Published on August 20th, 2013 | by Henri


Who is responsible for details of building an addition?

Q.  My wife and I are in the process of trying to get an addition to our house. An architect has done the necessary drawings for us to get on the schedule for zoning variances. Assuming the variances are granted, the architect will proceed with the detailed drawings for whatever builder we select.

I must confess that I dread what’s coming: selecting a builder, getting details nailed down, and going through the trauma of the addition. Who is supposed to get the “engineering” details right, the architect or the builder? Things like the right drip edge product you mentioned in a recent column. Or, what to do about the roof? We have an old tongue-and-groove sheathing with three or more layers of shingles; some of the boards are cracked or have missing pieces, and you can see and touch the asphalt product. No ridge vent, no soffit vents, no insulation.  There’s a finished room in the attic (the room is insulated), and it gets hot in the attic in the summer outside the finished room; what is the best approach to improve this?  I recall your column where you suggested 1/4 inch sheathing over the tongue-&-groove, as well as a column recommending “organic” shingles.  And, you prefer hand-nailing. That’s just the roof! Gosh, who is supposed to know all this stuff?

I think my wife’s approach is to just trust the architect and builder, I don’t think I’ll be getting much support there for me sweating over the details with the builder. Any suggestions?  Books?  Moving?  Run away? — I’m too old to join the French Foreign Legion…

A.    The issues you mentioned are all addressed in my book, “About the House with Henri de Marne,” which I hope will be a handy resource as you try to stay on top of the issues you will face. Congratulations on your efforts to understand the process of remodeling even if the work is being done by trusted professionals.

The architect doing the working drawings for your addition is responsible for the engineering, if any is needed. If he or she is not qualified to do the engineering, he or she will retain the services of a structural engineer to handle that phase.

The architect should detail and specify the framing of the addition, the type of metal drip edge, roof covering, insulation, interior finishes, etc. if he or she is paid to do a complete set of working drawings. The architect should also help in the selection of a competent builder.
The builder is responsible for pointing out to the architect any conditions that are unforeseen or not easily handled, or may add much to the cost, etc.

All existing roof covering should be removed. Any damaged sheathing should be repaired. If the existing sheathing is uneven or badly damaged, it should be covered with a layer of half-inch thick CDX plywood.

If you have selected a competent architect and builder, you should stop worrying about these details and anticipate the advantages the new addition will bring you. Building a house or an addition, or doing any remodeling, is a shared project between the client who initiates the process, the architect who designs it and the builder who builds it. Competence of all those involved and trust in their abilities is an important part of the success of the project. Your wife has the sensible approach. Take her out to dinner and bring her flowers, and enjoy life. The French Foreign Legion would be a lot tougher than building an addition.

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