First let me say that I live in Corpus Christi, Texas. Over the past 7
years I probably have obtained 20-30 proposals for various
construction, pool, remodelling, landscaping, electrical work in my
home. Not one had any detail whatsoever. The only one that exceeded
one hand-written page was for a major remodel of my home. You are
lucky in this city to get someone to even give a bid. If you asked for
a detailed proposal, the vast majority of contractors would never call
I wanted to rebuild a deck next to my pool because the staircase to the
deck was made of steel with iron rails and was rusting to the point of
collapse. I decided I wanted to use ipe wood because of its ultimate
durability and beauty. No one in this city had even heard of the wood,
let alone used it. I contacted 4 contractors, Three came out to look
at the project, one despite literally 15 calls would never even give a
bid. Two said that they also did not want to bid because they had
never worked with the wood. One was enthusiastic and gave me a bid. I
felt that if I wanted to use ipe wood, I had to use this contractor.
After starting the project there were multiple arguments over "extra
labor" charges including charges for installing flashing (standard
construction technique from everyone I have asked, charges for
inspecting wood (2 hours), picking up materials (3 hours), even water
and ice charges, (none of which are outlined as possible charges in
the contract) the project is in its latter stages. I am satisfied
overall with the look and construction although I now find that he has
constructed the stairway to the 2nd story deck at a less steep angle
than the original staircase in order to incorporate a 4 foot landing
partway down. Although I guess this looks good, the less steep angle
of the stairs now means that when going up the stairs, I would hit my
head at least in three spots going up since the stairs are right next
to an eve of the house. He did suggest placing this landing to me and
I agreed to it, although I never would have agreed if I realized that
this would cause this problem. The stairway is 42" wide, and the eve
extends perhaps 15" into the stairway, so it is possible to go up the
stairs without problem if you walk on the side away from the eve.
Do other builders think that this was an incompetent mistake on the
part of the contractor? I really am so frustrated by this whole
project, I cannot bear the thought of telling the contractor to rebuild
the stairs. At the same time, every time I go up the stairs I will
probably get upset with the way they are built.
On 4 Oct 2006 19:01:57 -0700, " firstname.lastname@example.org"
If I understand your problem, it is that a fellow agreed to work with
an unfamiliar material you insisted on, did a decent job, charged
you amounts you agreed to, outlined a plan for a stairway which you
agreed to and which, when built, is unsatisfactory.
Is he incompetent? He just built you a deck using unfamiliar
materials. So, probably not.
Did he make a mistake? Likely. Code here calls for 74 inch clear
headroom above steps ... indoors. He *couid* have spotted
the looming <grin> problem of the eave. So could you.
You have a contract ... and he has built what the contract called for.
(You agreed.) But a product has to be reasonably suited to its
purpose for the contract to be satisfied.
Tell him you're unhappy .. he should have anticipated the problem and
probably so should you. Ask him for the best solution. Split the
cost with him.
Stair clearance is usually governed by the building code. Your deck
probably required a building permit. If your contractor pulled the permit,
then there is an implication that it be built to code. So, lets know the
Is stair clearance governed by code?
Did you have a building permit?
Did you pull the permit, or the contracor?
What did/does the inspector say about the clearances?
The wood you chose has nothing to do with headroom. It should never have
been built in a way that you'll hit your head in several places. Try
selling the place, this will be a real turnoff.
If you pulled a permit, you may not pass inspection if you don't have enough
headroom. If you didn't pull permits, that will come to haunt you one day.
Sounds like he needs to rebuild it at his expense.
There is no permit that I am aware of. I did not even know that a
permit is required. The contractor is registered with the BBB, and was
referred to me by another contractor. As I mentioned, the only reason
I went with the contractor was that I could find no others willing to
work with ipe wood. I have paid each and every draft as per contract
plus his "extras" which, once again, were not explained in the
At this point what should I do? Should I check into a permit? Is it
possible that the city may require that I tear down this deck which has
already cost me approximately 20K. In the future, what may be the
consequence if it does not meet code? I think the deck itself is O.K.,
it is only the stairs which are problematic.
I did not see how the stairs were going to be built until the landing
was placed today. I work during the day, so it is not possible for me
to watch every step of the construction. There was no draft or drawing
of the deck prior to construction. I would point out, part of the
problem was created because the stairway cannot be moved from the
housing eve because of a pool fence limits where the stairway can go.
I made it very clear to the contractor however, that I wanted the pool
fence to remain. Further, the original staircase did not have this
problem by simply being at a steeper angle without a landing halfway
I also want to restate that the eve covers about 15" of the 42" width
of stairway so it is possible to go up without hitting your head as
long as you stay on the side of stairway away from the eve.
Now I am really worried about this issue, and I will need to address it
ASAP since I think the contractor intends to complete the stairs and
entire deck within the next 48 hours. I think perhaps the simplest
solution would be to eliminate the landing. If this were done there
still might be a single area near the top of the stairs where clearance
would be low.
These days, unless you're really in the middle of nowhere, permits are
required for lots of work. Anytime you're making a change (or addition) to
your property, the type of thing that would affect an architects drawings OR
your tax assessment OR safety, you're usually looking at needing a permit.
The contractor might be required to take out the permit. You'll have to
check your local laws however.
Registered with BBB means very little, except if you file a complaint they
MAY help mediate. Or not .
If you want to be legit, check into a permit. Just call anonymously and ask
if you need a permit for a new deck. If they say yes, you have a decision
1) hope you don't get caught while you're living there
2) tell them what happened. They won't make you tear it down, they will
make you comply with code.
You spent 20k on the deck, do it right. $20k is too much not to.
what logic did you use to come up with that statement ?
Nothing was ever said about the deck size or amount or work involved or cost
Maybe its a small deck , maybe its a very large deck .
Either way the only concern is a job done should be a job done right, no
matter what the price
Done right = with proper permits, and satisfying the customer
If the customer ask you to do something outside the building codes - refuse
to do it.
I turn away work everyweek from people that want to work without permits
The deck is 270 sq feet. Permits were never discussed. If I were
aware that a permit is required, I would have insisted on it, and would
have had no problem in paying for the fees.
After speaking with the contractor, he kept saying that the clearance
and angle of the stairway was better than before (allowing even more
headroom than previously). I know that there HAD to have been some
change because I KNOW that I never had a problem with my head hitting
the house eve with the old staircase.
Quite frankly, It is my belief that the contractor did have some
responsibility for this problem. Nonetheless, I asked how much time it
would take to demo the existing stairway and build one just like the
old one. He told me it would take approximately half a day. Please
note that I never accused the contractor of any mistakes at all. I
simply stated the facts that I did not hit my head on the previous
stairway, and I wanted this new one to be the same.
I feel that I am always MORE THAN FAIR, in my dealings with people, so
I told him I would pay for a full's day extra labor costs (8 hours x
$65/hr), to demo the existing stairway and rebuild one to match the old
one. He agreed, and even said, "what's wrong with you," sarcastically
basically saying he was happy with that. I then wanted to clarify that
he would put back up the aluminum pool fence he took down to help make
space to build the deck, and he said no, that that was part of demo and
the contract did not call for him to put the fence back up. I told him
the contract did not call for him to take it down either, and I had
made it clear to him from the start that I intended to keep the pool
Am I wrong in assuming that when a contractor takes down an existing
structure which the owner has specified will remain in place after
construction, that the contractor would be expected to put it back up
after they are completed? Further, I already offered to pay him for
twice the labor time he said it would take to demo and rebuild the
staircase. This is exactly the pattern of disagreements that I have
had with this contractor.
Finally he said that he would put the pool fence back up, if he would
no longer be responsible for clearing construction debris, and I
agreed. Now that I am writing this, I am beginning to forsee futher
conflict when he has difficulty reassembling the fence because it is
attached to the deck posts which are a different size than on the
previous deck. I probably will be writing more on this in the future.
The contractor should have known to get the required permits. They need to
be posted near the construction. If you confess now, you'll need to pass
inspection and you'll probably have to pay twice the original fee. Call
your local building inspector and ask questions. If you do this
anonymously, beware caller ID.
I'd do this before he rebuilds your staircase so you can have an inspector
advise you on the matter of local codes pertaining to staircases. I'm
guessing there is a provision regulating the amount of vertical clearance.
Have the inspector approve the plans for the new staircase.
The clearance is measured from the very tip of the tread. If the contractor
measured from anywhere else, he may be fooling himself about the improved
clearance. He's not fooling you and your head wounds.
What about materials? Who pays for those?
That depends on your written agreement. Didn't he have to take it down to
"make space" to build the deck? It probably *was* figured into the contract
as part of the demo. Did he charge you for removing it and replacing it, or
just for removing it? Perhaps he never planned on replacing it since you
never specifically asked him to do it. Just because he knew you intended to
keep it doesn't mean he was responsible for putting it back up. Perhaps he
figured you'd want to do it yourself to save money.
How big of a project is it to replace the fence? It probably isn't worth
$65/hour, which is a good bit above what most building contractors charge
around here, BTW. Either do it yourself, hire someone different, or offer
him $20/hour to put it back up. He can send one of his grunts out to do it.
Who put it up in the first place?
How much more construction debris can there be at this point? Why is the
debris a point of contention for him? If there is enough that it's been an
issue, he should have gotten a dumpster in the beginning.
Agreed. However, $20k seems like a LOT of money for a deck. For that kind
of money I'd expect perfection. Ok, maybe not perfection, but better than
even a damn good job.
Agreed. Many people don't even realize how many things require permits.
Every year my town has a reminder in a spring newsletter that things like
sheds, decks, etc require a permit. Before that I had no idea that you need
a permit to build a shed here.
He is still on the job, I would simply discuss your concerns with him and
change the design back to the way the original stairway was constructed, or
some alternate that solves the problem. Changes happen, even if you had plans
drawn up things things can end up differently then you envisioned.
I'm building a two story addition on my home, and just removed two special
order Andersen windows and replaced them with different ones. I kept looking at
that wall and I wasn't happy. Yeah, it cost me money, but now it looks proper
and I feel a *lot* better.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.