The Stages of New Home Construction*

Why You Should Consider Hiring Your Own Home Inspector

(*An edited excerpt from an article written by Martin Morgan)

There are many reasons for imperfections in new construction. This article is intended to identify the key "stages" of new home construction and why using your own home inspector can help promote quality control during the building process. Making sure your home is treated correctly is really important. When the house is finished you will be able to invest in home insurance with a company like Aviva to protect it, before that, however it is worth getting a home inspector. In Arizona most residential construction projects can be broken down into four basic stages:

Foundation
Framing, Rough Plumbing, Mechanical & Electrical
Insulation & Drywall
Paint, Trim, Finishes
1. Foundation Stage - This includes excavation, footings, foundation walls (or slab), waterproofing, backfill and compaction, and underground plumbing. Municipal inspections are typically performed on the foundation (prior to pouring) and underground plumbing.

2. Framing Stage - This includes wood or steel framing, exterior wall and roof sheathing, exterior trim and siding (and/or stucco/brick), windows and exterior doors, and roofing. Municipal inspections are typically performed on the rough framing. Some municipalities inspect the roofing.

Rough Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical - This includes water and waste/vent piping, plus setting of the water heater; ductwork, venting and furnace installation, wiring and electrical panel installation. Municipal inspections are typically performed on all three.

3. Insulation and Drywall Stage - This includes wall insulation, (but not attic insulation at this time), drywall installation, tape and texture. This stage cannot begin till the rough stage inspections are passed. Many municipalities do not inspect the insulation but rely on the contractors "certification" of installation. Many municipalities have a drywall nail/screw inspection prior to tape and texture.

4. Paint, Trim, Finishes Stage - This includes finished flooring, cabinets, countertops, wall tile, mirrors, shower doors, final electrical (including fixtures), final plumbing (including fixtures), and final mechanical. Municipal inspections are performed on the final electrical, plumbing, and mechanical. When these inspections are passed, the municipality then typically performs a "Final Inspection."

So with all these inspections by the municipality, why on earth would a buyer need inspections by a private home inspector? After all, doesn't the municipality sign-off mean your home is up to code and there are no problems?

The builder would like you to think that this is the case. You might think this should be true as well. In reality the actual facts and the condition of your home can be very different. The builder would also like you to believe that any problems that arise after closing will be promptly dealt with during the warranty period. Experience has shown us that sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't. A rather risky proposition at best.

Here are some builder excuses we repeatedly hear:

"We build it that way on purpose."
"It meets the industry standard and that's all we have to do."
"The city passed it so we don't have to do anything about it."
"If we do it for you, we'll have to do it for everybody else too."
"That would have been an upgrade, what you got was standard."
"The city inspections are there to guarantee that everything is done right, so you don't need your own inspector."
"We'll take care of that during the warranty period."
"You didn't catch that on the walk-through, so we don't have to fix it now, at least not for free."
"That's routine homeowner maintenance, not our responsibility."
There are many more, but you get the picture. The fact of the matter is that the municipal inspections are there to determine code conformance, but the inspector obviously cannot see or check everything. The municipal inspector is typically overwhelmed with all the inspections to be done in a day and therefore cannot spend much time at each home. An Arizona Republic newspaper article, "Housing Inspectors Hustle To Keep Pace", August 10, 2005 (ID: pho117051069) stated "On a typical day, Chandler building inspector Larry Lundgren checks out about 18 homes, most of them new. Lundgren starts out at dawn with a list of addresses located near each other. At one stop, he may spend as little as five or 10 minutes pressing on a few walls to make sure drywall is properly nailed."

Each municipal inspector has his/her own "pet peeve" items that are typically checked, but the rest get a cursory review at best.Smart superintendents soon learn each inspector's "pet peeve" items and make sure those are taken care of prior to calling for an inspection, and frequently get signed off when other issues are overlooked. The Code does state that the purpose of the plan review and inspection process is to "ensure the life, health, safety, and welfare of the public" but in actuality the builder is ultimately responsible for self-enforcement of code conformance, even if the inspector misses something. Besides, something may pass code but still be poorly (or even improperly) done.

So, what's a buyer to do?

We recommend that buyers of new construction homes have periodic inspections during construction by their own inspector. And we don't just say that to drum up business for inspectors. It is a sad fact of life that many issues slip by the superintendent and municipality inspectors. You have more leverage to get action from the builder PRIOR to closing than during the warranty period. Many issues are discoverable by a good inspector prior to being covered up with drywall, but if not discovered they may not manifest into actual problems until after the warranty has expired.

In short, you need your own inspector to discover the issues at each stage of construction and have them corrected. With an expert on your side and a fact-based inspection report in hand your leverage with the builder to correct each issue is significantly improved. By doing this you also directly affect the overall quality of your finished home by maintaining good quality control during each construction stage. Quality construction doesn't just happen, it is either built in during each construction stage or it isn't. Doesn't it make sense to ensure the quality of your home from start to finish?

We recommend three separate inspections during the construction of your home:

At the conclusion of stage 1, the foundation stage
At the conclusion of stage 2, the framing, rough plumbing, mechanical & electrical stage
A final and complete home inspection at the conclusion of stages 3 & 4, the insulation, drywall, paint, trim, & finish stages
The final inspection by your personal home inspector should occur prior to your pre-closing "walk-thru" so the home will be complete (or as near as possible) and you will have the information you need for the final walk-through. If timed correctly, many, if not all of the issues discovered during the final home inspection can be corrected prior to closing and verified either prior to or during the pre-closing "walk-thru".

Sunland Home Inspection wish's you the best with your new home purchase & we encourage you to actively participate and manage the quality of your finished home during it's construction.