Many buyers will think that if they are purchasing a new construction home, then there will be nothing wrong with the home and skip the home inspection. While it is true that we should expect to not find much wrong with a new construction home, things do occasionally get missed. That is not to say that home builders are not building quality homes. There are a lot of stages involved in building a home and multiple sub contractors are performing different tasks. Even with a good construction manager or general contractor and municipal inspections things can be overlooked. You can read examples of things I have found in new construction listed at the bottom of this post.
You may say, “Well, the home has a 1year warranty so I don’t need an inspection.” From the experiences of past clients of mine, it is always much easier to point something out and have it corrected prior to settlement than after. Don’t get me wrong, the builder’s warranty is important and you should take full advantage of it. Many of my clients that have their new construction home inspected will also have an 11th month inspection performed. This is your last chance to put together a punch list of items that crept up without you noticing.
What do I find wrong with new construction?
I have decided to keep a running list of items worth mentioning which I have found inspecting new construction. I will update this list from time to time as something new comes along.
- Incomplete Ductwork – I have come across this on at least 2 homes. One home had a supply register in a ceiling with no ductwork connected in the attic. The flex duct was laying several feet away and was never connected. On the other home, the flex duct was missing all together and the supply plenum had an open connection blowing into the attic. In both houses, heating and cooling was being wasted into the attic and the respective room was not being heated or cooled.
- Dryer or bathroom exhaust venting into the attic – This one is a common find. All bathroom and dryer exhaust must vent to the outside. On occasion I have found the exhaust vent laying to the side and was just never installed. Venting moist air into the attic can lead to Mold and deterioration of nearby structure.
- Second Floor Laundry Room – If you have a laundry room on the second floor, there must be an overflow tray installed under the washing machine. This tray will have a drain that discharges into the garage or into an unfinished basement. If this tray is missing and the washing machine develops a leak, substantial water damage can occur to the home.
- 3-Way/4-Way Wall Switches Improperly Wired – This is also another common find. A three or four way circuit means that you have a light fixture that is controlled by more than one or two wall switches. If not wired properly, you will find that in a particular configuration of wall switch positions leaves one of the wall switches inoperable. You would be surprised how often I find this.
- Attic Insulation Around Recessed Lighting – Not all recessed lighting cans are rated to be in contact with insulation. If this occurs, the light fixture can overheat and become a fire hazard. The light fixture will be labeled whether or not it can be covered with insulation. If not, then a baffle needs to be installed around the recessed can in the attic to hold back the insulation.
- Improper Wall Cabinet Installation – Kitchen wall cabinets are often “stock” cabinets that have a real wood front but the back and sides are a compressed particle board. This type of cabinet needs cabinet mounting screws or finishing washers under wood screws to increase the surface area of the mounting screw. This prevents the screws from pulling through the particle board resulting in a cabinet that pulls away from the wall.
- Poor Grading – The overall grading of the property needs to slope away from the home to direct any rain water away from the foundation. This is a common contributor to water intrusion in basements. Many municipalities do not allow any runoff from one home to run across another yard. When looking at the grading, it is also important to consider the likely 6″ or more of settlement that will occur around the perimeter of the home where loose backfill exists. A yard that drains well in the first year may not necessarily drain well three years from now.
- Loose Shingles – This one was a surprise. While walking the roof, I noticed several shingles that were loose and out of place. Looking at a loose shingle, it appeared that the roofer may have run out of nails in his nail gun a few times without noticing it right away.
- Gas Furnace Roof Vent, Improper Clearance – Concentric vent/intake is a nice little package to provide exhaust and an fresh air intake for a high efficiency furnace while only making a single penetration through the roof. In our climate, there should be at least 12″ of clearance from the high side of the roof to the intake. This allows for continued fresh air intake with snow accumulation on the roof. If the intake is blocked, the furnace will shut down and you will find yourself without heat.