I once worked in the construction management department of a bank…that foreclosed on a builder who could not financially complete a project during an economic recession.

My assignment was to the complete the construction of 25 houses…which were 80 to 90 percent complete.

During a courtesy pre-final building inspection…the county building inspector called-out a code violation in 17 of the houses.  The violation was a 36-inch long gas cooktop placed on kitchen countertops directly below upper cabinets that contained 30-inch long microwave ovens.  This resulted in 3 inches of wood cabinets on each side of the microwave ovens…were directly above the cooktop burners.  The vertical clearance between the upper cabinets and the lower cabinet countertop was 15 inches…rather than the minimum 18 inches that was required for wood cabinets above gas cooktop burners.

When reviewing the plans, I saw that the architect had correctly drawn a 30-inch long cooktop beneath the 30-inch microwave oven (the microwave oven is considered non-combustible)…but the builder had decided to upgrade the cooktops to 36 inches during the sales models construction.  The county building inspector apologized for having missed this builder’s change on the sales models…but still required us to change the cooktops to 30-inch…which resulted in expensive ceramic tile repairs to the kitchen countertops affected.

The point in this example is that the builder changed the size of a kitchen appliance…contrary to the design plans and without the knowledge of the architect…and was unaware of the building code considerations.

Because the cabinet manufacturer worked entirely from the design plans…the only people aware of the cooktop upgrade were the cabinet installers cutting the larger openings in the cabinet plywood rough-top, and the ceramic tile installers.  Neither of these two groups of tradespersons could be expected to know the broader subtleties of the building codes or the manufacturer’s recommendations involving appliance clearances from wood cabinets.

If the builder had informed the architect of all changes…so they could be reviewed in terms of compliance with the building codes…this costly mistake would have been noticed by the architect…the design plans revised…and altogether prevented.