Inspecting your new home is worth the effort

May 29, 2009|By PAT LOGAN / Creators Syndicate

Dear Pat: My husband and I are having our dream house built and it is nearly completed. It has a warranty, but I would still like to have it inspected before we make the final payment. What should I look for? - Deb J.

Dear Deb: You are wise to want to do a inspection before making the final payment to the contractor and moving in. Most contractors are reputable and will honor their warranties. But there is always more of an incentive for them to fix things quickly if receiving final payment depends on it. Also, repairs are easier to make while a house is vacant.

Bring a pencil, clipboard, pad of paper along with your husband and a representative from the contractor's company. Your husband will provide an extra set of eyes to find flaws and be a witness should questions arise later.

The contractor's representative can immediately assess problems you find and discuss them with you. Most of your concerns will probably be well founded, but others could be acceptable per industry standards. The representative can answer your questionable and tell what it would take to correct any flaws you might discover. Some might require extra charges.


Take notes, notes and more notes. Use a video camera if you have one to record everything that is discussed. If after several years, even beyond the warranty period, a specific problem area worsens, you can show the contractor it was noticed and discussed initially. You will have a better chance of getting it fixed for free or at a reduce charge.

Don't be timid about questioning any areas of concern, and don't worry about offending the contractor. They are used to it and should accept it as part of the job. Remember, a house is the biggest investment most people make in their lives, so you have a right to be picky.

The kitchen and bathrooms are good rooms in which to begin your inspection. Check all the appliances carefully. Open and close every cabinet and drawer. They should close tightly and squarely. Any misalignment or squeaks will only get worse with time. Walk back and forth across the floors and listen for squeaks and feel for springy locations.

Check the flatness of the walls by shining a flashlight along them. You will quickly notice shadows caused by any raised areas, often at the drywall joints. This is one of area you should discuss to see if the walls meet industry standards.

Feel the walls, especially in the corners where there is drywall tape. Taped joints should be as solid as the wall. If some joints feel spongy, you should have it re-taped because it will surely come loose over time. When it does, it is a very dusty job to have it re-taped.

Don't forget the outside. Inspect the foundation, making sure the ground slopes away from the house and that there are proper drainage provisions. Check the quality of the caulking around windows and doors for energy efficiency and to keep water from penetrating the walls.


o Notepad, tape measure, video camera or still camera, tape recorder, small mirror, flashlight

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