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Question DetailsAsked on 12/23/2015

Can the contractor finishing our basement charge me extra for building a make up air vent?

We hired a contractor to finish our basement, and he gave us a quote for the full price that we have agreed upon. We are now over 50% more than his original quote in extra costs that he says are to meet code requirements. We had all along planned to frame around our boiler and hot water tank, and is not charging us an additional 3000$ to build a make up air vent for the utility room. Shouldn't this be part of the expect costs for building a utility room, 3000$ seems quite excessive, does anyone know how much this is expected cost. He states he is putting in a "fan in a can". thanks so much

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1 Answer


You don't say if he is working off plans you provided or not, or if he is working off a "estimate" or a firm quote/bid.

If your plans and they did not show things up to code, you lose - but if they were done by an architect you could go back against him for the extra cost caused by faulty plans.

IF you had a contract with a firm price for the work and you did not provide the plans, then he should get nothing extra to bring things up to code - that should have been part of his bid price (for all areas he is working in and modifying, not for pre-existing things he is not modifying, and all his work he bid on has to be to code by law - otherwise it is deficient and substandard.

The $3000 for a make-up air vent is WAYYY out of whack - first, normally is NOT fan driven (for residential applications) and that is prohibited by code in many areas in enclosed utility rooms because it can cause water heater/furnace/boiler flame wander and rollout. In many cases if the basement is wide-open (no intermediate doors) just adequate sized ventilation grillage or louvers in the utility room walls into the basement area would do it. IF the basement space is not large enough to provide enough makeup air (depends on BTU of all combined gas (or oil) burning appliances in there), then just a screened foot long piece of open metal duct with rain hood is put through the outside wall to provide needed makeup air, sized as needed to supplement what it would get from the basement - typically 8-12" diameter but occasionally larger or need two. Either one usually under $200 installed - maybe $300 range if going through concrete or brick wall, not $3000. Of course, if not drawing any combustion air from the basement (so possibly a very high efficiency "tight" house), then makeup air area is much larger, and introduces a need to be sure you are not going to freeze pipes with the amount of cold air coming in, but still $3000 is way too high in my book.

I would seriously consider having someone look at the overall contract and his overruns - I get the feeling his 50% overrun and the $3000 venting quote is a ripoff - that he has figured you are a soft touch, probably having started the game with a fairly minor additional cost to see your reaction, then edging into another one or two, then when you bought off on those slamming you with all he can.

An attorney of course can give legal advice on his scope in the contract versus code compliance issues. You could also go first to an Architect who does construction management and inspection services to review the contract and the job and advise as to whether he thinks you are being ripped off or if the original contract was that deficient. Unless you provided detailed plans, I can't see that ANY of the code compliance costs should be "extra" to your job - they should have been included in the bid.

It is also possible if you talk to the building inspector for the job (and confirm there is a building permit in effect and inspections are being done (or scheduled if not far along) - he might come out and give a once-over for code compliance and voice an under the breath opinion about whether the overruns were things that should have been part of the contractor's normal work in doing the basement finishing.

One other alternative you have if you get an opinion matching mine - that the overruns are not legit - is refusing to pay more than the contract amount on the basis that code compliance is a required part of any construction work, and if he stops work short of completion because you won't pay more call his bond to have the work completed - and you also have the option of suing, as well as complaining to the licensing board (he is licensed as a General Contractor, right ?) and possibly the city or county if he has a local business license.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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