Common Defects on New Construction
When somebody purchases a new home, they have certain expectations. Like a new car, it is expected that the house will come without dings and scratches and with that new home smell. It is expected that the home is built properly and up to current safety standards. After all, it was inspected by the city or county right? Well, contrary to popular belief, new homes are not always built correctly. Sometimes things are overlooked in order to expedite the project. Sometimes shortcuts are taken to save the builder money. To the untrained eye, evidence is not always in plain view. Listed below, are some defects found in new construction that you wouldn’t expect to be present on a brand new house.
Exterior Painting- Paint on the exterior is what's protecting the wood from the elements. Paint is sometimes neglected on the top and bottom trim, as well as on siding pieces. If an exterior door opens to an uncovered area, the top of the door should be painted similar to the outside of the door.
Caulking- This should be present on areas where wood products meet, in order to prevent moisture, air, and pest intrusion. Sometimes this is overlooked in areas and is even added to places where it shouldn't be. For example, hardiplank siding should not have caulking at the end joints. Instead the manufacture recommends that the end joints have a small gap for expansion and contraction of the house. They also recommend a piece of flashing be installed behind each joint, instead of caulking.
Roof- Shingles are sometimes found to be installed incorrectly. Nails are over driven, causing damage to the shingle itself, or under driven, causing damage to the shingles installed above. Gutters are installed with a minimal amount of downspouts to save costs during construction. This causes the home to rely on fewer points to discharge the water from the roof's surface. Often, downspouts from an upper roof discharge onto the lower roof covering, ending up in the lower gutter system. This causes premature roof deterioration to the shingles below. Drain waste vents may be left covered from the initial testing during the construction. This prevents proper ventilation of the plumbing system, possibly allowing sewer gases to enter the home.
Decks and Patios- Patios have been found slanting towards the house, allowing water to accumulate near the foundation instead of draining away from the home. Decks are often built incorrectly. The ledger board may lack flashing or be improperly installed. Sometimes, the deck is not even built with a ledger board. Joist hangers are installed without the correct hardware and sometimes omitted completely. Nails are often found over driven into the planking, causing water to puddle around the nail heads. Handrails may be absent when there is a 30" or more drop, which poses an obvious safety issue. When handrails and stairs are installed, the space between the balusters or risers are found to be installed with a gap larger than 4", which poses a safety issue for children.
Window Screens- Believe it or not, a lot of new homes do not include window screens. Something that would seem standard is no longer the norm when home builders increase their profit margin.
Grading- The soil around the home will sometimes slant towards the house instead of away, allowing water to accumulate near the foundation. Over time, water accumulating around the foundation will allow water to enter basements or crawlspaces.
Attic Insulation- On a new home, it is expected that the insulation was properly and sufficiently installed. Infrared cameras can spot areas lacking insulation, and it happens more than expected on a brand new home. Unfortunately, city and county code inspectors rarely enter the attic to verify proper installation methods before their final approval.
Ducting- Improper sealing around the ducting is sometimes found during a new home inspection. This unintentionally heats areas of the home that shouldn't be and increases electricity bills.
Truss Altering- While the truss system was inspected during construction, tradesmen will sometimes alter the trusses post inspection in order to install their hardware in a tight spot. Trusses should never be altered in the field without a structural engineer evaluating the impact and capabilities of their load.
Electrical- Hot and neutral wires have been found to be double tapped, creating a potential fire hazard. Open junction boxes with electrical splices are sometimes found in crawlspaces and attics, which is not allowed. Electric panels are even installed incorrectly, leaving large gaps between the edges of the panel and the sheetrock surrounding it.
Dishwashers- Anti-siphon devices and high drain loops are often omitted. The high drain loop and air gap are needed to prevent potential backflow water contamination of the dishwasher.
Cosmetic Issues- Dings, dents, and scratches are often found on finished surfaces. While not typically pointed out on an older home, it is commonly included in the report for new construction. Sometimes trim pieces are missing, especially on the inside of small closets, where their lacking may not be easily noticed. Scratches can be found on countertops and floors as well.
As you can see, new construction does not mean a home inspection should be skipped. Often, small things have been ignored, and sometimes major items overlooked. Be sure you are diligent with your new home purchase. Always have it inspected by a third party before your home builder hands over the keys.