Why Should I Have a New House Inspected?

Many people mistakenly believe that they don’t need an inspection on a new house. The misconception is understandable because as consumers we have been conditioned to believe that consumer products of all types will be delivered without defects. Unfortunately this is not true, especially in the new construction market.

Quality control programs in new construction vary widely in the field and many contractors do it by the seat of their pants if at all. They usually get away with this because they have learned from experience what kind of mistakes are going to show up as a problem during the warranty period. As a result there are likely to be hidden defects that will show up later in the life of the house, after the builder warranty has expired.

Homeowners often encounter these problems after the first year or two not knowing they are related to construction error. For instance, brick veneer is installed on about 90% of the new houses built in this area. Most people do not realize that brick is not waterproof. To compensate for this, construction standards, including the building codes, require a drainage plane behind the brick along with flashing and weep holes that will guide any water that penetrates the brick, back to the outside.

Unfortunately I rarely see brick veneer installed with all of the required flashing. As a result water may enter the interior wall and ceiling space and cause all kinds of problems including damage to walls, ceilings and floors and issues with mold, mildew and fungus.

Again, most homeowners don’t realize that the problems they see even 5 or 6 years after they move in are the result of code violations. It has also been my experience that a large percentage of the problems I find during the inspection of a 5 to 10 year old house are the result of builder errors.

What Are The Most Common Construction Defects?

    * Improper grading of the soil around the house resulting in wet moldy crawl spaces
    * Flashing missing from brick veneer

    * Improperly installed and adjusted safety equipment on garage door openers
    * Improperly installed appliances
    * Improperly installed attic ladders
    * Missing fireblocking
    * Improper wiring in the panel
    * Electrical wiring not properly secured and protected.
    * Loose electrical receptacles
    * HVAC ducts loose and blowing conditioned air into the crawl space or attic.
    * Structural deficiencies in the roof construction

But There Are City/County Code Inspections, Won’t This Protect Me?

Unfortunately the protection afford by the official inspection departments is limited. City inspectors are stretched very thin and can only spend a few minutes at a construction site during a few visits at specific phases of construction.

Code enforcement is about as effective as speed enforcement is on our highways. Think about how many times have you been stopped for speeding compared to the number of times in your life you have exceeded the speed limit. Think about how many speed related accidents there are on the highways. Consider also that the builders know exactly when the code officials are going to show up and exactly what they will be looking for. Is it any wonder that new homes have problems?

The good news is that builders are required to perform to the code requirements and knowing this can help you get the problems corrected. However, this will only happen if you have an inspector who knows construction and the codes.

When Hiring an Inspector For New Construction, What should I Look For?

First you need an inspector who has extensive experience in new construction along with the education necessary to under stand the building science behind the codes. (Check out my Resume)

You also need an inspector who knows the codes and who is not afraid to use them. Believe it or many home inspectors are afraid to use the codes when documenting problems with new construction. Many are so afraid of the “C” word that they will ignore obvious problems related to code provisions because they are afraid you will hold them to a higher standard. They have been told this by so called experts. When interviewing an inspector ask them if they will report on code violations they may see and give references to the codes. If they say no, keep moving.

The fact is codes are the MINIMUM STANDARD FOR CONSTRUCTION adopted by many governmental bodies in this area. As an inspector I cannot provide you with the service you need without knowing these standards and providing you with references in the codes to back up my report. In addition to using references and citations from the building codes I will also provide references to industry standards and manufacturer installation instructions.   This additional information will puts you in a much stronger position when negotiating with the builder for repairs.  Bottom line, if a home inspector will not provide references to the building codes, manufactures installation instruction or other industry standards he is simply wasting your time and money.

What Will a New Construction Inspection Cost?

If you don’t care what kind of inspection you get, you can find inspectors who will do just about any job for less than $300. Dig a little deeper and you can probably find an inspector for less than $200.

The inspection industry is covered up with unqualified inspectors who receive bogus “certification” from phony inspector mills and virtual associations. One association will let you take a free online exam, pay a fee and become a “Certified Master Inspector.” There are documented cases of Jr. High School kids passing the test!

If you need to save a few bucks on the inspection of one of your biggest investments, just remember, Buyer Beware.  If you want a real inspection performed by a knowledgeable professional inspector, you are going to spend between $400 and $600 for most inspections. If your new house is really big, you’ll pay even more.

Special Scheduling Consideration for New Consideration

Unless the new house you are purchasing already has a Certificate of Occupancy, scheduling an inspection on a house under construction can be difficult. All too often the builder will commit to a completion date which they will fail to meet. As a matter of fact they will commit to and fail to meet one deadline after another and before you know it you are pushed up to the closing date.

If you have an inspection scheduled and the builder gives you less 48 hours notice that they will not have the house ready, it is best to proceed with the inspection at the scheduled time and arranged for return visit by the inspector once the final power is turned on. You should ask the builder to reimburse you for the cost of the return visit.

New Construction Report - This link will take you to an inspection report for a home I recently inspected. This house was built in the City of Madison where code enforcement inspections are performed by the city. The builder is a large well known custom builder specializing in larger homes. The only things changed from the original report are the names and addresses to respect the privacy of the buyers.
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