New furnace blocking doorway, what can I do?
December 4, 2010 1:07 AM   Subscribe

Old furnaced replace with new furnace in laundry room. Installers set it up in such a way that it sticks out past doorway far enough to block some of the doorway, now the entrance is effectively only 24" wide, which will make it impossible to every replace the washer and dryer. What are my options?

The doorway to the laundry room is is 32" wide. The new furnace sits just inside the door, but sticks out 8" past the edge of the door frame, leaving only 24" inches of space. My washer & dryer are each 27" wide.

The installers did say that it may stick out "a little bit", but when they gestured, they showed an inch or two. Yes, I probably should have asked exactly how much, but never dreamed that they'd put something in that would block access like they have. The work was done yesterday and just noticed tonight how much of a problem this is going to be.

So my question is, what can I do? I'm going to call the company Monday but want to know my options. It's a finished basement, and a framed, hollow door. I can't find any information online about minimum interior door size code in Wisconsin, so I don't think its a violation. On top of to of that, there is a gas line that sticks out in this space I could easily see bumping into; which also seems very unsafe to me.

Of the top of my head, the only thing I can think that can be done is moving the door itself over 8". I can't imagine that's cheap and I'm not handy enough to do myself. And there is an electric outlet immediately to the other side of the door, which would complicate things anyway.

If the company won't do anything about it, is there anything legal I can do if its not a code violation? Effectively it destroys the purpose of the room if the washer or dryer ever need to be replaced, but I don't know what kind of legal grounds I might have. And if no legal grounds, what else can I do? Are there any professional groups I can notify?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I'm no expert, but based on very brief research, Wisconsin appears to use the International Building Code (IBC). Section 1003.3.3 is of relevance:
"IBC 1003.3.3 Horizontal projections. Structural elements, fixtures or furnishings shall not project horizontally from either side more than 4 inches (102 mm) over any walking surface between the heights of 27 inches (686 mm) and 80 inches (2032 mm) above the walking surface.

Exception: Handrails serving stairs and ramps are permitted to protrude 4.5 inches (114 mm) from the wall."
In other words, as I understand it, you can have narrow interior doors in residential occupancies, but you can't have stuff sticking out because that's unsafe. If the company refuses to make it right, call the building inspector. However, before doing so, I would check to see that the proper permits were obtained for the work if you need a permit for a new furnace in your area. Inviting the building inspector to see unpermitted work on your property could cause plenty of trouble for you too. Threatening to call the building inspector, however, might get the company to act, especially if they did the work without a permit. Good luck.
posted by zachlipton at 2:31 AM on December 4, 2010

Call the OWNER of the company, or, better yet, have your attorney do so. I suspect that zachlipton is correct in that it probably violates building code. Personally, I wouldn't worry about the permit or lack thereof, my understanding is that there may be a fine and you'll get the permit if it was necessary. (check with a contractor in your area to know how this is handled)

Not being able to replace the washer/dryer is huge, this installers did you a disservice.
posted by HuronBob at 3:15 AM on December 4, 2010

Possibly more of a question than an answer - but if it violates building code - is that not the owner's responsibility ultimately?
posted by TravellingDen at 5:36 AM on December 4, 2010

It is probably easier to move the door. But still call the installer people's boss and invite him over to look at it and judge for himself about the quality of the install.
posted by gjc at 7:58 AM on December 4, 2010

My question is "why?" Why is the furnace sticking out -- is there not enough space for it? It seems like moving the furnace might actually be simpler than widening the doorway. Though, if you do need to widen the doorway, provided there is space for it, while relocating wiring is not nothing, it wouldn't be too difficult since you'll have to open up the wall while you're at it anyway. The electrical is probably mounted to a stud and opening the wall will probably require insertion of another stud which the electrical can then be mounted to. You'd have to do this stud insertion anyway just to widen the doorway.

But, yes, go to the head of the company. Your installer really can't make the call here anyway. Worst case -- you guys split the bill for relocating the doorway. After all, you said it was okay for it to stick out "a little bit." But try to get them to do it -- they are the professionals in this situation who have seen these sorts of things countless times. You are someone who has probably never encountered this type of work before and probably won't again for many years to come. You're not the expert here, that's why you hired these guys.
posted by amanda at 8:31 AM on December 4, 2010

Blocking a doorway with an installation is totally unacceptable and likely a code violation in your jurisdiction. Contact your building inspection department to verify. The idiots never should have completed the installation when they saw the implications.

Important question: Why is the furnace located differently than the previous one? Or why is the furnace larger than the previous one? Furnaces typically come in standard dimensions just so replacement will be easier. Why did they replace yours with something so drastically different?

Do not give in on this issue. Insist that they make it right by installing the correct sized furnace.
posted by JackFlash at 9:55 AM on December 4, 2010

Did these guys sell you the furnace too? Because if they sold you the furnace, then they should have known in advance that it couldn't be installed in that space, which means that any price they gave you for the job should have included modifying the space to fit their furnace. If they didn't sell you the furnace, they should have at least known that it couldn't be installed their once they saw the thing. If I were installing furnaces for a living, I'd look up your model number before I came over to your house...

There could be a slight chance that this isn't a violation of code, because it's just a laundry room it isn't actually blocking any sort of egress, right? It's worth looking into... This isn't my area of expertise -- I do carpentry and remodeling work. I don't know what kind of clearance a gas line or a furnace needs.

Oh, and that electric outlet isn't a big deal at all. If you could move the doorway over 16 inches you could just pop the outlet in on the next stud. It would be relatively painless. Most electricians around here leave a bit of wire in the wall in case things need to be moved in the future. That being said, it's still be a bunch of drywall work, replacing the baseboard and repainting both rooms, etc.. Probably a 500-600.00 job when all is said and done.. Basically a pain in your ass!

Good luck.
posted by Glendale at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2010

Yes, the company installing also sold the furnace.

The old furnace was facing a wall and only had about 18" of space between the panel and the wall, which I was told was in violation of code. It was installed before we bought the house, so I don't know the story on why it was done that way. Perhaps tellingly, it was installed by the same company. But they are well liked in the community, have great reviews, and we got 18 years of the old one, so I didn't think twice about it.

So they had to turn it around. But, looking at it now, they could have placed it back further, there is a lot of room behind the furnace. I think the reason they didn't place it back further is that they wanted to use the existing duct work and not have to move where the AC comes into the ductwork. I don't know that's the case, but now that I have had a good look at the finished job, I think that's the case. It was never mentioned to me that was an option; so maybe there is something else going on I am not aware of.

Thanks everyone for the advice. I'm really hoping I can get the company to resolve this and not have to eat the cost.

If it helps, I did take a couple pictures (sorry about the mess, I'm still putting things back together.)

The furnace sticking out.

Space behind the furnace Yup, ample room.

Footprint of the old furnace behind the new furnace.

posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:08 PM on December 4, 2010

Just a quick question if anyone is reading this anymore. It was recommended to me from a family member I stop payment on the check until the issue is resolved. Even though the company seems cooperative at this point (they're scheduled to come out and look at it) is this a good idea? It seems kind of drastic, on the other hand, it seems like something with such a short window that if they later stop being cooperative that I may lose the chance.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:56 AM on December 7, 2010

Um. I think that seems drastic. You want everyone to be happy and cooperative. Unless they've given you reason to think them intractable, I wouldn't antagonize the situation. You *did* authorize the door blockage.
posted by amanda at 9:04 AM on December 7, 2010

Yeah, after contemplating it, I decided against stopping payment on the check. They are still working with us and I want to keep it that way, and are sending someone out to look at it to see what can be done this Thursday. I'm hoping they stand by their reputation and just fix it for us.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2010

Just to update, the company moved the furnace over at no extra charge. I didn't have to go to the head of the company, I just contacted the sales rep, explained my frustration, and he sent out an installation supervisor who verified that it should have been installed back further. Now it sticks out more in line what I expected, about an inch, and the gas line is completely behind the door. So, even though I had trouble with them, I guess going with a reputable dealer/installer made all the difference in the world because they made it right.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:58 PM on January 3, 2011

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