The single most important reason new homeowners should have their home inspected before the end of the first year of ownership is to document deficiencies and/or concerns before the builder transfers the warranty to a 3rd-party warranty provider. The builder is required to notify the 3rd-party warranty provider of any known issues. Depending upon the severity of the issue, the warranty provider may decline to accept the home.
The second most important reason to have your new home inspected is to prevent the builder from claiming the defect in your home is due to homeowner neglect or improper maintenance. Defective construction may take months, or even years, to become evident. Small problems can become big problems when overlooked for years.
Many new homebuyers are lulled into a false sense of security in buying a newly constructed home. You rely upon the local building department to inspect for code compliance, but most are unaware of the limitations of municipal building inspections. You rely upon the builders stated warranty along with manufacturers warranties on mechanical components or roofing materials. While those are certainly worthwhile, again, there are limitations on the warranties.
What Is the Local Building Department Responsible For?
The municipal building department oversees compliance with the stated building code in effect at the time of construction. You should understand building code represents the minimum standard rather than “best practice” and not every component is inspected. Building code assumes the builder/contractor, who is licensed by the state, will construct a safe and compliant structure. Builders rely upon trade subcontractors to install their work accordingly and often; builders do not oversee the work of trade subcontractors. Major components of the home inspected by the local building department include:
|Component Inspected||Limitation of the Inspection|
|Footers & Foundation||May not require compaction testing of sub-grade soils |
Does not require testing of concrete placed
|Termite Treatment||Only requires a certificate of treatment |
Many options are approved
|Rough Framing/Roof Deck||Generally sufficient for code compliance|
|Rough Plumbing/HVAC/Electric||Generally sufficient for code compliance|
|Fenestration (Doors/Windows)||Generally sufficient for code compliance but not “best practices” |
Components are not operated at final inspection
|Sheathing||Generally sufficient for code compliance but not “best practices”|
|Insulation||Generally sufficient for code compliance|
|Roof Covering||Observed from the ground|
|Final Plumbing/HVAC/Electric||Visual inspection |
Components are not tested
|Building Final||A general inspection including site grading |
Components are not tested
*Note: Homebuyers should understand most building departments do not inspect the installation of wall cladding such as stucco or siding materials. They only verify a house wrap is installed during the sheathing inspection.
Building departments do an excellent job overall, especially with critical safety items like electrical. But you should not be lulled into the false belief that the municipal building inspector is responsible for the overall quality of your home. That is simply not their responsibility.
Typical Warranties Provided by Manufacturers
What are the typical warranties provided by manufacturers or trades in new construction?
|Roof Covering||Depending upon the material, expect 20-40 years on most shingles |
Roofing contractors typically provide 1-5 years workmanship
|Appliances||Minimal. Typically, 90 days.|
|Windows/Doors||Varies based on quality but generally between 8-20 years|
|HVAC System||Typically, 10 years on equipment and 1-5 years on workmanship|
|Cabinets||Varies based on quality but generally between 5-20 years on material |
Expect 1 year on workmanship
|Garage Door||Typically, 1 year on the opener and 1-5 years on the door by the manufacturer |
Expect 1 year on workmanship
|Builder Warranty||Up to 10 years on structural issues but very limited after the first 4 years |
Leakage is typically covered in the first year with limitations
Cosmetics and routine maintenance are not typically covered
Stucco cracking is generally limited to the first year
New homebuyers will typically agree to accept a 3rd-Pary Warranty provider after the first year of ownership as part of the builder’s contract. When you do this, you are agreeing to transfer responsibility for defects away from the builder to the warranty provider. Warranty providers are required to “fix” deficiencies but not to make your home “like new”. Again, cosmetic, and routine maintenance issues are excluded. Typically, defects will be shimmed, caulked, filled, floated, patched, or denied. The modern builder of today often operates under the mantra, “they are here to build homes, not fix them”.
Most builder contracts today include language which states the builder will deliver a finished product “in compliance with local building code”. Building code is the minimum standard and few builders today build to “best practices” and even fewer builders will alert you to the difference. Production builders may even discourage or refuse to upgrade to best practices even if you ask or are willing to pay the difference. Their goal is to sell the allotment of homes in the community as soon as possible to meet the profit expectation of their development. Nothing makes a production builder happier than meeting expectations on a new development.
Homebuyers who are building custom homes, on their land, have more options to control the quality of the construction but many fail to take advantage of it. If you are considering building a custom home, you should consult with an independent construction advisor to develop your own set of specifications to ensure you get the quality and finishes you want.
What Should be Inspected During a Builder One-Year Warranty Inspection?
The inspector should observe the foundation, walls, windows/doors, trusses, roof coverings, columns, beams, balconies, and exterior siding. The inspector should look for any evidence of structural failure or moisture intrusion. The inspector should be appropriately qualified to identify the deficiency as it relates to the building code and to offer an opinion on the severity of any defects found.
What Qualifications Should the Inspector Have?
The inspector should hold licensure as a general or builder contractor or building inspector who has proven experience in residential construction. Many home inspectors offer one-year warranty inspections, but you should understand, few have any real construction experience nor does their license allow them to make repair recommendations. Most builders and 3rd party warranty providers deny claims from home inspectors as they know the limitations of the home inspector license. Due to the limitations of a home inspector license and a lack of knowledge, most home inspectors will simply advise you “to have it further evaluated by others”. There is little benefit to you from that advice. You should further understand, a home inspector will not generally be accepted as an “Expert Witness” should you need to pursue litigation in the matter.
Time is of the Essence…
Your one-year warranty inspection may be the last chance you will have to hold the Builder accountable for construction defects. At the very least, but still very important, your concern will be on record and prevent the Builder from claiming the problem was due to “improper maintenance”.
Giving your attorney a copy of an independent report, from a well-qualified inspector, who identified a potential concern wherein the Builder failed to act, will surely put a smile on their face.
At the least, and equally important, you will gain some peace of mind knowing a well-qualified, independent inspector, did not observe any material defects in your home.
Property360 provides one-year builder warranty inspections throughout NE Florida including Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Oakleaf Plantation, Gainesville, Lake City, Nocatee, St. Johns, Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, Orange Park and all surrounding areas. We are uniquely qualified as a general contractor and building inspector with over 40 years of experience. We are experts in stucco, mold, moisture, and termite investigations. No inspection firm is more qualified. We provide expert investigations and testimony to many law firms in NE Florida.