Ask the Architect

The architect planned one thing, and the plumber did another


Q. My basement is being finished, and we’re adding a bathroom with a shower. Our plumber just left, and I’m bewildered by the way things are going. The plumber says we passed the inspection, but we’re concerned that he persuaded us to move the door, and all of the fixtures are different than the plans show. Our architect lined up the toilet, the sink and the shower in a row so we could use just one “plumbing wall” for all the pipes, but the plumber moved the shower to a different wall, which left nothing but empty space in the corner beside the toilet. Then the plumber ran flexible hot and cold tubing along the ceiling, so now we have to add a drop-down ceiling around the pipes. Is this acceptable and normal to do, and why did the work pass inspection if it didn’t follow our plans? We spent a lot of time discussing and planning where everything would go with our architect, and now we wonder who’s in charge if it passes inspection.

A. You ultimately have the last word on what you accept. I always tell clients that we play by the Golden Rule in construction. The Golden Rule used to mean, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It now means that he (or she) who has the gold rules.
As long as you haven’t paid yet, you still have some authority. Once you pay, the issue becomes unclear, since paying is a demonstration of satisfaction, and it’s hard to show you were dissatisfied when someone else, like a judge, has to determine if you really just changed your mind but were once satisfied. Situations like yours prompted me to put a clause in my agreements that often seems questionable to prospective customers. I write that I am not responsible for deviations from the plans by the contractor, subcontractor, plumber, electrician or any other party hired by the owner, of it they cut through building components and cause damage.
Many people are naïve to the fact that the workers you hire often deviate from the plans. The building owner really believes that people follow the plans. Sadly, the plans prepared by a design professional, architect or engineer are carefully scrutinized by building officials before a permit is granted, only to be ignored when the plans are then not followed and the inspection in the field passes.
Most of the officials I speak to would never consciously let that happen, but at least three or four times a week, work passes an inspection when the plans don’t match. What should happen is that the owner should be communicated with about any change, and instead of fearing extra cost to get the architect or engineer involved, should pick up the phone, text or email to get the issue resolved quickly. You need to speak up, immediately, to take care of this before moving on. Good luck!

© 2023 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.