Tired of unsafe client requests

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Forum topic by DS posted 01-22-2021 12:49 AM 2010 views 0 times favorited 77 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3675 posts in 3427 days

01-22-2021 12:49 AM

So, this actually happened today… It never ceases to amaze me how a client thinks that they can just sign a disclaimer and have us build things that are inherently unsafe.

The client wants an under-counter wine fridge built in to their master bath cabinets.
The design has gone through a couple revision cycles, but they had not yet provided the model number and specs for the fridge.

Finally, they provide the specs and it is not an appropriate model for the application.

They decided that a $350 big-box-store freestanding fridge will work rather than the proper $1100 built in unit.
So, I circle the relevant portion of the installation manual and break the bad news to the client.

Email exchange as follows; (Names omitted)
(to Our Sales Lady),

The client may want to reconsider their choice of UC Ref here.
I could add 1.6” to each side and call it a day, but they may not like that look.

(from) DS (Me)

(to Our Sales Lady),
I have (the client) copied. We discussed and they would like the 1.6” space on either side. They would like to add a trim piece that can be installed “aftermarket” to cover the space. They understand it is not per manufacturer recommendations and will accept the liability. Can this be done?

(from the Client’s Designer)

(to) DS (Me)
Can we do this? Please see below

(from Our Sales Lady)

At this point I was beside myself and had just about had enough.


(to Our Sales Lady)
So, they will accept the liability for the appliance burning up?
Or, for their house burning down?
Or, for the injuries and potential deaths of the firefighters trying to put out the house fire and the resulting negligent homicide criminal charges and wrongful death lawsuits?

Please be more specific.

I’m pretty sure the lawyers will blame us, as the experts who should’ve known better.

Just sayin’.

(from) DS (Me)


Just remember, no waiver or disclaimer can excuse reckless endangerment of others and can never be used as rationale to install something in a manner contrary to the manufacturers warnings and safety requirements.

The worst case scenario can and does happen all the time and many a builder has paid the price for thinking, it’ll be okay this one time.

My former business partner’s $5M home burned down 15 years after it was built because the original builder did not use triple insulated pipe to exhaust a gas water heater and it took that long to char the wooden rafters enough to ignite.

And yes, it cost the builder everything he had and he was lucky there were no injuries or deaths as a result of his negligence.

Don’t be that guy.

I can’t be the only one who always has to look like the (expletive) jerk trying to protect people from themselves.
I gets old pretty fast.

Whew! Thanks for letting me vent.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

77 replies so far

View SMP's profile


3426 posts in 912 days

#1 posted 01-22-2021 02:56 AM

Water heater is quite a but different than a fridge . The warnings on a water heater are “or else your house may burn down”, the warning on the fridge is more “or else fridge may not cool as well and compressor life will be shortened”. But, if you don’t feel like doing it, don’t.

View pottz's profile


14730 posts in 1991 days

#2 posted 01-22-2021 03:07 AM

i agree you were right in walking away,i would have todays world there are plenty of sleezy lawyers that will be glad too take everything youve worked hard for because even though they said were ok with it,there gonna show that your the professional and should have known better!good call.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View HowardAppel's profile


44 posts in 4041 days

#3 posted 01-22-2021 03:11 AM

Well said.

View Scap's profile


154 posts in 934 days

#4 posted 01-22-2021 03:18 AM

I’m not comfortable with zero clearance flue pipe touching combustibles. If that builder had common b-vent touching wood, he deserved that lawsuit. There’s a reason the manufacturers offer thimbles, flashings, etc.

View Kelly's profile


3372 posts in 3951 days

#5 posted 01-22-2021 03:57 AM

Even my wife doesn’t understand when I get pissed about contractors (licensed or others) who don’t cover the asses of their clients. Like I tell her, people hired me under the presumption I knew what I was doing.

That means, I was hired because I knew what I was doing. And that means, I knew what was safe, what was not, what would or was likely to fail and what wasn’t, what would keep the project near the the shape it was in when it was built and what wouldn’t.

Examples of contractor ignorance or even stupidity around my home, from before I showed up: Concrete laid right up to the bottom of the MDF siding, a wrap around deck tied straight to the 2x sill for the second story, 14 gauge outlets, . . . .

View Lazyman's profile


6628 posts in 2394 days

#6 posted 01-22-2021 04:01 AM

Even if you have all the wavers signed and notorized, that may not prevent them from suing. You might still win in court but not without considerable time and expense to fight it. Walk away.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View DS's profile


3675 posts in 3427 days

#7 posted 01-22-2021 06:53 AM

Last year, a client wanted a tv above his fireplace inset into a new recessed niche.

But, because the fireplace was block and brick, he couldn’t get the recess he wanted so the builder furred out the wall with 2×4 to create the tv niche, but, basically this extended the existing firebox. They framed and drywalled with standard gypsum right up to the edge of the firebox opening and called it a day.

They wanted us to build a wood surround, mantle and tv enclosure for this dangerous set up.

Fireplace regulations are some of the most strict of all building codes and this was an extremely dangerous arrangement.
I really had to become the a-hL because I felt the clients’ lives were in genuine and immediate danger.

I was prepared to go after the contractor’s license until they finally saw the light and took corrective action.

The other one I get all the time is people wanting to enclose a washer and dryer in a cabinet inside the master closet and not wanting to install the proper upper and lower door vents. (They are not attractive to the aesthetic)

If I had a nickel for every time a client said to me, “we’ll only run the dryer with the doors open,..”

That might work for a while, but it only takes that one time when the niece is house sitting to destroy lives forever.
It’s just not worth it.

And sure, a refrigerator is most likely to just die an early death in my current scenario, but it also has the potential to overheat and burst into flames.

First, and foremost, I am a trained product engineer. We have an axiom that says that ”if it can happen, it probably will happen.” So you design out the hazards in your product under the assumption that the worst case scenario could totally become your reality.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View CaptainKlutz's profile


4135 posts in 2501 days

#8 posted 01-22-2021 09:57 AM

Stick to your training DS. Would do same thing.
Built-in appliances need to rated for zero clearance.

Sounds like customer does not know how the cheap mini-frig works?
They don’t have condenser coils in bottom with fan to provide solid temp control like units designed to be built-in. The condenser coils are hidden and attached to the side walls of the box. With no air flow, they don’t cool worth a dam. Worse, anything touching the sides on those units will be hot.
Took ~6 months, but SWMBO fused together a box of candles sitting right next to a wine frig from same mfg in our house. Can always tell by sound when wife has tried to store/hide something skinny next to wine frig, as the compressor is noisy when condenser is too hot.


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View controlfreak's profile


1756 posts in 608 days

#9 posted 01-22-2021 11:38 AM

I wise man told me once, “there will be a fire here tomorrow that will have at least one fatality”. “The following day you will be in court to explain your actions or inactions, now how do you want to proceed?”

View tomsteve's profile


1144 posts in 2226 days

#10 posted 01-22-2021 12:51 PM

id drop this client like a hot rock.

View bigblockyeti's profile


7079 posts in 2727 days

#11 posted 01-22-2021 12:58 PM

I’d do it but have them put $20M in escrow for when something goes wrong (with interest going to me). Come on, another $750 for the right appliance and in a bathroom no less shouldn’t be that big of a burden, if it is, they need to take a step back and reassess.

-- "Lack of effort will result in failure with amazing predictability" - Me

View HarveyM's profile


159 posts in 3029 days

#12 posted 01-22-2021 02:20 PM

Tell them you’ll do it with the waiver, but you’d like the opinion of the building inspector right after you get paid.

-- Just a Duffer

View WillliamMSP's profile


1150 posts in 2611 days

#13 posted 01-22-2021 02:38 PM

Ha. If you’re going to get chintzy on the wine cooler in the bathroom, maybe you don’t need a wine cooler in the bathroom.

-- Practice makes less sucky. (Bill, Minneapolis, MN)

View hockeyfan_019's profile


66 posts in 239 days

#14 posted 01-22-2021 03:01 PM

Tell them you ll do it with the waiver, but you d like the opinion of the building inspector right after you get paid.

- HarveyM

I was actually just thinking about this. Perhaps this is in a municipality without the need for a BP with such things, but no way it would pass. It certainly wouldn’t meet the code, and could also violate local regulations.

In my experience the code can be cited as a means to help protect hapless cheapskates from themselves, and then it’s not you being the bad guy in a way that may risk future business opportunities. Typically though I have to explain that it really is a “code”, not like the pirate code, where it’s just “guidelines”. Inspectors seem to have no adversity to rejecting an installation if it even has any hint of a violation, especially if you are working in a location where he has a family member that you underbid for the project in the first place.

-- Most of my tools are older than I am

View Wags999's profile


10 posts in 41 days

#15 posted 01-22-2021 03:06 PM

In my 30 years in the cabinet business. some of the best jobs were the ones I walked away from. Those that did take on those jobs grew to regret it later. Trust your gut, do what is best for YOU. Today there should not be a lack of work.

Lack of air circulation will not only shorten life of the unit, but also cause overheating and potential fire issues.

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