We recently finally reached substantial completion on a project. The ride to get there has been exceptionally  bumpy.  I just filed a claim to get paid for the 10 large precast coping pieces on a bridge parapet that were rejected and had to be replaced.  The architect was unhappy because we had not aligned the coping joint with the expansion joint in the cast-in-place retaining wall below the precast. The GC was down to the wire in terms of substantial completion and large penalties. They directed me to replace now and argue later. I complied. In a reasonable business on a reasonable planet, this would unquestionably be considered a constructive change.

But we do not regularly work on such a planet, and so we will see what happens. This particular elevation has jazzy railing, but overall the wall did not seem architecturally significant. I would display the elevation from the contract drawings, but it was never shown in elevation. Some people will consider that an obvious clue that the wall was not architecturally significant.

In the photo below (taken before caulking and final cleaning, you see our precast coping atop a portion of a cast-in-place retaining wall).

Here is one of the 5 occurrences of the expansion joint.  The yellow X’s indicate replacement and the yellow vertical line on the coping shows the desired location of the coping joint.

Here’s the other side of the wall, where it was clear (both in normal architectural terms and from the contract drawings) that the coping joints aligned with the panel joints.


Last week I wrote my second letter pushing to get paid. I thought the letter was a fine letter as such things go. But that does not mean it will produce the desired result. These matters can get complicated.  If the GC makes a claim and gets paid, we’ll get paid. The most productive thing I can do is to pressure them to aggressively pursue the claim with the owner and provide them with readily packaged ammunition (such as emails they can simply forward with a cover sentence or three).

It’s all the other scenarios, where the owner declines to pay, that keep me in suspense. Time will tell.  Here’s the letter (an email, as even our ancient industry lives in the 21st century) for those who are interested in such matters.


From: Leo Schlosberg [leo at]
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 10:27 PM
To:  _ _ _ _ _ _

Subject:  _ _ _ _ _ _   Claims & Extras – Coping revisions ordered at expansion joints.

As previously stated, we believe that replacing 10 pieces of coping so the coping joint would align with the retaining wall expansion joint was a constructive change.  You ordered us to make the change (apparently based on direction you received from _ _ _ _ _  _  and which you did not wish to question) without delay and to raise cost issues later.  We have laid out our case in previous emails. Here I re-iterate the basic points and quantify the dollars.

If I have missed something in the contract drawings, please accept my apologies in advance.  I see no basis in the drawings for the revised alignment of coping joints; in particular I do not see anything that could reasonably have led us to believe such an alignment was required. If it’s there, please point me to it.

Additionally, at the very least, two opportunities to communicate that alignment were missed. It might have been shown in an elevation, but there is no elevation in the drawings.  That fact, the apparent lack of architectural significance or concern for that elevation, means there is no way for us to divine intent.  Our shop drawings clearly showed the coping joints. No comments were made by the reviewer either time such drawings were submitted.

In the shop drawing process we raised a number of architectural issues related to the coping and other pieces. We did so because we have a feel for such matters and we know to defer to architects’ judgments on esthetic matters when we have even small doubt.  We did not do an RFI or otherwise call attention to joint alignment on that face of the coping because it never occurred to me or to the drafter that there was any particular architectural intent there.  _ _ _ _ _ _  was well aware of the much-discussed need for field measurement relating to coping (i.e., the horizontal face-of-precast to face-of-retaining wall dimension). But it never occurred to you, just as it never occurred to us, that we needed to align with the expansion joint.  And it was not noted on the earlier architect viewings of that wall. On first viewing there was much discussion about the size of the bed joint, but no mention of alignment with the expansion joint.

If no one told us before fabrication, how were we to know? And if we weren’t told and had no way to know, how can doing it twice be considered as part of our contract? If the architect is allowed to state a requirement for the very first time when viewing in-place work, then the contract documents are pointless as a means to define what is required.

The original bid documents had the coping as bid item 9 and we priced it out both as a discrete item and as part of the wall.  We priced the coping at $22,400. There are 22 pieces, or $1018/piece.  Replacement is more expensive than furnishing because one must not only do what you have to do to furnish, but you must also remove and dispose of the original pieces.

Therefore we propose $1150/piece, for a total of $11,500.

Please let me know if I need to take any further action to pursue this claim.


Leo Schlosberg

Office: (815) 338-2301  Cell: (847) xxx-xxxx


About Leo Schlosberg

Graybeard with experience in commercial construction and IT, and an interest in information flow and process. Aware and respectful of the enormous complexity, technical, legal, and other, embedded in every structure that is part of the built environment.
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1 Response to Cliffhanger?

  1. Pingback: Horrible contract provision on intent | Planet Commercial Construction

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