New Construction Inspections
Also known as 3rd Party Inspections or Phase Inspections
If you have any doubt about the need for a 3rd party inspection of any new home, built by any builder, then you should look at the these Photos. All of these photos are of new construction. It is astonishing the number of deficiencies I find during an inspection of a new house being built. Many home buyers wrongly believe that the local town building code inspector does a thorough inspection. The reality is - and this is based on my real life experiences as a contractor for over 20 years – the local town building inspector is only looking for minimum code requirements. Typically, they should perform between 6-8 inspections throughout the duration of the construction. More often than not, they may perform only 3 to 4 on site inspections. They could care less if the insulation in the attic and walls are poorly installed. They are not required, nor do they inspect for anything that may be cosmetically deficient. For example, incomplete molding installation, poorly installed wood flooring, improperly installed roof shingles, etc. I have never witnessed a local town building code inspector climb on top of a roof to perform an inspection. They simply do not do it.
For a minimum fee, typically less than ¼ of 1% the cost of a new house, you would get an impartial, thorough inspection of your new house while it is under construction. Also, a builder knowing that a 3rd party inspection is being performed by a qualified home inspector will be less likely to cut corners. Furthermore, Pennsylvania does not require contractors to be licensed or pass any type of skill/knowledge exams. The fact is many contractors are not qualified to build new houses.
I perform 3 separate inspections for a new house under construction (I do not perform a foundation inspection, see reasons below):
1. Framing - This inspection is performed when all the framing, rough-in for electrical, plumbing and heating systems are installed, but prior to insulation, drywall or other interior wall coverings being installed.
• Inspect for defective, warped, missing and misplaced framing members
• Inspect for proper wall and roof framing, notching, borings, and truss usage.
• Inspect anchor bolts, fire blocking and truss ties
• Inspect framing fasteners and connectors for proper schedules
• Visually inspect the electrical wires and plumbing installed through the
framing system including proper nail stop protection
• Visually check the HVAC rough-ins and duct conditions
• Visually check Air Handler condensation drain and overflow drain lines
• Check exterior walls, sheeting seal, wall penetrations, windows and sealants
• Visually check exterior electrical and lighting fixtures
2. Insulation Installed(but before interior wall covering is installed)
The installation of insulation is one of the most overlooked and poorly installed items in new construction. Yet it is one of the most important. Proper installation of insulation will affect the home’s lifetime energy efficiency, whether it’s heating or cooling costs. A poorly insulated home may have cold areas, create ice dams, moisture issues in attics(think mold), basements and more.
3. Final Home Inspection
This inspection is performed when all construction is complete. This is basically the same inspection we do on all houses new or used. On new houses, it must be coordinated with the builder's schedule to be sure all systems are complete and ready for occupation. It should be completed before closing with enough time remaining to accomplish any necessary repairs.
It is the final inspection to verify that all Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing systems are installed and operating as intended including, but not limited to:
• Full home inspection meeting or exceeding all requirements of the Standard of Practice by InterNACHI.
• Inspect the Structure including: Foundation, Grading and Drainage, Roof Covering, Roof Structure and Attic, Walls (interior and exterior), Ceilings and Floors, Doors, Windows, Fireplace/Chimney, Porches, Decks, Driveways, Carports
• Inspect Electrical Systems including: Service Entrance & Panels, Branch Circuits, Outlets, Switches, Fixtures, Disconnects, GFCI's
• Inspect Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning Systems, Ducts
• Inspect Water Supply System, Fixtures, Drains, Wastes Vents, and Water Heating Equipment.
• Inspect built in Appliances, and other Optional Systems
The "final" inspection is the type of inspections that is done when we are asked to do an "inspection". We can only tell you what we can see, touch, or test. We cannot see through concrete or walls. When you buy a completed house, whether "New" or "Used", this is the only type inspection that can be accomplished without destruction of the media (drywall, concrete, etc.) that obstructs our vision.
Foundation Inspection in New Home Construction
Why home inspectors should not perform the foundation inspection during the construction process, unless they are a certified structural engineer. I generally refer my clients to a structural engineer for this inspection.
Most qualified home inspectors are more skilled and experienced to provide framing and final inspections than your average structural engineer. Your typical structural engineer does not perform home inspections or if they do, not on a regular basis. As a home inspector I have thousands of hours of inspecting building components of a house on a daily basis. We just don’t inspect the structural integrity of a house but also the functionality of the house, i.e. insulation, electrical, flooring, roofing, appliances, etc. The reason that I do not provide foundation inspections is that there are too many unknowns related to the type of “pre-pour” inspection that is common in the industry.
The unknowns associated with a “pre-pour” inspection include a number of factors. I do not know how well the soils were prepped or even what types or geological factors may be involved. I do not know if the footings are deep and wide enough for the load that they will eventually carry. I do not know what amount of steel is needed in the concrete or how the post-tension cables are to be laid out. Without a great deal of measurement, I do not know if the home is wide enough, if the plumbing supply and drain lines are set properly and a great deal of other issues related to the layout. Unless I am there during the pour, I would have no way of determining if the concrete was mixed properly or watered down. Simply stated that’s why I recommend having a Structural Engineer handle this portion of the inspection process. That’s their specialty and they do it far more often than home inspectors.