I am just about to start production on a commercial millwork job (coffee bar/deli). I agreed to submit drawings for the scope of my work. I have had to redraw one area over completely due to the client making a major change. I am subcontracting from the GC. There is also an architect subcontracting the overall remodel project drawings. The architect also has a commercial kitchen specialist under him that drew the plans for the cooking station/food service area.
This is an open air food service operation behind an ordering/service bar. According to ADA rules, the bar has to have an ADA ordering area. I had a feeling that the bar ADA area would not pass inspection. I went to the planning department and found out it needed to be redesigned to meet ADA code. The architect said it was my job to take care of the final details after he "roughed it in" with the plans he and his sub drew. So, I redrew and submitted revised drawings (again) for the affected plan and elevation views of this bar.
My question is, where is my responsibility as to things like other clearances in walkways, ADA seating clearances, etc? The general contractor is building pony walls that will support bar tops provided by me as well as wainscoting as a bar wall facing.
If the inspector finds insufficient clearances between the bar and other walls, tables, etc., am I liable in any way? If I had built and installed the bar ADA area as shown by the architect on his drawings, would I have had to remake it free of charge? Is there something that should be in my contract to protect me from the mistakes of other careless parties? Like not enough clearance between the edge of the bar top and the tables and wall nearby (the building is long and narrow). Again, the bar tops are supported by a wall that will be laid out and framed by the GC. I am not looking for a way to shirk my responsibilities, just want to know who is responsible in this case.
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
In my experience, if you admit to being a carpenter or someone with knowledge of woodworking in any form, all parties involved will be pointing all 10 fingers at you, if something is amiss that could affect the project passing code or holding up an occupancy certificate. I recently did an insurance office, just this side of BFE, that I constructed per the architect's plans, that were in fact drawn and built to American ADA specs, that were subsequently turned down by, get this - a "Texas" ADA inspector. Good enough to pass American ADA, but not good enough for some Texas hick with a rural jurisdiction. By the way, my phone was ringing off the wall, from the architect and the GC.
ADA is very strictly enforced. Here is an example of how far this can affect a business: There is a disabled man that travels around in California and goes into businesses looking for ADA violations. He has a clever butthead lawyer helping him with the details and they take the business to court and, get this, they have won most cases. It makes just about everyone PO'd at the situation, but the law is the law. This guy has made millions and, as far as I know, nothing can stop him unless he can't find violations. Do you want to go to court and be a part of something like this?
I have been a general building contractor and cabinetmaker for almost 25 years. In that time I have been involved with a bunch of pass-the-buck jerks. Don't fall for any of it. Make your contracts very clear right at the start. This is the kind of stuff that can put you out of business or worse. I can't emphasize that enough.
"For the record, on all of the restaurant projects I have worked on with a bar component (8 so far), we have only provided the rough layout and the millwork sub has taken it from there with shop drawings based on field measurements. These drawings show detailed layout, finishes, and construction details."
So, I felt forced into the position of drawing the elevation and section myself to then be submitted to the architect to get confirmation that it was what he meant with his vague drawings. Was I duped? Should I have continued to insist that the architect needed to provide at least a front elevation of the ADA? Isn't it part of my job to provide detailed drawings of my scope of the project?
You are very zealous in your desire to be the all encompassing cabinet man. Just don't let your passion to please get you into trouble. Stay with what you know. Make those that went to school for so long tell you what to put in the drawings. I don't think anyone is saying don't do drawings for your customers. Just leave the specs to the spec guys.
The construction documents, plans and specs have the general design information in them. Subcontractors are required to use those documents to produce detail drawings of the product (shop drawings) they are supplying and submit them along with product information for approval by the designers, the GC and the owners. It's not just the millwork contractors that are required to do this. Usually every trade or supplier has to provide shop drawings or other submittals for review. It is the architect's responsibility to review shop drawings and determine if they fit with their overall design. The GC's responsible to determine that the design dovetails with the other trades. The engineers review for compliance with their design and the owner may review to see that they comply with their demands.
I generally install millwork, I don't manufacture it. When I install, I always install to the shop drawings, but I use the architecturals as well for information such as placement of cabinets within a room.
Shop drawings are a pain but they tend to protect you more than incriminate you. If they are reviewed and stamped, no architect or GC can come back and tell you your product isn't what they wanted or doesn't comply with the contract.
Otherwise, the GC is the person responsible for ensuring as-built meets code. Architect is supposed to design to code, and their plans should all be to code, but that's why they have errors and omissions insurance and you don't.
The proper chain is supposed to be that the sub makes note that some part of their scope of work will not meet code, and reports that to the GC. The GC verifies that code is or is not being met, and notifies the architect. The architect then draws a proper set of plans that shows all the elements that need to meet code.
Your shop drawings are not supposed to be code check drawings. They are the specific designs of how the cabinets and parts will be built and installed, because the architect doesn't tell you whether to build your casework with dowels, M&T, or KD hardware (except in special circumstances).
The planning department inspector whom I spoke with and showed my drawings to confirmed to me that it (the ADA) would not pass inspection if built like it was drawn and dimensioned. I thanked him and left with my drawings and some ADA specifications he gave me. The reason I went through this much trouble was because I am a one man operation and this is a large chunk of millwork. The GC wanted me to get started before hand so that I wouldn't hold up the opening of the restaurant.
So, all of my drawings have been sent to the GC who then forwards copies to the owner for approval and also to the architect for the purpose of ensuring that I intend to produce what he has been instructed to draw.
After I redesigned the bar ADA area, the architect's comment was he was glad somebody double checked and caught the error. It was that which prompted me to write the post. He had refused to submit missing elevations and sections when I requested them several times. Now he was glad I caught his mistake. So, I started wondering if I would now be liable for that ADA code or any other codes on the project. I am used to being responsible for codes in residential kitchen work because there generally is no architect and I make sure all walkways are up to code and remind the GC about electrical outlets in islands and so forth. I think from what is said here that I am probably doing the residential incorrectly too.
But, when an architect is involved, they are the ones who are supposed to be on the hook for that stuff. That's what they are being paid for, and what they are insured for. They are the ones in charge of producing, maintaining, and modifying the official record of what is planned and built.
In the absence of an architect, that job falls to the GC. The structure of management is simpler at that point, and often a little less formal, but it's still important to keep the line of responsibility clear, and that is always the GC, in the end. Being helpful and providing drawings is fine so long as the GC is still the one responsible for verifying and accepting them. Then anything later called a mistake is on the GC, not you.
Granted, the architect owned up to the mistake(s) but he should have listened to you in the first place and made corrections to his own plans. Best is to skip doing shop drawings until he corrects his mistakes.
It is good that you spotted the mistakes prior to doing the work incorrectly. But don't be bullied by the GC to get started until "they" correct the ADA errors. It's a CYA world and you best do so.
You aren't responsible for the general design or complying to codes - that's the responsibility of the designers and the GC. If there was a problem, though, and it went to court, you can bet you would be named in the suit and it would be up to you to prove you weren't responsible.
The fact that you RFI'ed the architect and submitted shop drawings that were reviewed by all the relevant parties proves that you did all you could to insure your product complied with the designer's plans and you have a firm paper trail to back up your argument.
In your case the architect owes you a debt of gratitude because you picked out a mistake in his design that could have been very costly if it wasn't caught until occupancy. I would say the architect owes you at least a bottle of single malt.