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Legalities when builders/architects mess up - where do I stand?

(112 Posts)
PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 18:13:08

Ok, as always in my life, its long and complicated so i will give you the bare facts and can fill in any details you need as we go along.

Loft conversion. Involves removing wall of small bedroom and putting back a little, moving the door from right to left, and stairs to go in space created (half in, half in space already there). bedroom small, approx 8.5ft x 5ft. To lose around 1.5ft.

Architect/structural engineer did drawings. assured us when he suggested moving the wall for the stairs that it would be big enough for a standard sized single bed. He stipulated in writing that the internal structure was to be altered ensuring it would be large enough for single bed - this was stipulated on the plans, in black and white.

Anyway, builder had some issues with the stairs, including width of stairs being questioned by stair company and needing changing. Builder assured me it would have no inpact on the size of the bedroom, so I let him get on with sorting the stairs.

Stud wall just been put in. The room is really small. It is 6ft, and therefore it is now not big enough to put a single bed in at all. I think I can see where the problem is. The stairs are 800mm wide, should have been 600mm from what I recall, although the architect did not specify width. This has added 200mm to the top and the bottom of the stairs, which in total is 400mm, which is about how much the room is reduced too much by. Does not sound a lot, but its made a difference between a usable single room and a cupboard.

So, I do not at this stage know if its the architect, the builder, the stair company.

How do I proceed? The inspector has just signed the stairs off today, and the stud wall was then put in, while I was at work, so I did not know until I got home. I probably should have measured the room but presumed the builder knew what he was doing blush.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 18:28:16

Do you think it is too late to call the architect this evening? Should I wait until tomorrow morning? I am thinking that it would be a good idea to get them both together and get them to figure out what has gone wrong and what to do about it.

I am so upset. The minimum the builder can do is the shave off the additional lengths of the treads back to what they should be and shift the stairs across 200mm. but that is going add even more time to the work, the builder is going to be furious. But I have a right don't I? to have this done as it should have been? seeing as I am paying a lot of money for it to be done and I am going to in effect lose a bedroom.

I am so upset. So upset, and feeling so stressed and pregnant and stressed and I don't like conflict. Its just so much trouble sad

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 10-Aug-09 18:33:06

Don't know about legalities but I to would be very angry, phone architect first thing explain and ask for a site visit with the builder, you are not getting what you have requested.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 18:40:53

first thing? Or now? I just want to call him now, and then In think, but it is the evening. And then I think, but why should I be stressed all evening, and not sleep and get myself even more upset.

FiveGoMadInDorset Mon 10-Aug-09 18:45:20

Do you have his home phone number or will he still be at work. If you are getting stressed then phone him now.

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 18:47:24

I just can't believe it!!!

In fairness though it may be cheaper to buy a slightly shorter "shortie" bed I know where you can get them made, also a shortie mattress is only 2'6" so it makes the room seem bigger IYSWIM

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 18:55:04

I have his mobile, his office is at home. I am not getting stressed. I am already stressed and seem to be permanently this way right now, I just cannot deal with it to be honest. I want to get them both here right this second and tell me what they are going to do about it.

cargirl its bloody unbelievable. It will not be cheaper. I will not be paying any additional costs for this one. Not this time. I have it clearly on paper by the architect/structural engineer that this room would be fit for a single bed. Not just drawings, he wrote it down that a single bed is to fit. He is going to have to take the stud wall down, and move the stairs. its a long process right?

The small bedroom is now a bloody cupboard angry

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 18:57:48

but is moving the stairs going to make the upstairs even worse. I'm sure the stairs have to be a minimum width so has the architect stuffed up AGAIN?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 19:11:40

O.M.G! I have just spoken to the architect. This is what he said.

(para) 'i know there was a problem with the stairs, as xx (builder) made the floor higher than he needed to (loft floor), and therefore he needed an additional riser'

This would explain ALL the fucking problems we have had. We said the floor was too high. It was as it should have been and had to be that high for building regs apparantly. But it was not what the structural engineer told them they needed. This means an additional riser which explains why the bloody stairs go into the room as far as they do, as per my last thread (think you read that cargirl). I am not sure exactly how this equates to the room being smaller but it is something to do with the stairs, and it seems to be the builders fuck up. But as DH of course the builder will blame the architect (he did not, he let me do it and did not correct me) and the architect will blame the builder.

The architect will call the builder and arrange for them both to be here tomorrow evening to look at it as he said he cannot comment fully until he has seen it himself.

I have just hit a cupboard. I am so fucking angry. The bedroom is smaller than it should have been in the first place because the floor was higher than it should have been. everything is bloody smaller. I need to calm down. I am frustrated and angry and very very tearful angry

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 19:13:00

cargirl - moving the stairs would be fine as he would have to shave off 200mm each side, move it the 200mm he shaved off and then we will get 400mm back iyswim. fucking builders.

I apologise for my swearing but I have had enough.

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 19:15:55

It will be smaller because you are a foot higher up into the eaves.

To correct it they will have to surely redo the whole thing? Presumably they are insured.

I can't imagine how you must feel.

I would go and speak to the inspector and ask him if it would have been legal if it had been built how the architect planned it IYSWIM.


PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 19:41:02

Yes, I see where the loss of space is upstairs, not sure how the loss of space is lost downstairs due to the extra riser.

The builder is insured, we saw the insurance paperwork for £3m.

I think we can cope with the loss of space in one room. but not in both. The small bedroom is no longer a bedroom. it is just so fucking ridiculous.

I am so angry it is unreal. And I just feel so helpless right now.

It is probably a good job they are not coming around tonight to sort it. I will fucking go nuts at them.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 19:43:35

I don't know whether to say rip the whole lot out and do it all again so its as it should be, or to say, I will accept the floor height being too high (as fixing it will be so intrusive into our family life, ie another several months of work and we have a baby on the way) and pay a penalty of some kind, and just fix the room downstairs somehow.

I shall have to wait until tomorrow evening, and that is just too long. I do not know what to do with myself now sad

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 19:44:37

I think the problem in the downstairs room is simply down to the width of the stairs not the extra step?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 19:48:26

yes I think you are right, I hope so. If so, it will be rectifiable, as long as building control pass the changes he makes. That i make him make.

The floor height is 15inches from the original ceiling. It was meant to be no more than 8 inches. Builder blamed building regs. BUT the architect is also the structural engineer (he is a structural architect specifically) and up to recently was the chief officer of the local building control, so surely he should know how high it should have bloody been?

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 19:57:46

I would check the latest regulations with the council as these things change ALL the time. It will give you the ammunition when you take it up with them.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 20:03:04

regulations stipulate, according to stairs, that for lofts they have to be between 600mm and 800mm, while 800mm is prefered 600mm will be ok if leading to a single room of not more than x sqf, which applies.

Cargirl, thanks for talking to me, it helps to write it all down, puts it into some kind of perspective that is not blind rage, as I was before smile

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 20:05:04

What about ceiling heights?

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 20:12:14

The head height is 2m? I can't remember of the top of my head, but I beleive that is ok, as it is now, so far the building inspectors have signed everything off, including the stairs today. But he did not notice the additional step and that it is out slightly due to what we now know to be a cockup by the builder, not the stair company or the architect! (the builder was expecting that he either did not notice and all would be fine for him, or he did notice and make him redo the stairs. I wish he had bloody noticed, and I was not here to point it out have a chat about it all.

DaisymooSteiner Mon 10-Aug-09 21:52:18

What a total nightmare Pavlov. I can only look on with horror and buckets of sympathy. We're several weeks behind you in our own building work and I know how stressed I am and that's with everything being (basically) OK so far. Can only imagine how awful you're feeling.

What I don't understand is why he's not following the architect's plans - surely by not doing this he is liable automatically?

kc3 Mon 10-Aug-09 21:58:44

You have definately done the right thing by contacting the architect this evening and arranging meeting for tomorrow. It will be really difficult for either the architect or builder to lay the blame when they are both together.

To be honest with you the loss of space isn't really acceptable in either room you want what you are paying for. I think the architect should take responsibility in getting this sorted for you - did he not recommend the builder as well? (or was that a different thread?)

bodiddly Mon 10-Aug-09 22:05:04

Pavlov ... you have my total sympathy and obviously your builder has caused you massive unnecessary stress about all of this. I would point out (having dealt with loads of builders/architects etc with this type of job at work) that if you do make the builder alter things considerably at his own cost (obviously as it is his own fault) then be very very careful if you add any extras at all to the contract. Builders are notorious for trying to claw back any losses by overcharging on extras when they feel they have you over a barrel. You may not have any extras but I think most contracts have amendments and omissions to the original contract. If you do have any variations try and agree them as you go along rather than leaving them to the end. Good luck with it all - but stick to your guns!

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 22:14:09

kc3 - yes he recommended the builder. They have worked together before and both of them say this has not happened before hmm. The problem with not being happy with the space in either room - the actual loft room - the only way to resolve that issue is to rip up the floor and redo it. The floor has been steeled and beamed and boarded and the walls put in and plastered. All he keeps saying when we say it seems to high is 'no, its the right height, it has to be this height' and then blamed the stair company for not getting the tread heights accurate. I knew what he said did not make sense, but could not figure out why. Now I know, he had excess height to make up and put an additional tread in, (which was too high). It will take weeks and weeks and weeks to basically undo everything and redo it all. I do not know if I can cope with that.

Daisymoo - you know when you you look at your future and your past you see it all panning out and you think 'don't be stupid, your future won't be like that, it happens, but no reason for it to happen to you' thats what I thought as we embarked on this project. I wanted it and was excited but had dread there too, that 'of course it will be us that is fucks up for, thats bloody typical of us' and we researched, and it took us months to find a builder we were happy with, who we trusted, who we felt was a good middle ground between general builders who have no experience with loft conversions and those loft conversions specialists who charge a fortune just because of the fact they call themselves loft conversions specialists. We took time, checked with all those we thought we should check with re reputation.

And I keep thinking 'why us, why now' why can't I just have a smooth pregnancy, get a nice loft conversion done and have some space for my family. I am paying for it after all.

And I don't know why he has not followed the architects drawings, in particular in relation to the floor. If he made a mistake, why did he not just say so and undo it and redo it? I would not have been too stressed about that as we are not perfect us humans, but to cover it up hmm.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Mon 10-Aug-09 22:18:13

bodiddly thanks for that. Yes we have discussed some additional things, one of which is almost essential now and I worry that he is going to charge a fortune for it as he knows how much we want it (a cupboard put in under the stairs).

CarGirl Mon 10-Aug-09 22:18:30

Despite the horrificness please make him rip it up and redo it otherwise you have wasted your money, who will want a master bedroom in the loft that won't easily fit a double bed in it.

I think they builder was hoping to get away with the mistake and blame everyone else.

Clearly you can say - the reason why the stairs didn't fit is because you built the floor at the wrong height, now lower the floor to the correct height.

What a nightmare.

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