Builder’s Pantry Example…Standardizing Dimensions

Illustrated in Fig. 4.8 above is a pass-through butler’s pantry placed between the kitchen and the dining room.

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In this particular case, the builder used four different architects for his projects, each of which had different floor plan dimensions for the size of these butler’s pantries that varied from house to house.

Because this builder used 2’-8” wide interior doors standard throughout the house, and 3-1/2” wide casing…the opportunity was available to standardize the floor plan dimensions for every house design to provide adequate clearance for everything to fit.

For whatever reason, this was not done.

Figure 4.9 shows a standard sketch detail that could have been given to each of the builder’s architects…along with other cheat-sheet sketches…that illustrate the minimum dimensions for the butler’s pantry…for a 24-inch countertop, 23-inch lower cabinet, and drywall reveals on each side of the door opening casing…requiring a minimum overall dimension of 5’-6” (66 inches).

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Figure 4.10 shows a butler’s pantry that was designed with a dimension less than 5’-6” (face-of-stud to face-of-stud)…with the door casing on the right side removed for the installation of the lower cabinet and countertop.  The casing was then later scribe-cut to fit around the cabinet and countertop…giving the appearance of poor design.

In this particular case, the in-house interior designer may have assumed a standard 24” countertop and a 23” cabinet, or gotten poor measurements from the field, in specifying items for the butler’s pantry that did not fit.

Standardizing everything from the 5’-6” wall space to the 23-inch cabinet and 24-inch countertop…for every project uniformly…would have prevented this reoccurring dimensional bust of ripping door casing to fit…which for this builder resurfaced again and again on about half of their new projects.

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Door Casing Does Not Fit at Bedroom

The floor plan for this bedroom door has an unusual dimension-line from the face-of-stud at the left-hand side to face-of-stud on the inside of the bathroom wall at the bathtub…of 3’-8-1/2” or 44-1/2”.

In this particular example, the bedroom door was 2’-8” wide and the door casing was 3-1/2” wide.  This requires a minimum width from drywall-to-drywall of 39-3/4 inches as shown in Fig. 4.5.

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If the bathtub wall is 2×4 framing (3-1/2”)…then doing the math using ¾” thick drywall because of taping mud at the vertical inside wall corners…we have only 39-1/2 inches width when we need 39-3/4 inches…44-1/2” minus 3-1/2” minus 1-1/2” equals 39-1/2”.  This would then require ripping 1/4-inch off one of the vertical door casing sides.

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In this case, the width from drywall-to-drywall measured 37-1/2”.  Either the bathtub wall was framed 2×6 or the framing layout ended up on the wrong side of the chalked layout line.  The two drawings below illustrate both sides of the door casing cut to narrower widths in order to fit.

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Check There is Enough Width for door Casing to Fit

Figure 4.1 illustrates a generic floor plan for a secondary bathroom…where there is not enough width between the two walls for the bathroom door and the casing to fit.

For this particular house, all of the doors to the secondary bedrooms and bathrooms were 2’-8” wide (32”).  The exterior wall at the right side was 2×6 framing (5-1/2”).  The door casing trim is 3-1/2” wide…with a ¼” reveal the door jamb and 1/8” air space around the door.

The architectural dimensions are face-of-stud to face-of-stud.

I use ¾” instead of 5/8” at the inside wall corners for the thickness of the drywall…because the drywall taping mud adds an 1/8th of an inch thickness (to get 5/8” thickness at the inside wall corners, all of the ripped pieces of drywall must have the uncut recessed edges…which seldom happens).

Figure 4.2 shows the minimum width for this door and casing to fit…without having to rip to a narrower width one or both vertical side of the casing.

Figure 4.3 shows that the dimension on the plans of 2’-2” from face-of-stud on the exterior wall to the centerline of the door…and 1’-8” from the centerline of the door to face-of-stud at the left side of the door (looking at the bathroom door from the bedroom)…is not wide enough for 39-3/4 inches to fit.

In this particular case, both sides of the casing on the right-hand and on the left-hand had to be ripped to a narrower width to fit…spoiling the appearance of the side casing detail compared to the full-size header casing above.

In hindsight, the dimensions on the plans should have been 2’-4” and 1’-10”.  This would have provided a drywall reveal around both sides of the door casing.

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Conserve Time at the Beginning of a Project

            Builders should plan, schedule, and monitor the design phase of a project with the same doggedness and attention to detail they display when it comes time for the actual construction.

It always annoyed me as a jobsite superintendent that development company owners and managers casually waste weeks or months during the design phase…procrastinating over simple design decisions…then treat every hour on the schedule as if it were a matter of life and death once the construction started.

Equally disappointing is the sometimes total lack of preplanning involving modifications and color scheme decisions on the sales models.

I once worked on a project where the company owners would ask the painting contractor to paint two or three potential colors on the exterior stucco walls at various wainscot, banding, and pot-shelf areas.  Several people from the main office would then come out to the project and review the color samples on the exterior walls.  The following week the painter would paint two or three more sample colors on the walls, and the group from the main office would come out again and review the colors.

This activity went on for three or four weeks, with only two or three colors going up each time.  The main office group finally made a decision after five weeks.  The frustration from my perspective was that all the paint samples could have been painted on the walls at the first field visit…and a decision reached shortly thereafter.

With a little preplanning and foresight…the entire process could have been completed in a few days rather than five weeks.

On this same project, however, because of this and other indecisiveness on the part of the company’s owners and managers…the sales models construction schedule became so compressed that it degenerated into the typical frantic scramble to make the grand opening date.  My credibility and reputation as a jobsite superintendent were on the line within those last few weeks and days leading up to the sales models opening…but no one from the main office remembered the valuable weeks or months lost earlier during the design phase…because of poor time management.

When people say that time is money during construction…they should also remember to say that time is money during the design phase and the sales models construction phase.

Builders need to look at themselves, the architect, and the various design engineers in terms of manpower, milestones, and completion dates with the same scrutiny and self-discipline they look at field supervision and subcontractor performance during the construction.