Architect saves the day during construction!

August 9th, 2006 by Peter Schmelzer

Sometimes, homeowners decline having their architect stay involved with their project during construction. It makes sense at first, given the natural impulse to save money. However, experience has taught us that it is often better to keep the architect on the team.

Here is an non-local example from the Not So Big House Forum, in which I participate from time to time:

Homeowner: Posted 27 July 2006 02:10 PM
I came home to find that the subcontractor laying the slab for our basement floor did not put in the expansion joints. We have had problems with him since the getgo. He has had to be forced to do everything according to plan. I now doubt whether he put in the vapor barrier or the mesh called for on the plans. Our contractor came to the site to remind them prior to pouring and the engineer at the architects office also told them to do the expansion joints. I do not know what to do our what the consequences my be. ????? I am so angry

Peter: Posted 07 August 2006 10:21 AM
My understanding is that concrete shrinks as it cures, so the joints you are after are actually “control joints”, controlling where the inevitable shrinkage cracks occur.
There are two ways to do these joints: tooling them in or saw cutting them. Cutting leaves a narrow kerf while tooling can offer a variety of edge configurations.
Have you retained your architect for construction administration? If so, they should address the issues with the contractor on your behalf.

Homeowner:Posted 07 August 2006 01:31 PM
Thank you. The sub ended up saw cutting them. My husband had not wanted the expense of retaining the architect for construction administration, but this incident with some others changed his mind. Luckily the architect was available (and just waiting for us to realize our folly). The contractor is perfectly ok with it, since they have worked together in the past. Whew. Learn as you go.

Peter: Posted 08 August 2006 05:29 PM

I’m glad you worked it out to your satisfaction.

As an architect, I recommend Construction Administration services to my clients, but the expense is often viewed as too much. Then, when there is a problem, it is often too late for an easy fix, a situation which we would all like to avoid.

Could I post your comments on my weblog, to help my prospective clients understand the value of having the architect involved during construction?

Homeowner: Posted 09 August 2006 10:33 AM
Go right ahead and post my comments (edited or not). It may help someone else avoid a headache, and if spouses are in disagreement over the expense, it may help sway one to the other side. Frankly I would tell anyone building to contract for Architect’s Construction Administration services.

Things are going so much smoother now. There were other questions relating to unexpected site developments and the architect drew up new details to make sure we had an aethetically pleasing and cost effective solution.

Why go through all the expense and time to work with an architect to plan the best house for your own needs and then let it up to chance and a contractor whether or not you get the house you envisioned? We are not wealthy people, but we have a spectacular site and no stock plan was going to do it justice. I don’t want to be disappointed and I would rather put off some work or do it myself than compromise the plan to death.

I added the emphasis above, because it matches our experience.

Let’s be clear here. This may have been primarily a miscommunication between contractor and owner or it could have been the homeowner’s inexperience with expansion joints. Either way, it had a significant emotional impact on the homeowner. Had the architect been involved at the time, the issue would have been quickly diffused, saving the homeowner some emotional energy. Sometimes contractors and homeowners speak different languages, and your architect can translate.

Three things I really liked from the last comments.

First, the change in the homeowner’s tone and level of satisfaction after the architect became involved again.

Second, the change from a bumpy road to a smooth process.

Finally, the evident teamwork between owner, contractor and architect to handle unforseen situations to the owner’s satisfaction.

What a strong testament to retaining an architect for construction administration!

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