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  1. #1
    Julia Tang's Avatar
    Julia Tang Guest

    Exclamation Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Hi there,

    I would seek help and advice for the following situation:

    We are building a new house with a walk out basement. We asked builder to put a garage side service door behind garage wall -- see attached picture in the link: Garage Service Door Picture

    We just found that the side door was built on the cliff - right above retaining wall. We cannot get in or get out through that door - there is about 10 ft above the ground - basically you cannot step out. The architect or engineer designed the house made mistake by not considering extension of driveway in order to get access the side entrance. We asked builder to fix the problem. But builder told us that we need find ways by ourselves to get the access to the door. Builder suggested to move side door to the garage door side, but there is not enough space to put a door there.

    My question is whether there is a building code builder should follow: if there is side door on garage, is builder responsible to make sure they build it for people to access once the house is built? How can ask them to make extension of L-Shape of retaining wall to fix the problem by a convincing reason or regulations?

    Your help for this matter is greatly appreciated.

    -Julia

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    Last edited by Julia Tang; 07-10-2011 at 09:33 PM. Reason: add picture link html
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    The builder would be required to make the door safe. The easiest way is to secure the door so it cannot be opened. As far as I know there is nothing saying he has to build a deck or landscape the area so the doorway can be used. Same as if they put in a patio door and no deck. My guess is that it will be your responsibility since it was not in the original plans. I'm sure if you offered to pay the extra costs involved in making a landing the builder would do it for you.

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  3. #3
    Julia Tang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Ken, Thank you for your comments. It is common sense that the side entrance door need be accessed through driveway. Otherwise, it does not make sense to put a door there. The door was in the floor plan. I try to find building code for whether builder needs to finish the job per code.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Based on the information provided I have to side with the Builder. Granted, the builder is an idiot from a liability standpoint for not securing the door closed until such time there are stairs.
    However, since this is new construction he probably bid the job based on the Plans. If there are no stairs or grading detailed in the Plans he probably didn't budget for it. Your architect and SE, even by your own admission, are at fault here. As a builder I would not take on the fault or fix your problem out of my own pocket. Why? it's someone else's screw-up. True, the builder should have thought about it and brought the situation to your attention. Maybe he's good, maybe he's not so good. Maybe the relationship is already strained and he just wants to finish and get out. We don't know.
    It isn't uncommon for various things to get forgotten on a set of Plans. It also isn't uncommon for people to leave things off of Plans knowing they will add them later. Maybe the builder thought you and cousin Bob were going to build your own Ipe stairs as a DIY project.
    You can try going after the Arch or SE for the money but that will be a waste of time. I would recommend negotiating a deal with the builder to pay him for a set of stairs.
    A simple set of treated stairs doesn't cost a lot. However there are many expensive solutions as well. It all depends on what you want.
    Do you have a construction inspector or project manager working solely for you?

    www.aic-chicago.com
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    It sounds like a design problem and not a code problem. If you think it is a code problem you should contact the local code offical and get an offical ruling on it. In the end that is what you will need to go with anyway.

    If the original plans did not have a door and you had one put in then you have altered the original plans. At this point it becomes your responsibility to take care of the problem you have created. I'm sure the builder would take care of it if you paid for this modification.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    You asked him to put a door in. Did you go to the building site and show the builder WHERE you wanted the door? If this is the only place a door will fit, then he really didn't have much of a choice on its location.

    This situation is easily fixed. Either remove the door and close in the opening, or install a landing and some stairs. Both would be at your expense I would guess, since he did what you asked him to do.

    I agree, this isn't a code issue.

    Since this house appears to be in the early framing stage, its not possible to determine what the builder had planned for a landing or access to the door, or what the change order called out.

    Last edited by Jack Feldmann; 07-11-2011 at 09:04 AM.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    It appears that the man door is in the side wall projection of the garage and near an intersection of the house's and garage's foundation walls, not a "back wall" of the garage, and as part of the footprint of the attached garage and home's foundation walls, and therefore would not, at that location, be a mere "retaining wall". Unclear and unknown as to the garage pad if suspended or not, or if foundation was properly constructed to plan and/or lot conditions.

    It is also unclear as to who the engineer and/or architect work for, YOU or "the builder". You assign blame to those parties, yet do not indicate if either were consulted and/or engaged to draft modifications regarding your desired change order (again more money) to review, address, and include your desired site, foundation, elevation changes involved in this garage man-door addition to the plans. I see no entry o/h protection or projection either, however unknown if gable end projection in the plans. Unknown if exterior receptacle and/or exterior lighting is additionally planned, or even required locally for such.

    There are code sections regarding back fill of foundation walls, etc. We do NOT know, and have no indication at this point just what the "plans" indicate regarding site grading, ultimate planned topography, or fill. Unclear if this is a new project or addition, etc. so which MI codes may apply, if existing election, etc. Also unknown if under any sort of covenants, etc. which include architectual restrictions, etc.

    Exit and entry doors, require landings on either side and guarded stairs at elevations such as you have described and photographed.

    I glean from your post that the opening was not on the original plan - and thus a "change order" to the original contract - and thus you likely would be paying extra. It also seems that the specifications of said "change order" at this point were vague and addressed only the creation of a framed opening for a "man door" and did not include a door frame or door itself, or access. We also do not know if this doorway is planned for a simple exterior prime door, or a combination prime door and storm/screen door.

    Yes the building codes do require an exit path, safe egress, etc. or at minimum some sort of landing and at elevation guards even on secondary exits. The "stairway" sections of the codes and the "guards", "handrails" etc. do apply especially at those proposed elevations.

    As far as the cost of same, being a change order, and the additional "change orders" or other contracted party to complete the necessary - that seems as you imply, to be outside of your present contract with "the builder" at this point. We do not know just what is and is not "in the plan" or "in the contract" including any agreed upon change orders, with any specificity, contained therein.

    It seems unclear if you are acting as your own developer, already owned the land, and GC and have contracted the work out, have hired a GC, and have contracted an individual home to be built, are modifying a previously existing home/lot you already owned, or are under contract with a developer to build a new home upon land you do not yet own.

    I suggest you consult a contract, construction, real estate attorney regarding your project documents, etc. and engage an independant construction consultant, plans examiner, RDP, etc. as needed, to assist you, PDQ regarding review, inspections, and representing your interests regarding the stage progress on your project, and clarifying just what IS and IS NOT included in the "four corners" of your agreement/contract with "the builder", and the progress/compliance with same.

    We do not know what the orginal undisturbed topography of the lot was, nor what the finished was/is planned to be and what approval/plan review/permit applications, issuances, approvals, indicate as well.

    Last edited by H.G. Watson, Sr.; 07-11-2011 at 09:15 AM.

  8. #8
    Julia Tang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Markus, Thank you for your reply. I agree with you that is the architect's design problem. We did not get chance to review the prints in detail. We want to access the side door through drive way, not from rear yard. The set of stairs will not help for what we want. The builder did not find the problem until the house was framed. Should we ask builder to get answer from architect for why did not take consideration of the side door?

    If the retaining wall can be entended to a L-Shape with the width same as the door width, that resolve the problem.

    Scott - thanks for the reply. You are right, it is not code problem, it is the design problem the architect and the builder office made. It is in the very first floor plan, it is not added later on. The architect designed the house based on the Lot situation for all other areas, but he forgot this side door entrance. What should we do? Basically we do not want to pay the L-Shape retaining wall since we were never told that this door could not be accessed from beginning to now. If it were built this way, we would not add it.

    Thanks all.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Regardless of whether or not the buyer asked for the door at this location, it is up to the builder to catch things like this as they are the professionals and the ones being paid to do things properly. If they see something that was requested by the buyer but is going to be a problem to complete as requested, the builder needs to communicate with the buyer and let them know what is going on.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Mr. Fekdmann, The door designed on the floor plan print per our direction. Looks it is the only location the door will fit. Thank you for your time to help me.

    Mr. Watson, We are buying a new construction. The builder owns the lot and build the house per the floor plans we agreed. Thanks for the reminding us the safety problem if the door is set in this way. The initial purpose is to build the side entrance door in order to get the garage through drive way. This has been discussed during PA sign off.

    Thank you all for the time and kind responses to this issue!



  11. #11
    Julia Tang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Dear Nick,

    Thank you!! My husband and I think of the same thoughts as yours:

    "Regardless of whether or not the buyer asked for the door at this location, it is up to the builder to catch things like this as they are the professionals and the ones being paid to do things properly. If they see something that was requested by the buyer but is going to be a problem to complete as requested, the builder needs to communicate with the buyer and let them know what is going on."

    The architect or the design firm the builder hired made mistake and did not design the entrance through driveway. We think that the builder company should have expert to audit the prints to do error proof checking before the house is going to construction. If they found problem front print, they should let us know up front, not wait until the house is framed, then it is a surprise to builder which they did not expect to happen this way also.

    All we ask for is to deliver us what has been promised - an entrance to the door through drive way - so the kids from school just need open the side door to get in the house, not the garage door.

    I have hard time to convince the builder that architect made the mistake, and they should fix the mistake at their cost with a L-Shape extension of retaining wall (about the door width rather than the driveway width- in order to save them the cost).

    Thank you.


  12. #12
    Bode Cavallaro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Julia you say ...it is the design problem the architect and the builder office made. It is in the very first floor plan, it is not added later on. The architect designed the house based on the Lot situation for all other areas, but he forgot this side door entrance.

    What did he forget? That there is a 6 foot drop off at the door and along the driveway. Did he forget the hand rail on top of the driveway retaining wall too?
    Typically building agreements specify all amenities that the builder is responsible to include based on the plans and specifications provided by the architect.. Does the original Site Plan have a walkway shown in this location?


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    It appears that the adjoining home-foundation wall has been parged in preparation for backfilling. Is the grade suppposed to be brought up to this level?..........if so, problem would be resolved.
    Greg


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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    This really boils down to a breakdown in communication. The site plan should show the driveway, walkways, retaining walls, etc. The floor plan should show the exterior doors. Somewhere in that mix, someone should have noticed there was a door at the edge of the retaining wall.

    The foundation guy and retaining wall guy really don't care where the doors are going to go. They are just following the plans.

    The framing guy comes along and starts framing according to the plans. Now, he may only have the house framing plans and isn't the same guy that would be building decks, stairs etc. So for him to frame in a door at the edge of a retaining wall, may not be that odd, he might assume there was going to be a deck or stairs installed there later (by someone else).

    But the breakdown here (IMHO) is resting on the GC/builder that is running the job, AND the architect. If it was me, that's where the buck would likely stop.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    This is actually kind of silly in my opinion.

    You asked for a door. The builder put in a door. I assume he told you of it being an extra. Even if he did not then he should still be responsible for it. You cannot put a door in with out a landing, porch, landing with stairs, balcony, whatever. You cannot have an exterior door with out it being in the plans. You cannot for safety sake put a door in a wall 10 feet off the ground without something to catch what ever comes out it. It is absolutely foolish.

    The builder either needs to finish the job and to code compliant standards, city standards etc or he has to close the opening back up. If one looks at the amount of work to be done to wrap a landing around the the driveway we are talking a pretty good chunk of cash no matter what he does. It is time to sit down and talk to the builder. If he has no resolve other than "you wanted a door opening/door and you got it" then the man needs to continue on with a proper means of access-----landing, stairs,balcony, what ever. If not then he needs to close it up but it cannot be left like that.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem


    Bode, The designer/architect forgot adding extension of driveway towards back yard in order tohave people to enter service door through garage. The elevation shows a flat landing areaaround side door. There is no detail inPA to say the door need be accessed through drive way since it is a common senseto everyone. By looking back, we shouldask builder to put it in writing….. Thank you for reply

    Greg, There is no plan to back fill soil up to drivewayheight. Basically if the door is built in this way, we cannot get in or get outthrough the door, also not safe. Thanks for your time.

    Jack – You are right that the contractors are differentgroups, they just do their job to finish what specifications are onprints. We were never told that the doorwould look like this at the cliff – otherwise, we would not add on at our cost……thanks.

    Ted - You are rightthat they told us that “you need the door, we install it for you”. How toaccess it, it is your choice…. To me, it is not a reasonable answer. I did notsee any garage service door built w/o access from driveway. Even we build adeck in the rear, it will look weird with a small deck just for the door, alsolack of meaning to have a door there. Iproposed a L-shape extension w/ about 3-4 ft width. Not sure whether builder will accept it.

    What I am looking for is whether there is astandard rule from your professional inspectors' KNOWLEDGE is that whether this house will passinspection if the door leaves in this way. Is there state rule or city rule for house safety?
    THANK YOU ALL.
    S


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Jullia,
    Part of your answer lies in Michigan Building code as to meeting their requirements for the installation of the door.

    Another part of your answer is: The door being installed and not being able to be used at completion of construction is similar to having a a patio door installed ( 6 ft above grade) when the house was built and not having the deck built that it would open onto in place. The door would have a barrier that would prevent you from falling out of the opening. With the idea that at some point in the future the deck / stars would be built.


    I would say that the final part of our answer is who was responsible for the door and its function. If you were given plans that you signed off on, then you hold responsibility for the door. If the plans were not followed then your General Contractor is responsible, provided he is responsible in the contract that you had with the GC. If your contracts do not assign responsibility then its on you. Basically if not in writing then it doesn't exist.

    Get your self a lawyer as it seem the cost of correcting the problem may be high. Your leverage is in the payouts to the GC and subs. The GC will work on you till you give up and accept the burden of making the correction.

    Ultimately as the dust settles the best that you may achieve is the cost of the door (materials) and its cost to install.


  18. #18
    Bode Cavallaro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Julia,
    I think you are looking in the wrong place for your answer. Your question, as stated, is a code issue so you need to consult the local building department for an answer.. If I were doing a VISUAL inspection (which is what we do as "Home Inspectors") on this home and the door was operable and when opened there was a 6' to 10' drop off I would write it up as a safety hazard that needs to be fixed. But if it is a door that is disabled, unable to open, I would note it as a potential hazard but not a problem as long as it is inoperable.

    Have you met with the builder and designer at the site and discuss resolution?
    Have they given you a price to make the door functional?
    Bode


  19. #19
    Julia Tang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Bode, We have asked builder to fix the problem in emails. His proposal is to move the door to the side. There is not enough space on side. It is impossible.

    I asked for an answer for why designer designed the door and driveway in this setting. But builder did not connect me to designer to get the answer.

    I will call Michigan building dept. to find the safety code.

    Very appreciate your help.


    Garry: Thank you for the encouragement. The door is on the signed off print along w/ landing area shown. The GC did not do right job but did not want to fix it due to cost...... to me, it is profesional business practice to fix problem once problem is found. why they deviate the problem and do not want to admit? We will seek more help from our lawyer for this matter.

    THANK YOU ALL......I will let evreyone know the final resolution once dust is settled down.

    -Julia


  20. #20
    Bode Cavallaro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    I'll be interested to know how this turns out. Obviously a case of poor communication amongst the parties and given no input by the builder, who knows what is really going on....


  21. #21
    Julia Tang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Dear All,

    Now I come back to this forum to report the "solution".


    Please see the final fix in the following link: Garage Service Door Picture


    Many many thanks to everyone who gave me sincere help and idea for this problem. I learned a lot from everyone. I wish such big mistakes will not happen for the rest of construction and wonder how to prevent it happen again.

    Thank you again and best wishes to everyone!

    Sincerely,

    Julia Tang

    Last edited by Julia Tang; 07-23-2011 at 02:24 PM.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Looks like a good fix. Hope it works out for you.


  23. #23
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Julia,
    In an earlier post you mentioned you had not examined the design drawings in detail. The best way to reduce the chances of more misunderstandings is to do so. The drawings are the only meaningful communication of what you expect to the contractors. If the drawings don't say it, it hasn't been said. It's not too late and good luck on the rest of the project.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES


  24. #24
    Julia Tang's Avatar
    Julia Tang Guest

    Default Re: Urgent Help Needed for Garage Side Entrance Door Access Problem

    Darrel,

    Thank you very much for your kind reminder. We were not allowed to have the copy of the detailed drawing from builder's office although we asked several times so we never had a chance to have 2-3 hours of detailed study. I will ask them to bring the prints to the house site, then we will do a detailed drawing review before this house project is marching toward next stage. So far we found that the drawing did not follow the signed Purchasing Agreement 100%, i.e. there were no block windows on prints, while the PA stated block window in basement. We wonder why architect did not design the house according to PA specification, or even wonder whether builder provided the PA spec. to the architect.

    Thank you again.

    -Julia


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