What could Possibly Go Wrong in New Construction?
Bumps can happen.
Anyone planning home is expecting their dream house to be perfect. They imagine that everything happens just like HGTV without the pauses for commercial breaks. What could possibly go wrong?
The truth is a number of things could go off the rails. I'm writing this series precisely because I represented three clients, each of whom had different problems with their new homes. Builders hire subcontractors, some are better than others. A shortage of materials, bad weather, or scheduling labor can affect the timeline. Building a home takes a village, the builder has to make sure that all the villagers are scheduled, materials are in, and that any changes don’t disrupt the process.
One of the clients represented, everything that could possibly go wrong did. Mrs. Buyer put down $15,000 in earnest money towards a home in a new development in April 2014. She received a promotional discount for being first. Her good luck stopped there. Mr. and Mrs. Buyer chose a lot from a map, builder provided a basic description. It was raw land, no streets, curbs, or utilities were in yet. Torrential rains ensued in May stalling out excavation because you can’t pour foundation in mud. When she finally saw her lot after the streets for in, it was not what was described.
Progress on the house was delayed. She and her husband weren’t given access to the builder’s design center, the sales agent pitch hit. That was a strike out. They had to repeat the process after deadlines with a new designer. There were glitches along the way, and the wrong floors were installed a week before closing which fell exactly 11 months after they started.
It’s smart to have a home inspection even if it is new construction. Builders trust their suppliers and contractors, but bumps can happen. I asked Dan Seeland of Strickland Inspections what are some of the common flaws that he sees in new construction.
- A new home in Plymouth had an entire wall of newly installed leaky windows. The inspector felt a breeze standing in front of them. This was a manufacturing flaw, windows throughout the home, and the development had to be adjusted.
- Grading around the house can sink. After the foundation is poured, the ground around it is backfilled. Loose soil settles, and months later when it is ready for move in, the soil has flattened, or sunken around the perimeter, causing rain and snow to drain towards the foundation. The fix is additional soil building up the grading to flow away.
- Cut edges on sideboards and trim haven’t been primed or painted. Some of the boards are factory finished, or painted before they are cut. If they aren’t primed and painted they wick moisture through open edges and cause decay. Fix is that they be primed and painted to seal the wood.
- A passive radon mitigation system that hasn’t been tested after installation. Most builders don’t perform a test, there’s no way to know if it is effective without testing. Not all passive systems are capable of reducing radon levels below 4.0PCi/L. Have it checked.
- Tiled corners, or tile to counter have been grouted rather than caulked. Grout cracks, allowing moisture seep in. Caulking is waterproof. Not grout, caulking.
- Plumbing caps haven’t been removed after the air pressure test on the drain waste and vent system is completed. This is a test that blows air through the plumbing to detect leaks. You want the system tight when you do the test, but not afterwards. If caps are left in place the plumbing system is not vented. Glug glug.
- Exhaust ducts (from kitchen or bathrooms) not connected tightly through the attic. If the connection is loose, or has fallen off, moisture will accumulate into the attic and will be absorbed by the insulation. We know that isn’t a happy ending. Remedy is a quick attic check to make sure it goes out.
- Doors that don’t latch shut, or could bind at the top or bottom. Wood doors shrink a little the winter from hot air. They could swell in summer from warmer moist air. The builder can adjust knowing that they can swell or shrink. You don’t want to over adjust for either season.
Know that the builder wants to deliver a perfect home as much you do. Surprise is not a good word in real estate. You have a right to expect the home that was described in the contract, and most builders give it to you. This is why you need an agent at your side to clarify and find solutions should something get off track. Buyers don’t always recognize the difference between a small issue, and something that affects the performance of the building. We’re here to help.