Taking a Closer Look at New Home Construction

By
Home Inspector with Pillar To Post - Professional Home inspections

Here's some general information about house construction, especailly newer homes that you'll hopefully find interesting. If you have any questions about this topic or anything related to homes, inspections or construction, let me know. Steve

One thing home buyers have in common is they all discover that homes have issues. There is no perfect house, not even a new one.

Problems found in new homes are completely different than problems found in resale homes. For example, new homes don't have older systems that are near the end of their service life. Instead, problems involve incomplete work, damaged systems, missing pieces and imperfect workmanship.

New home construction problems primarily fall into the following four categories -

 •1.      Incomplete work: Often projects don't get done. This may be as simple as missing a layer of paint or a room that has no air ducting. In some cases, the incomplete work is not detected for some time after the homebuyer moves in.

•2.      Damaged systems and finishes: Things often get damaged during construction as a result of rain, snow, impact damage, stacking and storage damage. A common example is ducting that gets compacted under attic insulation.

•3.      Missing elements: Sometimes there are simply oversights during construction. For example, there may be no insulation in the attic.

•4.      Imperfect or sloppy workmanship: It's impossible to have perfect workmanship throughout any construction project and there are number of things that can go wrong on a new home construction site - a contractor gets delayed on another site and has to hurry to finish, or it may start raining before the house is closed in, and trades have to be diverted to another site.

 Here are a few of the more common problems experienced in new construction.

 Interior and Exterior Finish Issues

Interior and exterior finish issues seem to be the most common problems with new homes. For example, most new homes will have some "nail pops," imperfections in the cabinetry or small chips out of the counter-tops.

 

Tile and floor damage

Floor damage is very common in new construction. The damage may be a minor surface issue (crack or scrape), or it could be more serious such as a floor structure that persistently telegraphs through the floor finish. For example, a line of cracked tiles usually points to a sub-floor issue.

 

Water

Like older homes, new homes can also experience problems with water. Foundation cracks combined with poor exterior grading will result in water infiltration. Leaks from shower stalls are also common.

 

Siding

Buckling siding is often present in new homes. Vinyl siding expands and contracts as it is heated and cooled. If the siding is nailed tightly to the walls, as it expands, the siding will buckle and pop out. Homebuyers are often surprised when they touch the vinyl siding and it feels loose. This is normal. In fact, it has to be like this to perform properly.  Manufactured wood siding has very little tolerance to moisture. Perfect installation is required for the system to perform well for years.

  

Exterior Grading Issues

Grading problems in new homes stem from the construction process. Land is excavated to prepare the area where the house will be built. After the foundations are in place, the space around the foundation is backfilled.

 

Two common problems can arise -

•1.      The backfill settles resulting in negative grade (land slopes towards the house).

•2.      The backfill is too high on the foundation.

 

Roofing Issues

Most issues with new roof surfaces involve sloppy workmanship. If the shingles are installed in cold weather, they don't stick. If a wind storm strikes before enough heat is on the roof to stick the shingles together, there may be wind damage. There are techniques for installing shingles in cold weather that involve adding a dab of soft roof tar to each tab. This takes a lot more work, so it is usually omitted in favor of the hope for the best approach.

  

Insulation

Missing pockets of insulation or insufficient depth of insulation are sometimes found in new homes. Insulation is usually blown in with a machine from the attic hatch. If all areas cannot be reached from the hatch, the installer may have to enter the attic or remove a roof vent to ensure proper coverage. In many cases, the installer will simply do the best he can, often leaving voids in areas made inaccessible by an obstruction.

 

Insufficient depth can also be found in new homes. Most times, the cause involves an inexperienced installer. There will be some settlement of the insulation, but the amount it settles should be well known to the installer.

 

Structural Issues

Most structural problems with new homes are minor. There is either no implication to the structural defect or the effect is localized. Of course this is a generalization, and there have been cases of major structural problems involving new construction.

 

The two most common structural defects with new construction are -

•·         foundation cracks

•·         damaged or improperly modified floor joists and trusses.

  

Improperly modified floor joists are one of the most common structural problems found in new construction. A plumber may remove a section of floor joist to make way for the drain for the toilet, located directly above. This problem must be addressed and can be fixed by a good carpenter.

  

Remember, new homes should be inspected to uncover the defects discussed. Knowing upfront what issues might arise in the future can save homebuyers thousands of dollars in the long term. The most reliable way to uncover problems is by hiring an un-bias third party home inspector.

There are two types of new home inspections that are commonly done on new homes-

•·         Phased Inspection

•·         Warranty Inspection

 

The above is why Pre-Delivery Inspections (PDI) are becomming more popular with home buyers

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Rainmaker
43,224
Thomas Tolbert
Better Homes and GardensĀ® Real Estate Legacy - Savannah, GA

Thanks for some great points, that's why I always urge my new construction buyers have an independent home inspection.

Jan 16, 2009 10:16 AM #1
Rainer
38,809
Michelle Chamberlain
Above All Financial Services -Pennsylvania Mortgage Broker - Secane, PA
Suburban Philadelphia Mortgage Broker

Great post.  We bought a new construction 2 years ago and the builder was insulted that we had a home inspector since he was of the opinion that nothing could be wrong with a new house.  We experiences a number of issues mentioned, particularly no attic insulation and exterior grading issues. 

Michelle

Jan 16, 2009 10:17 AM #2
Ambassador
589,265
Julie Chapman
DR Horton - Lakeland, FL
New Homes Sales Lakeland Florida

Any builder I represent welcomes a home inspection and any buyer who purchases a new home is encouraged to have a home inspected.  I know that the county does inspections but prefer to have that home inspection in addition to the buyer's walk through. 

Jan 16, 2009 10:48 AM #3
Rainmaker
173,550
Christine McInerney
Great Life RE - Knoxville, TN
The McInerney Team, Knoxville TN Homes For Sale

Great points, I have a client who bought her home new and had huge utility bills- it turns out the builider "forgot" to put insulation in the walls and ceilings.  After confronting the builder he came back and fixed the issue but the homeowner said it caused a big mess and an even bigger inconveience.

Jan 16, 2009 11:07 AM #4
Rainer
154,195
Sasha Miletic - Windsor Real Estate
RE/MAX Preferred Realty Ltd. - Windsor, ON

Hi Steve, Welcome to AR, Be a Blogholic and start writing your own blog soon on AR. All the best for your RE business. This is the right place for customers, friends, realtionships etc.

Best - Sash

Jan 16, 2009 03:07 PM #5
Rainer
54,723
Marg Scheben
RE/MAX four seasons realty limited - Collingwood, ON
Edey - Collingwood, Ontario

Welcome to AR Steve!  As always, you provide great information to the public and I can personally vouch for what a wonderful HI you are.  Be sure to keep posting - I'll be reading.

Jan 23, 2009 04:35 AM #6
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Rainer
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Steve Lawson

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