If you are considering having a new home built, or being the first owner of a recently built home, do you know what to expect? How good is new construction in Las Vegas and the United States? Generally, it is pretty good, but there are some significant areas of concern. You should not assume that new equals good. Making any of the following assumptions will typically lead to unsatisfactory results and, even worse, legal disputes that could go on for a long time and consume significant financial resources. These are some of the more significant assumptions:
- You know enough about building a home to be capable of effectively managing the project.
- Your builder knows what he or she is doing.
- Your builder’s work will be consistent with good construction practice.
- There is only one way to build a quality home.
- That building code compliance will produce a quality home.
- Your local code enforcement is effective.
- Your builder actually knows what you want to have built.
- Paying more means you will get a better product.
- You will get a weathertight, low-maintenance home.
We evaluate all of the homes we look at by comparing them to what we consider to be typical of similar construction in that geographic area. We do not expect perfection.
More and more, in our diverse culture, you cannot assume that there is a universal understanding about what is required to build a good home or even what a good home is!
The following is based on information and opinions gathered from the offices of Criterium Engineers. The objective was to identify problem areas that have significant impact on the functional performance and quality “feel” of new homes.
We asked our engineers just one question – “What problems are you finding?”
Some overarching statements can be made about new construction:
- In our experience, the expectations of some homebuyers and owners have risen to the level of unfulfillable and unreasonable. We believe more education is needed to help homebuyers understand residential construction.
- Skill and workmanship are frequent causes of faulty construction. Material selection is the next most common cause. Finally, inadequate or superficial design and/or preparation is responsible for a significant portion of the quality compromises.
- From our discussions with builders, it is increasingly difficult to find skilled and motivated workers, let alone train them. This may be the biggest challenge facing the building industry if the desire is to reduce number and frequency of construction problems.
The following are the highlights of our survey.
PROBLEM AREA: ROOF INSTALLATION
|Lack of roofing paper||Premature roof deterioration|
|Poorly installed eave, rake and valley details||Water intrusion|
|Improperly placed shingles|
PROBLEM AREA: SIDING INSTALLATION
|Thin stucco, easily damaged||Framing rot and mold|
|Poor details||Water intrusion|
|Lack of proper brick veneer details||Visual distortion and irregulaties|
PROBLEM AREA: WINDOW & DOOR INSTALLATION
|No flashing||Poor window operation|
|Inadequate attachment||Water intrusion|
|No sealant or incomplete sealant||Framing rot and mold|
|Out-of-square and/or wrong size rough openings|
PROBLEM AREA: WINDOW PERFORMANCE
|Leaks through window frame||Framing rot and mold|
|Broken seals||Water intrusion|
PROBLEM AREA: FRAMING ADEQUACY
|Unbraced roof trusses||Structural sagging|
|Loose truss connections or missing truss hanger nails||Unusally springy floors|
|Casually braced roof framing||Structural distortion, leaning|
|Cut and/or compromised floor framing (plumbing, electrical, etc.)||Compromised door and window operation|
|Missing wall studs|
|Inadequately attached sheathing and/or shear walls|
|Lack of bracing or structural sheathing|
|Incomplete firestop at the walls|
PROBLEM AREA: HVAC/MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION
|Inadequate service access||Lack of reliability|
|Poorly installed ductwork||Inadequate performance|
|Missing condensate drain lines||Short service life|
|Inadequate safety standard compliance|
|Missing drain lines|
PROBLEM AREA: FOUNDATION CONSTRUCTION
|Concrete spalling||Premature deterioration|
|Exposed aggregate||Water intrusion|
|Significant cracking||Compromised structural performance|
PROBLEM AREA: SITE SELECTION/SOIL PREPARATION
|Poor surface drainage||Water intrusion|
|Differential settlement||Settlement and distortion|
PROBLEM AREA: USE OF UNPROVEN MATERIALS
|Polybutylene (PB) pipe||Water intrusion|
|Hardboard siding||Premature failure|
Please note that water intrusion is a common consequence for many of these problem areas. Water intrusion leads to rot, mold, interior damage and premature deterioration. Good detailing and good construction practice will minimize water intrusion, not all builders understand that.
Owning a new home can be exciting. You should not assume, however, that all new homes are well-built, quality homes, no matter how much you pay. To become a happy homeowner, you will need to be a prudent, cautious homebuyer.