Q: We are buying a new home. Do we really need to pay for an inspection?
A: If you are buying a new home, consider what could possibly go wrong. The answer is more complex than you might think.
The truth is, any house — whether a modest ranch or an expensive, custom-made home — is an intricate maze of structural, heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical systems, and it’s not unusual for even the most responsible and dedicated subcontractor to inadvertently miss something that could become a real problem.
Most fit-and-finish work in a new home is very good, and small flaws are easy to spot. The problems you need to worry about are those that occur in the subsurface work.
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Occasionally, new homes have improperly designed or installed furnace flues. This can result in a failure to properly carry out furnace exhaust, which can create a serious health risk.
Another common problem occurs in the crawl space beneath the house. Construction debris can sometimes be inadvertently left behind. Other defects that are not uncommon are poor grading or an inadequate vapor barrier, either of which can allow water to pool under the house. This standing water creates excess moisture, which attracts wood-destroying insects and may lead to rot.
Sometimes the lugs that secure the electrical wires in the service box do not get properly tightened and can cause sparking. Occasionally a new-home inspection will reveal that bathroom and kitchen fans are venting into the attic instead of outside, as required by code. Plumbing fixtures may not properly connect to the drain system.
Another issue that can arise is improper flashing around the fireplace chimney, which may allow water to run down the chimney and into the house.
Most new homes go through what is called a “shake down” period in which problems are discovered and corrected. Having a professional inspection will make sure there are no unpleasant surprises and allow you to solve any issues with the builder before you take title to the home.
Many builders off a one-year guarantee, but problems sometimes don’t become apparent until several years after construction was completed. And though many homeowners buy new construction and experience no problems, the cost of an inspection is small compared to the potential costs for repairing defects. Plus, most builders are quick to correct any defects once they have been identified by a professional building inspection report.
When you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on what is for most of us our single biggest investment, it is worth the cost of an inspection to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing any construction flaws were corrected before you moved in and your new home is safe, sound and ready to provide years of shelter and enjoyment.
HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.