Rule of thumb” has no place in construction, but homeowners regularly and naively believe nonsense claims.
The claim of no columns to support the beams makes no sense, since all beams require support. It sounds more like your framer is flexing his ego to you instead of speaking to the architect. If your plans carry the professional’s seal and received a permit, to change the situation requires a lot of backtracking. The owner and new architect, if they have any ethics, should notify the current architect-of-record of the change in status. New, redrawn plans and new paperwork carrying the new architect’s seal, with an explanation letter, must be submitted to your building department; all this because you granted an amateur the level of responsibility they have no legal standing to hold over a licensed professional. Good luck!

© 2021 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.


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