Photos From New Construction Inspections

By
Home Inspector with Structure Tech Home Inspections

 

If you're buying a new construction home, get it inspected by a private home inspector.

I could wax on and on about how important home inspections are for new construction, especially if the builder tells you that a private home inspection isn't necessary, but I've found that photos are far more convincing than anything I could say.  I took all of the photos below at homes in Minnesota that were either new construction or only a couple years old; the issues that you're seeing are all 'original' issues; they weren't created after the homes passed their final inspections by the city.

Click on any of the photos for a larger version.

Roofs

The first thing that I typically inspect is the roof lines - I start doing this as I drive up to a house.  When valleys dump next to a wall, or even worse, in to the back side of brick veneer siding, you're asking for trouble.  These roofs are designed to fail.

Roof lines 2

Roof lines 3

Roof lines 41

Roof lines 1

I took the photo above at a house that was almost ten years old.  Thankfully there was a small portion of unfinished basement where I was able to pull the fiberglass insulation away from the rim space to confirm my suspicions; this had been leaking for a long time.  I really wanted to know what it looked like behind the siding... but my home inspections aren't invasive or destructive so I couldn't get all 'Mike Holmes' on them.

Roof lines damage

Decks

I've written several blogs about deck construction defects, but unfortunately handy homeowners and weekend warriors don't have the market cornered when it comes to shoddy workmanship.  Yes, I find plenty of deck defects even on new construction.

The most common deck defect that I find is improper nails used on joist hangers.  The nail I'm holding in the photo below isn't even half as long as it should be.  I seem to find this defect at just about every other deck inspection.

Decks - joist hanger nails

When special / non-standard joist hangers are needed, there's about a 20% chance that the installer will use whatever happens to be in their truck.  In other words, this is usually done right, but I still find a lot that are done wrong.  The joist hangers shown below were the wrong ones for the job and won't hold what they're supposed to.

Decks - joist hangers 2

Decks - joist hangers

Stairway stringers seem to be a hard thing to cut.

Decks - Steps

Deck stairways aren't difficult to attach properly, but some people sure make it look difficult.  Those long metal straps shown below aren't designed to do anything on a deck, and they're certainly not holding this stairway up.

Decks - Steps2

In the next two photos, the deck stairway is attached to a piece of siding trim with deck screws. This is ridiculously wrong.  Yikes.

Decks - steps3

Decks - steps31

Electrical

I don't find a lot of electrical defects on new houses, but I do find them.  In the next two photos below, there are double tapped circuit breakers and double tapped neutral wires.  These breakers aren't designed to be double tapped, and neutral wires are never allowed to be double tapped.  I honestly think the electrical inspectors never even looked inside these panels, because these are blatant violations.  By the way, these weren't at the same properties.

Electrical - double tapped breakers

Electrical - double tapped neutrals

This next violation was more comical than anything else; it's no big deal, but someone obviously missed a day of training.

Electrical - wrong low voltage tap

Plumbing

There are two common defects that I find on new construction houses all the time - one is test plugs or test caps still in place at the plumbing vents.  Test caps need to be installed at plumbing vents so the drain, waste and vent system can be pressure tested.  After the pressure test is done, someone needs to get up on the roof and get rid of the caps or plugs, but this is often forgotten about.  This effectively disables the vents.

Plumbing - knockout in place
The other plumbing issue that I find all the time with new construction houses is missing access panels for bath tubs.  Either there is just no access provided, or someone installs a panel but never puts a hole in the wall.  I always chuckle when I remove an access panel and there is nothing behind it... but I'm no longer surprised.

Plumbing - missing access panel

HVAC

I find a lot of the same HVAC installation defects over and over.  In the photo below, the AC units should have been at least 24" from each other.

HVAC - AC units too close
Venting for high efficiency furnaces is done wrong all the time.  I often find installation manuals that have never been opened.  In the photo below, the vent terminals for the furnace were installed wrong; the diagram below the photo came right out of the installation manual.

HVAC - wrong vent terminals
HVAC - wrong vent terminals 2

Any time the vent passes through an unconditioned space, it needs to be insulated.  This doesn't always happen.

HVAC - missing insulation on vent

HVAC - missing insulation on vent 2

Powervent water heaters have a huge list of things on the outside of the house that they can't terminate too close to; in the photo below, the vent terminates way too close to the gas meter.

HVAC - wrong vent terminal 3
HVAC - water heater vent terminal diagram

Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) have their own required clearances - for instance, the intake and exhaust need to be lilatorocated at least six feet from each other.  The HRV shown below has the intake and exhaust with about four feet of separation.

HVAC - HRV clearances
Most HRVs need to be balanced when they're installed; if there are no screws present to lock the dampers in place, it hasn't been balanced or someone wasted their time balancing it and it needs to be done again.

HVAC - HRV not balanced

Structure

Most structural problems manifest themselves years down the road from latent defects, but sometimes they're obvious.  In the photo below, someone took a sizable notch out of one of the beams.  If this was part of the original plans, great... but I'd bet anything it wasn't.

Framing - notched beam
Remember how I said that the wrong hangers are often used on decks because installers just don't have the proper hangers with them?  Sometimes this happens inside the house too.

Framing - wrong hanger

This next photo is one of my favorites; someone bent the heck out of this stairway stringer bracket and used it on a floor joist.  You can see that the bracket is actually splitting.  Just in case you needed a reminder, this is new construction.

Framing - torn hanger

Attics

As I've said in previous blogs, attics should always be inspected, whether the attic access panel has been 'sprayed shut' or not.    In the photo below, the roof vents weren't properly lined up with the holes in the roof sheathing, which significantly reduces the total amount of attic ventilation.

Attics - bad hole for roof vent
In the next photo, they completely forgot to install a roof vent; I'm glad I didn't put my foot through.

Attics - missing roof vent

Broken truss chord - I'm guessing too many bundles of shingles were unloaded in one place.  I can't be too critical of this because I've done it myself,  but the big difference for me is that I fixed it after I broke it.

Attics - broken truss chord 2

Same thing, different house.

Attics - Broken truss chord

This photo below shows a disconnected duct from a bathroom exhaust fan; just think about how much moisture would get pumped in to that attic over the years if it never got fixed.

Attics - loose bath fan duct

When truss manufacturers put green stickers on every truss saying "Permanent Lateral Bracing Required", I expect to see permanent lateral bracing installed.  This new construction house didn't have any.

Attics - permanent lateral bracing required

Finally, here's one of my favorites.  I took this photo at a five-year-old townhouse that had two separate attic areas.  One was insulated, one wasn't.  Wow.

Attics - missing insulation

I have a lot more photos that I could share, but hopefully I've made my point; just because a home is new doesn't mean it's right.  If you're buying a home, new or not, get a home inspection.  

 

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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Chris Smith 11/02/2010 06:51 AM
  2. Kate McQueen, SRS 11/02/2010 11:34 AM
  3. Tamala Harris 11/02/2010 02:25 PM
  4. Diane Williams 11/10/2010 07:31 PM
Topic:
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Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Tean - it does save time and hassle in the long run to take care of this stuff up front.

Steve - those are my favorites too.

David - ha!  You're sure right about that.

Dustin - thanks for reading.

Nov 02, 2010 05:17 PM #44
Rainmaker
635,862
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Some great photos Reuben. You really did a super job with this post.

Nov 02, 2010 07:02 PM #45
Rainmaker
660,166
Eileen Hsu
Douglas Elliman Real Estate - Manhattan, NY
LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON

This is very educational for buyers and sellers. It is interesting to see these photos especially when we sell in Manhattan New York condominiums don't usually see the roof and misc areas. Not to mention we do not have inspection here in Manhattan New York condos.

Nov 02, 2010 07:21 PM #46
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

James - thanks, I had fun putting this together.

Eileen - no inspections on condos?  Ever?  That's crazy.  I'll have to put together a montage of photos from condos some day.

Nov 02, 2010 07:29 PM #47
Rainer
61,007
Loren Green
Greens Home Design L.L.C. - Buckeye, AZ
Phoenix Home Inspector & Designer

Wood and vynil siding can't stand up to the heat here.  With stucco and tile roofs the crickets terminating at the corner of a wall are never a problem as long as they are flashed properly.

You are right some of those roof lines just left me scratching my head how they thought them up.

Nov 02, 2010 08:00 PM #48
Rainmaker
323,152
Yolanda Hoversten
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Properties - O'Fallon, IL
Broker - O Fallon, IL Real Estate

Thanks, Reuben!  We had ours privately inspected--I hope he did a thorough job.  Homeowners trust builders to do the right thing--obviously they don't always. 

Nov 02, 2010 08:06 PM #49
Rainmaker
47,608
Mike Weber
Keller Williams Realty Northern Colorado - Fort Collins, CO
40+ years in Northern Colorado

As a former GC and framing contractor, I enjoyed seeing these pix.  There is no lack of incompetence out there.

Nov 03, 2010 12:13 AM #50
Rainmaker
103,346
Robert Slick
Beach and River Homes - Georgetown, SC
NRBA, RDCPro, Trident/CCAR MLS

I liked this post and obviously you are a good inspector. I must argue however that the joist hanger nail you are holding in your fingers is exactly the right nail for use on a joist hanger. No longer nails are required if you nail the right number of anchor points in the hanger. Backnailing joists is also recommended but not always physically possible.

Nov 03, 2010 01:23 AM #51
Rainmaker
647,287
Barbara Hensley
RE/MAX Properties - Rockwall, TX
Homes for Sale in Rockwall County, Texas

Great post, pictures and info!  I encourage my clients buying new construction to get an inspection.  Many do not want to spend the money.  Compared to the price of the home, the cost of an inspection is nothing!

I am closing on a new home this week and the buyer did get an inspection and several important issues were found.  The closing got delayed a week in order to take care of the issues.  Buyer is now singing the praises of having a new home inspected.

 

Nov 03, 2010 03:21 AM #52
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Loren - I was scratching my head at some of those houses too.

Yolanda - I'm sure they all try, but it's all about who's doing the work that particular day.

Mike - it's fun to marvel at this stuff, isn't it?

Robert - thanks for reading.  I get a lot of resistance about those joist hanger nails because there is such widespread belief that 1 1/2" nails are acceptable.  Check out my blog about this specific defect, and read through the comments left; one includes the comments from a Senior Territory Rep from Simpson Strong-Tie.  http://www.structuretech1.com/blog/2010/02/joist-hanger-installation-defects/#comments 

Barbara - my experiences have been the same as yours; people are always glad they had an inspection done.

Nov 03, 2010 06:04 AM #53
Rainer
191,823
Stephanie Stringer
First Choice Loan Services NMLS#210764 - San Antonio, TX
Mortgage Loan Originator

Reuben,  Your always bring a lot of good information to us.  I appreciate it. This is one reason why I track your blogs!

Nov 03, 2010 12:07 PM #54
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Reuben, all of those crazy roof picture faux pas should have been corrected on the drafting table.  I agree with you about the hanger nails but why do those short ones come by the bag full in every box of hangers?

Nov 03, 2010 01:52 PM #55
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Stephanie - thank you for being a loyal reader.

Charles - no doubt, those roof lines are just design failures.  I don't think those short nails are packaged with joist hangers any more; if you find any, let me know about it :)

Nov 03, 2010 05:19 PM #56
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Reuben, it has been 7 years since I ripped open a box of hangers :)

Nov 03, 2010 06:42 PM #57
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

I don't think they made the nails that went in at a 45 degree angle 7 years ago :)

Nov 03, 2010 09:39 PM #58
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Probably so :)

Nov 03, 2010 09:46 PM #59
Rainmaker
47,608
Mike Weber
Keller Williams Realty Northern Colorado - Fort Collins, CO
40+ years in Northern Colorado

Reuben, Interesting blog you linked regarding the Simpson hangers and nails.  I thought that the 1 1/2' 10D were OK for both the header and joist in that application, but see that is not the case for either on the LUS28.  10 years ago, I had to carry my Simpson spec book (and my TJI Spec book) around in my truck.  That data was not online, as far as I know.  Thanks for the education. 

Nov 03, 2010 11:25 PM #60
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

Mike - I used to think those 1 1/2" nails were ok too.  I'm sure I've missed a lot of decks that had those nails, and I've even used them myself.  Glad to help.

Nov 04, 2010 05:49 AM #61
Rainer
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James Locklear
Online Marketing Advertising Consultant - Seattle, WA
Social Media Training , Virtual Services, Search Engine Optimization Lattitude - SEOL

Caveat emptor - buyer beware - is not always due to fraud but oversight.  Good info!

Nov 04, 2010 10:57 PM #62
Rainmaker
229,465
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis Home Inspections

James - you're exactly right.  In fact, I'd say a very small percentage of the problems are due to fraud.

Nov 08, 2010 06:00 AM #63
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