Opinion-Who’s Responsible?

Whether you’re a homeowner acting as a general contractor or a licensed contractor who’s building to make a living, certain decisions and policies need to be set in place and communicated with workers and sub-contractors performing tasks on the jobsite.  Who’s responsible for doing what. For the most part, workers know their duties. Framers know how to frame, electricians know how to wire, and insulators know how to insulate. There can be at times, grey areas where responsibilities aren’t clear.  Who’s job is it to seal the hole that just got drilled?  Who is going to commission and test the new systems in the home to assure proper operation, the installing contractor or a third party tester?  Who is responsible for educating the homeowner on operation and maintenance schedules?

Here are several examples.  This notch in the drywall was cut to accommodate a countertop in a wall that was not square.  This older home is lacking a good air/vapor control layer, and what is present, was further damaged by the countertop installer.  (The short notch is an exterior wall.)  This example is obvious, the countertop installer is responsible, but the homeowner or general contractor also bare some blame.  Either someone didn’t realize the damage they were doing, or just didn’t care.  Cutting the drywall was the easiest way to get the job done.

This supply vent for a heat recovery ventilator is partially plugged. At the time of this photo, the HRV unit was eight years old and had never been maintained. This falls on the HVAC contractor and the general contractor to educate the homeowner. The homeowner also never took the time to read the owner’s manual.

I discovered this oversized hole while working on my own home.  Chances are it was a fill pipe for a fuel oil tank that was removed long before I took ownership of the home.  It was a runway for mice getting into the home.  I doubt the previous homeowner knew it was a problem.  

The HVAC contractor and who ever installed the house wrap didn’t have a good plan.  This house failed a blower door test.  There is also a problem with the water control layer at the vent.  It came down to a lack of understanding the control layers by the builder. 

I recently visited this multi-family building.  The two vents on the right I believe are for dryers, the large air intake on the left is a fresh air dump that terminates in the elevator control room.  Just on the other side of the wall on the far left is the location where all the water lines for this condo unit enters the living space.  They freeze during very cold temperatures leaving the homeowner without running water.  The air intake during the winter can see temperatures entering the building below -30°F and water lines a couple feet away.  A poor design, none of the installing contractors or general contractor caught the issue.

I see a lot of utility suppliers, gas companies and cable/internet providers who need to drill holes through the structure.  Rarely do I see these penetrations properly sealed for either water or air.  Does this detail land on the installer, siding contractor, insulator or general contractor?

Another example of a utility chase.  The electrician was nice enough to provide a pull string for the cable/internet provider.  Who’s job is it to seal that conduit?  And then their is the water/air sealing around the box.  One new electrical code to be aware of, starting with the enforcement of the 2020 National Electric Code, all products used to seal around wires need to be rated or approved to be in direct contact with the wire’s insulation.  Code Reference: NEC 300.7.

I have many more photos showing examples of instances where no one knew who was responsible for a certain part of an assembled system.  Homes are very complex.  Having a policy in place documenting who is responsible for certain details will improve the comfort, durability, operating costs and indoor air quality.


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