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Re: Contractors Reputation

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My sincere thanks to all of you who responded. Although a hard pill to take,
I feel that both Lynn Howard and Ron Fong were most conservative in their
responses and made me feel as though I do deserve some of the blame.
However, after reading about a half dozen more comments I feel that I acted
responsibly to correct the problem and deserve to receive most of my
invoice. Here are some of the reasons.
1. As many of you stated, the post bases fall under the category of "Must
Have" and I spent a great deal of time working to eliminate over half of the
bases to keep the owners remedial cost under control while preserving the
safety and code compliance of the project.
2. I asked for (four times) and never received a pre-construction meeting to
review the plans.
3. The error was not caught by the contractor until after the damage was
done. At this time he called my office and asked me to come to the site
where he showed me the conditions and asked if there were suppose to be post
bases installed. This should have been asked before the slab was poured.
4. I believe that Stan Johnson stated it clearly in his closing lines
"There's no such thing as a perfect set of plans". For this reason I have
added the general notes that Ron Fong feels may be my saving grace if not
challenged in court. I believe that if you look hard enough you will find
errors or ommissions in every set of plans. I know that some contractors
make a living looking for the errors in order to profit more during
construction. My opinion is that as long as the details existed on the plans
and they were job specific (which they were) the contractor is responsible
to identify them and question thier relevance to the plans.
Please remember that a well informed contractor or framer will bid the job
from the details. To provide an accurate bid, he must know how many specific
conditions and hardware occur on the plans. If he did not question this, he
either did not look at the detail or he decided to knowingly use it to his

Lynn, you suggested I stop writing letters. I am ashamed to admit that
writing (not necessarily spelling) is a strong suit in my favor. Please
understand that my drawer is full of the drafts that I wanted to send. What
I did send was reviewed not only by me, but one of my better critics - my
wife. I avoided the name calling and anger and simply stated the facts (I
did leave the name calling and accusations in my trash can on the left side
of the Windows 95 screen). I sent the letter because I was removed from the
loop in order to defend my self when the owner met with the contractor to
discuss my invoice. I don't think I could have defended myself so eloquently
had I to do it by phone or in person. This is where the emotions would
really get me in trouble.
Lynn, I am also amazed that I did not think to have the designer write a
letter to the owner. This is a wonderful idea and one which I will jump on
One more thing. I did not get defensive. I did get mad when the framer
started to run around in circles, stamping his feet and complaining that I
was the worst engineer he ever ran up against. He kept pointing to the plans
and saying "Well, Dennis, It's not there!" over and over again. When I
showed him the details and the other details that he missed he changed
directions and pointed to a plan with the shearwalls noted (not a framing
plan) and indicated that this was the only sheet he looked at for references
to "shear transfer details" and if they were not on the Shear plan he
ignored them. Now I got really hot. I ended up not saying another word and
left the site. I realized that he would have an explanation no matter if I
was right or wrong.

Ron Fong,
I can't argure that the reference was missing. I can only argue that I acted
promptly and responsibly to rectify the problem and did not charge the owner
for the hours and details that I provided to correct the mistake. On a home
valued at 1.5 million, the cost of remedial work valued at $1,500.00 for a
Must Have item is insignificant to the owner and is about a weeks salary for
me. I believe that the penalty was disproportionaly distributed and that the
contractor walked away without fault.
I don't know if my general note can be contested in court - for enough
money, anything can be contested. However, these notes are placed on the
plans to protect the engineer and owner by requiring the contractor to
review and discuss the information provided him. I don't feel that this is
unreasonable and can be used to eliminate problems such as this. Remember,
this was not a tract home but a $1,500,000.00 custom home were every detail
was specific to the job or was to be used in multiple locations. I never
have and never will lump a set of details together, cross out those not
relevant and submit the generic remainder for construction. Yes, I work from
a library of details (although over 80% of the details on this set were
drawn for this project) but I make sure that each and every detail is
changed to reflect the true conditions on the site. The only typical detials
I provide are plate splices (4'-0" laps), slab foundations, vertical plywood
panel layouts, horizontal plywood panel layouts, wood stud wall framing at
corners, anchor bolt and holddown details and post base and caps. I do
suppliment all details with job specific drag straps which call out the the
length of drag, the number and size of nails and the length of all required

To all others,
I was not hired by the contractor. His reputation is actually very good,
however he never had to contend with a structural observation and works in
an area where the building inspectors are not structurally educated.
Therefore, his reputation is based upon finish work and not what lies
underneigth. Not until this last month did this city require the engineer of
record to ever appear on the site and therefore accepted whatever methods of
construction the contractor provided. This is true of virtually every other
city in this valley - however "times they are a changing".
I work well with the designer who works with various contractors. I do know
that if known up front, this contractor and I will never work together

Again, thank you all for your input. This list has provided support that I
needed so that I don't feel as though I have to stand alone on this issue. I
thank you all for your frank and expressive responses.