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Design flaw in placing the washer, dryer, is architect responsible for fixing it?

Nov 19 '12 37 Last Comment
houseowner
Nov 19, 12 6:20 pm

I built a new houe 3 years ago. The washer/dryer is in the second floor. The architect has drawn this against an outside wall, where there is no heataed wall or space behind it. We live in a snowy climate. The builder when placing the washer, dryer pointed this out and placed the easher dryer on the opposite or inside wall so that the pipes will be inside the house and not run on the out side wall. The vent was now exhausting through the roof and not the side wall. [There is a vent outlet in the side wall- unused, not connected to anything on the inside - placed on the outside wall, as designed by the architect originally].

The problem started earlier this year when birds started nesting in the vent pipe.  We paid some one to clean it, he came cleaned it we paid $150. A few months later we had to get another guy to do the same, so anaother $100. So we asked a roofer to put a wire mesh to prevent the birds from building nests. 3 months later now the vent is blocked again. Probably from the lint build up. I have to now pay the roofer to remove the wire mesh to prevent this and have to deal with the birds later on.

To correct this problem on a more permanent basis, or to make it easier for clean up etc, I have to possibly completely redo the washer area, as in tear out the cabinets anc counter tops and move the dryer to the outside wall so that the vent does not go to the roof but will go out through the front or side wall. This means making holes in the outside wall, fixing the stucco etc.  I am assuming this is going to cost me several thousands of dollars or I have end up paying $100 to $200 each year or every 6 months.

Is this architect responsible for placing the washer dryer on an unheated outside wall? Is he liable for fixing this issue, it has been 3 and 1/2 years since he drew the plan. What do you think?

 

FRaC
Nov 19, 12 6:23 pm

no

tuna
Nov 19, 12 8:45 pm

unless it was written in a contact, then no.

calculator
Nov 19, 12 8:58 pm

put a 90 degree turn on the pipe downwards and extend the pipe 6", then close the opening with wire mesh.  Don't use fine wire mesh or it will clog.  I cannot imagine a reason why you would have to knock holes in walls and redo everything, or pay someone to do it every year.  Especially since you should be able to clean out the pipe from the interior.

Nicholas CecchiNicholas Cecchi
Nov 20, 12 10:06 am

You made the mistake of changing the plan from what was drawn and stamped to what was built  without a change order or revision (in which the architect would have forseen these issues), so no, you, and your builder are solely responsible.

curtkram
Nov 20, 12 10:55 am

i had to read this a couple times.  you are asking if you should blame the architect after, at the advice of your contractor, you went against what they drew on the plans?  seems to me what you did wrong there is trust the contractor over the architect.  why not go after the builder since they were the ones that couldn't follow simple instructions?

why did your contractor install a vent that doesn't do anything in the side wall?  if they didn't care what the plans said anyway, you would think they would have noticed that part. 

i'm also going to point out that you should be able to vent through the roof.  something isn't quite right there.  however, if your dryer doesn't adequately dry in the future, get a ladder, climb on the roof, and pull the lint out.  you don't need a roofer for that.

why would you come to an architect forum to ask if you should be going after an architect?  is this a troll?  hindsight should be telling you that you should have put your washer and dryer on the unheated outside wall.  and what is an unheated wall?  did the contractor have his tinners run hvac in the wall cavities?  do you mean uninsulated?  is the laundry room unconditioned, like it's out in the garage or something?  any reason your plumbers were unable to run their stuff through the floor in the room instead of in the wall cavity?  if lack of insulation was the problem, insulation could have been added.  if the wall cavity was too narrow it could have been furred out a bit.

Rusty!
Nov 20, 12 10:59 am

roof vent bird guard (provided you even have a rear roof vent up there)

curtkram
Nov 20, 12 12:04 pm

is that 3dh?

Nicholas CecchiNicholas Cecchi
Nov 20, 12 3:01 pm

reminds me of a building I've seen.

larslarson
Nov 20, 12 5:37 pm

if anything you should be asking the contractor to install the vent correctly.

you have absolutely no case against the architect for sure..and you have no case against the contractor to change all of the above... it's a really, really simple solution to install the vent correctly... the fact that you've paid multiple people to fix it who haven't is even crazier than thinking you have ANY claim against the architect.

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 6:21 pm

Thank you all for your reply. I am not trying to blame any one, I am trying to get the problem fixed. I ama getting frustrated because just this year, I have so far sepnt close to $350 + and now I have to spend another $100 + to try and fix it. My concern is if it is still vented to the roof then the next time it gets clogged with bird nests [I am sure this will start next spring], I will still have to pay some one to climb the roof to clean it [The vent is about 15 foot above ground on a slope, so not sure if I should try to clen it myself from the outside. I can try to clean it using duct cleaning DIY utility tools but it does not seem to work properly]. Regarding the design, I can only go by what the builder and the architect tell is the right thing. The two of them are very close friends and have worked together for years. The builder is very experienced and when he says the water pipes for the washer will be running on the outside wall [I guess uninsulated wall] and are likely to burst when it freezes outside you listen. Normally I would not even have known this if not for the fact I was watching the construciton very step of the way.

So by original design there was a short vent pipe going up the wall and venting on the side wall of the second floor. Since the place was switched the pipes run up the inside wall of the laundry room, then across the attic/ceiling, to the outside wall/roof meeting point [this is about 2 feet above the originally designed outlet] and then vents out by making another 90 degree turn to the roof. Because it was a dryer vent the HVAC guy did not put any mesh because by code aparently we can not put one to prevent fires. The birds have started nestng in there and we had to take 3 nests which had completely blocked the vent [in 3 years]. In trying to stop this from happening, I got a roofer to put a mesh [he must have put a fine mesh, since it is blocked in just 3 months]. Now I dont know what to do.

The guy who installed the wire mesh wrote the following:" if the bath vent gets clogged whhile being used as a adryer vent, a soffitt dryer vent needs to be installed as what is there now is against code and a severe fire hazard".

1) I like the wire mesh shown in one of the above posting, I am not if it will work, where do you get it from? 2) Is the suggestion by the roof tech appropriate? 3) I am I being naive in not having asked the builder to pay for this? Thanks for your h elp.

geezertect
Nov 20, 12 6:28 pm

The right approach would have been to inform the architect of the problem initially and allow him to come up with a solution.  He might have been able to furr out (fatten) the exterior wall and place plumbing in the furred space with insulation behind it, which would have possibly solved the problem.  It sounds like the contractor didn't pick up on the problem right away, since he installed the wall vent where it was (presumably) shown.  Get a better cap termination and it may solve your problem.  Not knowing the design, it sounds like tearing everything out is overkill. 

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 6:41 pm

Who will be in a good position to advise me on getting a better cap termiation? It is a slanting roof anad so the normal outside vents with brid cage grill on it wont work. I spoke to my HVAC guy, he did not have a clue and washed his hands off. The builder is not that keen on coming back [atleast initially, I had contacted him first but it lead me nowhere. I am like trying to troubleshoot this myself and at the mercy of the contractors].

geezertect
Nov 20, 12 6:43 pm

You ought to be able to get some mesh (3/8" or so) at Home Depot type store.  That might be small enough to keep birds out but big enough not to fill up with lint.  Sounds like you have two 90-degree turns in the dryer vent, which could plug up also, regardless of the birds.  Are the birds building nests inside the vent?  A chimney-type cap that is solid on top but open on sides should work on your application.  Somebody isn't using their head here.

geezertect
Nov 20, 12 6:52 pm

Did you pay the architect, or did the contractor?  If he paid, then the architect is a subcontractor of the general contractor and the contractor would be responsible for his work.  The contractor should come back as a matter of good public relations, even if he doesn't consider himself responsible, but it doesn't sound like he will.  A good handyman WITH A BRAIN should be able to come up with a fix for you.  Good luck.

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 7:05 pm

I paid the architect [custom design], and paid the contractor for cost plus. The vent pipe infact has 3 X 90 degree turns [one each corner of the wall turns] and one 45 degree turn to vent out on a 45 degree sloping roof. I think it is a standard low profile vent cap that is on now. I tried to find a mesh cage that will go on top of it, but I could not find one and my HVAC guy did not have any suggestions so I ended up paying a roofinig guy to put a mesh on the opening instead, which is now blocked in 3 months. Have any of you used this http://store.dryerbox.com/DryerJack--Gooseneck-design--4-collar_p_83.html contraption? Or any thoughts on this to stop the birds from buildinig nests? 

mantaray
Nov 20, 12 7:20 pm

Frankly it strikes me as odd that the contractor decided to turn the vent, run it up the outside wall, and THEN vent it out the roof - when he could simply have vented it directly out the side wall.  It's not a great idea in general to add too many twists and turns to your dryer vent.  You generally want to keep it as simple and straight as possible.  Therefore the original location and venting sounds like it may have been your better option.  

Just for the record, there is nothing inherently wrong with running pipes up exterior walls - it simply depends on how it is detailed and insulated.  We don't know from your description whether there is (for example) perhaps exterior rigid foam insulation on the outside of the wall, beneath whatever exterior cladding material you have.  We don't know the depth of the exterior wall itself and whether you would have been able to fit wall cavity insulation around and behind the dryer vent.  We don't know what the insulation requirements are in your climate (depends on where you live).  So it is difficult for us (or anyone) to say right off the bat "the architect made a mistake, this dryer shouldn't be placed against the exterior wall."  That is not necessarily the case.  It can be done perfectly fine.  Unfortunately, with 20/20 hindsight you probably should have consulted the architect before making the change to the other wall.

HOWEVER, even allowing the builder to move the units might have been fine - because a good builder following standard construction guidelines should be able to properly install a dryer vent.  That said, your description of the way the dryer is currently vented sounds unnecessarily complex, and thus from your complete story I am more likely to question the quality of your builder than your architect.  

For example: if your builder was so concerned about the impact of the cold on your exterior wall, why didn't he a) propose to increase the insulation on that wall and b) at a MINIMUM close off the hole where the original vent is located?  If he's so concerned about the cold getting into your house, why leave a hole that could have been insulated and covered over?  

There are some weird things going on here.  I suggest you call up your original architect and ask him/her to come take a look and propose a solution.  Assuming you still have a good relationship with him/her, s/he might be willing to just come over and give you some pointers on how to fix this in exchange for a nice dinner or a bottle of wine or something.  Most of us want our homeowners to be happy, and to have a long and lovely relationship with the house we've crafted for them.  The architect will know your house inside & out and will likely be able to make a quicker/better recommendation than any of us will (without completely knowing the situation).  You'll need to be humble though and admit that you probably should have called him/her in the first place.

geezertect
Nov 20, 12 7:24 pm

That looks like the sort of thing that could work.  I don't see how a bird would build a nest inside of it.  Does it have some kind of mesh.  Even mesh that was an inch square should stop birds without plugging up.  Get a good handyman to do it. 

 

gwharton
Nov 20, 12 7:25 pm

4 turns in a vent run is a bit excessive, but if the vent works when there's no blockage at the outlet, then ripping it out and re-doing it is probably unnecessary.

Without seeing a picture of the actual vent cap installation and how the birds are getting into it, it's hard to say what the best way to fix it is. Putting a chicken-wire cage around the whole thing would certainly keep them out, though, and probably wouldn't catch enough lint to be a problem.

curtkram
Nov 20, 12 7:40 pm

when he says the water pipes for the washer will be running on the outside wall [I guess uninsulated wall] and are likely to burst when it freezes outside you listen.

maybe you shouldn't always listen to these guys :)

 if the bath vent gets clogged while being used as a dryer vent

ok, so i'm sort of thinking this could mean that you're using a vent instead of a dryer vent.  like, a 4" pipe instead of tin.  the sort of vent used in a plumbing vent stack.  if that's the case, everyone who touched it should probably get sued and not be allowed to do stuff near buildings ever.

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 7:42 pm

Mantaray

He could not possibly vent to the outside wall because there is utility sink/pipes beind the drywall, between the dryer wall outlet and the exterior [they were already laid out as per the original drawing] so the only way for him to vent was to send it up the wall, turn run it in the attic, then turn again to vent to the roof.

If I can find a decent bird cage to go on top of the vent cap, that will be the cheapest way to solve the problem.

Re: the architect and the builder being friendly.. that is why I have been spending my money instead of blaming either one of them until now [some times I feel I am being naieve]. The builder and the architect have had many a referrals from me.. even though some times I felt they may not have deserved it, so there is no reason why I am not in talking terms with the architect, I am sure he will defer it to the builder because they are close buddies.

So, I come back to the original problem, what is the best way to stop the birds from buildiing nests, so that I do not have to clean the dust from the roof every year [with out having to go through expensive renovations of a 3 year old house.]?

gwharton
Nov 20, 12 7:47 pm

Try something like this:

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 7:55 pm

gwharton

This is what I have http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1v/R-100396944/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=vent+cap&storeId=10051

Can you suggest a mesh cap for this? BTW they had removed the mesh seen in this picture to meet code.

Or can any of you suggest some thing to cover this style of vent cap, on a 45 degree sloping roof?

Thank you so much.

comb
Nov 20, 12 8:05 pm

"Re: the architect and the builder being friendly.. that is why I have been spending my money instead of blaming either one of them until now [some times I feel I am being naieve]. The builder and the architect have had many a referrals from me.. even though some times I felt they may not have deserved it, so there is no reason why I am not in talking terms with the architect, I am sure he will defer it to the builder because they are close buddies."

This makes no sense to me.

Why on earth are you coming on some anonymous discussion board, looking for a solution from total strangers, when you have both a builder and an architect who know the house and should be qualified to help you find a solution.  Almost every building project has post-completion "issues" and reputable builders and reputable architects expect to be involved in working out appropriate solutions.

snook_dude
Nov 20, 12 8:05 pm

Not knowing the specifics I have to ask why didn't the plumber run the water lines on an inside wall perpendicular to the exterior wall?   This way you wouldn't have to worry about freezing pipes and well your dryer would vent directly to the outside with minimal distance?

Washers come with  braided stainless steel  hoses of various lengths so it should not have been a problem to run in an interior wall with a recessed  water control panel.

You have a DUDE ARCHITECT AND A DUDE BUILDER  if they couldn't figure that one out.

mantaray
Nov 20, 12 9:22 pm

Yeah I was wondering that too snook... there are other opportunities.  Floor joist cavity... 

Also it's interesting that the reason the builder had to contort the vent so much was to avoid other plumbing in the exterior wall. (?!)

curtkram
Nov 20, 12 9:39 pm

I want to see pics now. I'm thinking it's a vent stack and someone just thought it would be easier to tie into an existing vent rather than build a new one. if it is, it really is a fire hazard and you should get it fixed asap

houseowner
Nov 20, 12 9:45 pm

mantaray

the pipes are on the interior wall [after the washer dryer were flipped to the interior wall, I guess they were not able to vent to the outside because a. it will vent to the front of the house on the second floor, b. the water pipes and I guess water pipes from the upstairs drain were going in the inside wall between the new location for the dryer and the exterior wall.

Come to think of it they may have put this in the floor joist cavity but it woould have vented to the front of the house.

I know this may sound weird, but this is true. Hope you can help and make some suggestions for a wire net/cage that will fit this http://store.dryerbox.com/DryerJack--Gooseneck-design--4-collar_p_83.html

mantaray
Nov 20, 12 10:12 pm

Ah I see.  You can see how it's confusing if someone's not familiar with your house.  Lots of intricacies - that's why the original architect should have been consulted as s/he would be most familiar with the 3 dimensional ins and outs...

As for wire nets / cages: the trick with dryer vents is to always make sure there are no places where lint can build up, or if you can't avoid that, you need to at least make those locations accessible for easy periodic cleaning.  There is definitely a place where lint could build up in that dryer jack - in the "corner" area around the collar - which is precisely why they made that a removable piece for easy cleaning.  However in your case it sounds like you can't access the roof vent out location easily, therefore you will not be able to periodically clean out any lint that might build up in this dryer jack unit.  So I personally wouldn't install it.  Personally I would likely look into the cages posted above, but as this issue hasn't come up yet in my practice I can't speak from any experience and you shouldn't take my word for it.

But I don't see why you don't simply ask your architect and your builder.  They are familiar with the peculiarities of your area and they have wider experience than you do.  They might have the perfect solution that he's installed on other roofs, or he might be able to tell you "this brand didn't work well because it rusted over time" or whatever.  (Of course I'm not sure why your builder didn't think of this in the first place, but you never know, maybe it just slipped his attention...)

Nov 21, 12 9:05 am

You people are too nice.  Houseowner should get a lawyer and sue the architect and contractor.  That, or just sell the house and become a renter instead.

Yo!

houseowner
Nov 21, 12 9:10 am

Handsum .. that was funny.

Mantray.. and all the other architects who tried to answer my questions.. thank you. If you come across any better solutions please advise.

Have a great Tukey Weekend.

FRaC
Nov 21, 12 9:52 am

duraflo also makes a roof dryer vent -> http://www.duraflo.com/Duraflo.aspx?categoryID=51

but i in no way approve, endorse, or recommend this product for anyone, anywhere, anytime, and/or for any situation one could ever possibly encounter.  use at your own risk and please please don't sue me.

geezertect
Nov 21, 12 1:02 pm

None of us can really picture what is going on.  Try taking a digital picture of your dryer vent where it comes through the roof and post it for us.

The vent picture you posted that you said you have looks like the industry standard.  I can't understand how it's getting clogged up by a bird's nest.  How does a bird build a nest in front of it when apparently it is on a 12/12 sloped roof?

Donna SinkDonna Sink
Nov 21, 12 11:42 pm

curtkram, I totally thought rusty's picture was 3DH, too! SO funny.

 

houseowner, listen to mantaray.  And just to second that: there really is no reason the architect and builder should not come and just look at the situation and recommend a better solution, no charge if it's just a conversation.

Steven WardSteven Ward
Nov 22, 12 8:15 am

i hate that the first instinct was to ask if the architect should be 'liable' rather than talk to him about it.

i also hate that the change was made without his consultation in the first place. because, in fact, if it had been a more consequential problem, the architect *could* be held liable - and for something that wasn't even built according to his intentions! this is where owners, architects, and builders become enemies rather than partners.

it's always better to talk through these things. 75% of most architects' jobs are about communication, not just design. but the owner and the construction industry have to be willing to join in this communication.

good luck, houseowner. i hope your architect steps up to help and that you find mutual respect in having worked through an issue together. this is what we're supposed to do!

houseowner
Nov 22, 12 10:08 am

Thanks to every one who tried to make suggestions. This is what I am planning to do:

I can not go back and change what is there with out significant expenses. I do not want or intend to blame others, I would rather find solutions. The birds are going to build their nests inside the vent pipe no matter what, unless I put a net on the outside, over the vent cap. This is goiing to look unsightly. I can not put a mesh on the roof itself, because it is a ? code violation, fire hazard. Instead, I was planning to install this http://www.pexsupply.com/Fantech-DBLT4-DBLT4-Lint-Trap-for-Dryer-Booster-4-Duct in my attic, in the vent pipe. Once every 6 months, I will have to go to the attic and clean it out myself [rather than pay 100s of dollars to vent cleaning companies]. When I suggested this to my HVAC installer. This time around he said, there is a filter in this model, if you install it with out a booster it will add more resistence to the lint being pushed out. Instead he suggested adding a flexible pipe [cut out existing pipe and to install the flexible link in the vent pipe, he says he will give for free, rather than to buy the above]. When ever I have to clean the pipe, all I have to do is to undo the ties, clean it and put the ties back on, ie this becomes an access point.

I am going to try this. If this is difficult to clean the bird nests then I will have to install a bird cage over the vent cap.

Thanks again. Have Happy Turkey Day.

Nov 22, 12 10:45 am

I'm serious.  Being a house owner is a significant responsibility and if you're not willing to sue the bastards who are screwing you then you should just go back to the class of renters.  It's big boy stuff and no need to fret about the architect or contractor taking it personally, they know the drill.

Probably right now the architect & contractor (who you already say are friends) are laughing at you for being such a pushover.  And if they've already taken advantage of you for something small like vent, just imagine what other surprises might be built into your house that you are not even aware of yet?  Sounds like you might have been sold a lemon.  Better to get out while you can.

Yo!

mantaray
Nov 22, 12 3:02 pm

What?  That's ridiculous, Handsum.  Let's not try to stir up antagonism where none should exist.

I was going to suggest an interior lint trap but didn't see how that would solve your bird problem, homeowner.  Sorry I can't be more helpful.  Best of luck, and I hope we have been helpful to you (disregarding a few snarky comments, of course, as all internet forums unfortunately feature...)  Best of luck in all your future interactions with architects, and have a good holiday.

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