Home Builders take pride in the quality construction and workmanship of new homes. But even the best builder will occasionally be challenged with flaws in new construction that must be corrected. The complexity of new home construction, buyers’ lack of understanding about new home warranties, and internet savvy consumers raise the stakes for new home purchases and argue for independent home inspections.
Insulation Institute spoke with Frank Lesh, past president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and Mike Chamberlain, owner of MC2 Home Inspections, a certified national home inspector. We discussed the prevalence of inspections for new homes, the three most common issues Chamberlain has encountered during those inspections, and what builders can do to ensure consistent quality construction.
Buyers Seek Quality Assurance
According to ASHI, home buyers realize that houses are very complicated and it’s a wise investment to hire an independent home inspector to inspect the home before occupancy. This decision is especially prudent considering the current home building boom and the shortage of experienced construction workers.
“Although there are no hard and fast statistics on the increased number of home inspections in new construction, ASHI sees the trend rising,” says Lesh.
Chamberlain (at right) estimates that new construction inspections represent less than five percent of his company’s business, perhaps because home buyers assume that a home that’s passed all building code inspections is proven safe.
The Three Most Common New Build Issues
When asked about the most common problems he sees in new home inspections, Chamberlain said, “without question, the number one issue we run across with new builds is the grading around the home. If builders don’t compact the soil around the foundation as they are supposed to, it results in a flat to negative grade around the home.” Proper grading is sloped to drain water away from the foundation.
Chamberlain says the second most common issue is siding that’s improperly installed, missing flashing, or loose. Finally, tied for third are incomplete electrical work (outlets not wired correctly, loose junction boxes, and branch wiring installed in an unsafe manner) and decks not being built correctly.
So, what’s a builder to do to avoid these issues?
Focus on Quality Assurance During Building
“Homebuilders need to slow down and take their time,” Chamberlain said. “There should be a fixed set of quality assurance inspections during the construction process of checks and balances.” Some builders, Chamberlain said, rush to complete homes without conducting necessary quality assurance checks. Having a quality assurance leader helps builders avoid expensive callbacks and fixes.
Incidentally, many builders Insulation Institute has encountered in the past few years have a well-established quality assurance process in place with a “quality leader” appointed to oversee elements of the build process. This process is something that high-performance builders rely on, and we’ve seen it demonstrated time and time again with quality insulation installations (see our blog post on our recent insulation inspection). Chamberlain says the most common issue he sees with insulation installations in new construction homes is missing or inadequate insulation – something a quality leader would be able to spot quickly.
Overall, delivering quality construction is a team effort, but a defined quality leader means there’s a guarantor of quality.
Moreover, best in class builders not only have a quality assurance process in place but also communicate to potential buyers about that process, which goes a long way toward assuring buyers of quality construction.