Even New Homes Need Inspections
You'd like to think your newly built home won’t have any glaring issues, considering the reputation of the builder or the building code inspections performed by the municipality—but don’t be too sure.. You don't want to get hit with any surprises; so think about hiring a home inspector before your purchase is finalized. A construction defect may not show up right away, but a forbearer of potential problems may already be present—and something that may be picked up in a home inspection.
Hiring a home inspector to work on your behalf is much like having an attorney review the property title and all the other paperwork associated with the sale. Just because a home has passed the local municipal or county building-code inspections doesn't mean it is in perfect condition. Ideally, you're working with a builder you can trust and the local inspector is knowledgeable about the building code, but it's impossible to be sure that all potential construction issues will be properly addressed.
A builder or inspector could inadvertently compromise the structural quality of your new home. For example, the municipal inspector may let their knowledge of the general quality of work provided by a local builder affect the depth of their inspection on a particular house. Or, perhaps some item that passed inspection previously was subsequently damaged or altered prior to completion of the home—and never reinspected. Workers may get behind due to the weather or other factors and rush to complete one home so they can begin the next.
In an ideal situation, you'll have worked with professionals that do a great job building and inspecting your home, but wouldn't it give you better peace of mind to have another set of impartial, unbiased eyes look things over? A home inspector will provide a detailed report about the visible condition and provide insight into any future issues that may result from construction defect, saving you from major headaches down the road.
Think about some of the common areas that could use a double-check from a home inspector.
Drainage problems are common in new constructions. The concept is simple: water runs downhill and should be diverted away from the building. To prevent damage to the any basement, crawlspace or lower floor area, the finish grade level of the soil and mulch around the foundation should be at least six inches lower than the any framing, but for aesthetic reasons, many builders don't follow that guideline.
There should also be a positive slope away from the house of about four inches in the first six feet. Even when the proper slope is in place, the backfilled soil around the foundation will settle some in the first couple of years. This may lead to moisture problems in the basement or crawl space unless some more fill and grading work is done.
Municipal inspectors may perform only a cursory inspection of attic areas. They are often in a rush and access to the attic is sometimes difficult. They may inspect roof rafters or trusses for damage early in the construction process but not give them a proper final inspection after all wiring and ductwork is in place. Damage to trusses and supports sometimes occurs from HVAC contractors or electricians that are trying to install equipment. The placement and amount of insulation also may not get due attention, or can be moved around by additional work during inspection. Due to all these factors, attic construction defects can easily go unnoticed and lead to unexpected structural defects or energy loss.
Problems with the weathertightness of the exterior cladding on a house can lead to significant water damage from rain or snow infiltration. The result of these defects may not become apparent until well after the builder's warranty has expired. When a home inspector is able to report on them while the builder is still around, they're often easy to get fixed.
Minor, cosmetic issues often show up even in new homes. For example, floors may get damaged as contractors rush to complete a project, or you might see uneven siding or incomplete paint coverage. Conditions like these don’t fall under a municipal inspector’s radar, as long as the minimum code is met. Cosmetic issues are also not the focus of a home inspector; however, if they are noted, such problems are more likely to be addressed by the builder when you can present them with the findings of a licensed or certified home inspector and accompanying photos.
Your Rights to Have a Home Inspection
A builder should not object to you having a qualified home inspector inspect the home. Provided with a professional report, an astute builder will be more inclined to correct legitimate construction defect instead of providing reasons why they don’t have to, than if you provided your own list. Builders are also more responsive to making needed corrections prior to closing than they will be afterward. If a construction defect somehow slips by, you might have a difficult time getting the builder’s or sub-contractor’s workers back after closing.
Even honest builders and their subcontractors with many years of experience make mistakes. They often have numerous houses under construction at the same time, and some contractors and laborers may be inexperienced or left to work unsupervised. Municipal inspectors also have numerous houses to inspect and little time to spend at each job site – and while theoretically there to protect the public; their focus is really just on whether the construction meets minimum code requirements.
Your home inspector, however, is hired by you to help protect your interests. He/she will spend several hours inspecting the house, compiling a detailed report, answering any questions you may have, and providing guidance on the details and future maintenance needs of your home. Contact your local housemaster office at housemaster.com for more information or to schedule an inspection.
Note: These tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online at www.housemaster.com.