Ask the Architect

‘We trusted our contractor . . .’


Q. We enlarged our kitchen into our garage, taking out walls. We now have this great open space we use constantly with our two small children, and thought we were finally done, but the building inspector informed us that we had only one inspection, not all that we needed, and he can’t sign off on our permit until our architect gives him letters for each thing left un-inspected, like insulation, beams, electrical work and plumbing. We trusted our contractor, who has done work for friends and family, to get all the inspections, but apparently he never did. He told us he did, then made a false excuse that the inspectors weren’t coming into homes because of the pandemic, which the inspector said wasn’t true.
So now we’re stuck, since the inspector wants proof that the work follows the plans, and says that the architect should give him letters with his signature and official seal. Either that or we will need to have the contractor, who isn’t returning calls, open the walls and ceilings to prove the work was done. We dread this happening and wonder if there isn’t some other way. What can we do?

A. Maybe someday there will be an easy way to see through walls. What you describe is so common that building authorities should come up with a better way to hold the contractor legally responsible instead of turning to the architect. A contractor’s most important tool is the phone. Your contractor could have avoided all of this. If the architect wasn’t called and didn’t see the work, it is fraud to write the letter your inspector is suggesting. You may need to open areas for either the inspector or the architect, or both, to see examples of critical points.
What I often advise is that homeowners take lots of pictures of work. When taking pictures, it’s helpful to stand far enough away to see the relationship of where it is located relative to the surrounding building. I regularly see pictures so close up that I can’t tell anything about where the subject of the picture is located. So take a picture farther away, then walk closer, take another picture, then close up, where details can be examined. Each view allows a look at connections, which are extremely important, and then the conditions close up, of materials and joining techniques, such as a lack of bolts or nails.
Foundations should show, progressively, an empty pit with a tape measure held to show the depth of the excavation, then width. The plumbing work must be handled by a licensed plumber, who must get the final plumbing inspection and plumbing inspector signoff. The electrician must do the same with the electrical work, and final electrical certification from a private agency. Neither your architect nor the building inspector does this. Bad reviews may get your contractor to comply, open up and repair the work if he won’t answer the phone, but you will get through this. Good luck!

© 2022 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.