Ask the Architect

'You didn't get what you paid for'


Q. A few years back we had some work done, and were given a contract that included a one-year guarantee for a second-floor addition with a deck. For the past six months we’ve had a leak above a sliding glass door where the deck contacts the wall, and the sliding doors wouldn’t open. We had a different contractor take a look, since the first contractor couldn’t be reached, and he discovered that the problem was that the beam over the door was never put in right. Instead of double 2x10s, as the permit plans show, the beam was made of several 2x4s stacked on top of each other and nailed together. The new contractor says this is wrong, and that the old contractor’s warrantee doesn’t matter; he’s responsible anyway. We really don’t want the old contractor back, we just want him to pay for this. Have you ever heard of this, and what can we expect?

A. I’ve seen irresponsible work like this before, and you didn’t get what you paid for. Stacking 2x4s is not only wrong, it’s dangerous, and if it had collapsed, it would also be criminal. I once had the police stop a project because of work like this, which posed a “clear and present danger.” In that case, collapse was imminent. The weight above the work was extreme, calculated at over 13,000 pounds, including granite floors, luxury kitchen appliances, etc. Yellow crime scene tape was used until the work was corrected and properly inspected. It never would have gone that far if the contractor hadn’t refused to correct the work and had immediately braced it. Instead, he wanted to demonstrate how strong it was by removing the temporary bracing.

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