New-Home Inspections… Really?

by Jamie Dunsing, owner

Do new homes need inspecting?  You bet!  If new homes were perfect, why do we keep seeing the media write so much about defects found by new-home buyers?  Many people confuse “new” with perfection and think that an inspector cannot find problems because everything is new.  It’s true, of course, that an inspector will not find the problems related to deterioration of the home that he might in a resale home, but just because the parts of the newly-built home are “new,” doesn’t mean those parts were assembled properly. In fact, during new home inspections, we often find work that was done out of sequence. While this may seem innocuous, it can have longer lasting effects on the components within a home.

There are many reasons why a home under construction should be inspected in stages or phases.  For maximum assurance, a new homebuyer should have the construction inspected at three stages:

  1. FOOTING – where the trenches have been dug to be filled with concrete that will support the house weight.  Footings are important to the structural integrity of the house.  If the footings are not of the proper width, depth and clean of foreign matter or improper soil under them, the house will have future settlement problems.
  1. FRAMING – is the stage of construction just prior to installation of drywall.  At this stage, the roof is on, and the rough electric wiring, HVAC ductwork, and plumbing has been installed, all of which is visible, along with the structural “bones” of the house.  Now is the time to catch any fundamental defects while they’re easy to correct. This is probably the most important part of a new home inspection.
  1. FINAL – an inspection done on the completed house after the electric and gas (if present) meters are installed.  At this stage the house is essentially finished.  An inspector needs the utilities on in order to run everything, to make sure all mechanical systems were completed properly and are safe to use.  It also gives the inspector another opportunity to make sure nothing was adversely altered since the framing inspection.  A lot of time can go by between the framing inspection and completion of the house, and it’s not unusual to see some (improper) structural modifications.

It’s also important to remember that city or county building inspectors do not always observe problems with homes.  We’re all fallible, but municipal/county inspectors can be overworked, underpaid and sometimes under-trained.  They usually spend 15-30 minutes at each of their site visits, where a private inspector will spend at least an hour on site inspection and client report preparation.

Clients may or may not be present at each inspection phase. With digital photography, we can often “explain” the deficiencies with photos and written descriptions. When a client understands the reasons why something is improper, he is better able to communicate the problem with the builder and get it corrected.

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