Back when Randy Schorr and his team at Schorr Construction in Wisconsin were starting out 25 years ago, he says, they were hired to do “an architecturally designed job on a lake — a sunroom with a fancy rec room beneath it. I was young then and did whatever I was told by the architect.” In this case, Schorr should have paid attention to the sinking feeling he got after hearing the architect's plans.

The rec room was going to be lower than the basement of the house. “Because the room was going to be all finished off, the architect didn't design a sump pump into it and wanted us to just waterproof the foundation. He designed a membrane into the floor system, thinking that was an OK waterproofing method.”

Schorr knew the architect was making a mistake, but he didn't feel confident enough to discuss it with him. “We wanted to put in a sump system, but the architect said, ‘No.' He felt that we could adequately seal out the water this way. Well, we got it done and it leaked like a sub,” Schorr says.

The owners took everyone to court. “They wanted a settlement from us, the architect, the waterproofing contractor, the landscaper. They were after settlement from everyone — which actually was a good way to do it, since everybody was just blaming everyone else. It turned out to be about a $2,500 settlement from each person and the owners would hire someone else to fix it.”

Schorr's company paid their portion right away because he “thought it was a good deal.” The architect went on to arbitration and lost. “I guess he had a big ego,” Schorr says.

Schorr can speak with confidence now, but back then, he says, “We weren't sure of our own judgment, but we learned pretty quickly that if we didn't think something was going to work we should speak up.”

Now the company bills itself as a design/build firm. It still does a lot of work for architects. Now, however, “whenever we tell a designer or architect something won't work, they listen to us,” Schorr says. “And we work out a different method of construction.”