Fault-finding new house problems
It's the biggest present you will ever treat yourself to and it is a wonderful feeling to walk into your newly built home, but just listen to a word of caution - check everything.
Two years ago I bought a new house, who built it doesn't matter, what does matter to my family and I is that I have had to write over a dozen letters over those two years requesting repairs. Many of these items I should have picked up upon either the day of the final check or in the first few weeks of occupation. I didn't and have suffered so I hope my bad experiences will help you if you buy a new house.
Many new houses come with a 1-2 year warranty on fixtures and fittings, including electrical work and most importantly plumbing. Great, you think, I've got two whole years 'insurance' on the property in case things go wrong. But as you could find out, two years goes very quickly when things do go wrong and you are trying to get them put right.
[Big Grin] - 'The final check of your new house'
[Living in a box] - 'The first few weeks in your new house'
[Home sweet home] - "First 12 months in your new house"
[Whinge, whinge, whinge] - "Summary"
[Big Grin] - 'The final check of your new house' Back to top
Ok. You've sold your old house, agreed terms, the new home you are buying is 'finished' and you meet the site manager or sales representative for the final check before the keys can be handed over. This is an opportunity to look around the house, checking to make sure that it has been assembled (and that is probably the best word for new homes) to your satisfaction. The problem is you are blinded by your own cheesy grin as you walk around the place thinking about what it will be like after you move in. The place is probably dirty, with miscellaneous tools lying around which adds to the blinker effect on your final check. You miss small details, that are a pain to sort out once you've moved into your house, and some of which cannot be sorted out. One of the issues that we missed was a chip in our en-suite sink. Small issue you think, but I've just paid£150000 for this place (yes I live in cheap area of the country). Once you sign the house check sheet after your viewing that's it. If you missed a huge scratch on your cooker hob - tough! How will you prove it didn't happen after you move in? Anyway enough of my ranting for now, here are some issues to check for:
- Loose taps
- Loose floorboards
- Building (or builders) stains on any included carpets e.g. cement footprints, paint
- Scratched skirting, woodwork, especially banisters
- Scratched or chipped bathroom suite
- Kitchen work surfaces - generally abused
- Windows being fitted properly, closing, locking etc.
- Doors being hung correctly.
Additional stuff to look out for is things that 'will be done before you move in'. Get it in writing on the house check list that you sign. Chances are they will do it anyway, but it makes no sense to take the chance. You're not being pushy, just cautious.
[Living in a box] - 'The first few weeks in your your new house' Back to top
This is the time to find those little problems that the 16 year old plumbers mate missed when fitting your shower. Generally things like new shower bases, baths, sinks and taps are easy to check for leaks. In my experience the big problem, from a plumbing point of view, is upstairs shower cubicles. They have to get them right or they can literally bring the ceiling down. To spot these problems before they become a big issue examine the areas around and underneath the shower, for example the downstairs ceiling. In my experience the leak showed itself as a slight darkening of the artex and plaster down a shared wall with the shower cubicle. Then a hair-line crack appeared which started to widen and I called the builders.
It was at this point that you realise why its so important to spot these problems early on in your warranty - they take so long to put right. Lets imagine a conversation between the builder and the contract plumber:
"Dave, I got a job for you down at number 6, they say they have a problem with their shower. Could you take a look at it?"
"Well, I'm busy at moment installing leaky toilet pans down on that new housing estate, but I can pop in for 5 minutes this afternoon. I'll be there at 2.30."
Cut to housewife waiting in all afternoon for the plumber. It is now 6.30pm.
"Alright luv', I'm here to sort out your leaky shower."
"Oh thanks (about time), it quite serious as its causing a lot of damage to the ceiling."
"Don't worry I'll fix it in no time!"
Close up of plumber taking one step over the threshold of your new house, with muddy boots, and then announcing.
"Ah! I see your problem. I'll have to get some new parts and I'll be back sometime later this week."
"But…. Ok then."
Ok that's an exaggeration but things similar to that have happened and guess what - the problem doesn't go away. It requires another visit from the plumber, and so it continues. Its not just plumbers - kitchen fitters who came when we had a problem with a potentially leaky sink, and guess what, he didn't look under the sink! He blamed the dishwasher. Now I get intensely p***ed off at this sort of thing and would bar them from leaving the house if they did it when I was there. But my wife is a little bit more reserved as she feels she isn't knowledgeable enough to question their expertise. What I don't get I that surely this must cost them money. They are having to come back again and again to sort this out. Fix it properly in the first place and that's it - I'll shut up. I'm ranting again. You can see that it gets to you.
More things to look for once you've been in your new house for a few days/weeks.
- Leaky plumbing fittings
- Unreliable electrics - tripping out etc.
- Doors not fitting properly
- Taps and fittings that have worked loose.
- Real fireplace - chimney draws air sufficiently.
- New turfed lawn - is it dead yet?
- Loose floorboards
- Plaster falling off the ceiling especially over joist nails.
[Home sweet home] - "First 12 months of your new house" Back to top
Hopefully by now all your problems in your new house have been fixed? What, they haven't. Oh keep writing letters. The difficulty I have is making them sound different. Maybe I shouldn't and seeing as I keep wanting the same problem(s) fixed I should just photocopy it 5 times and put them in dated envelopes saying open in 2 months, 4 months etc. I find I sound apologetic for asking that they really do fix my shower, sink, door, sewage smell etc. So, apart from persevering with the letter writing, you should be on the look out for the tell tale signs that something serious is wrong in your new house. Maybe it's a very slow leak (yes plumbing again - I have nothing against plumbers in general, my brother-in-law is one, just bad plumbers). This will probably show itself by discoloured material, plaster and drawers or other units that start to stick a little. Our leaky sink, yes the one that was the 'dishwasher', ruined our kitchen work surface when a slow leak swelled it. An odd one is if you don't feel that the house is living up to what it was designed to do. For example our house has three bathrooms and 4 bedrooms, yet we found that a tank of hot water only lasted for one shower and the tank is huge. We 'inquired' and it was found that the hot water was at 40°C. Not really a major problem but one that I probably wouldn't have solved.
[Whinge, whinge, whinge] - "Summary" Back to top
Finally I think the two most important pieces of advice I can give are to inspect all plumbing areas in any new house for signs of leaks and absolutely keep complaining as its your money.
[Sigh] - "PS" Back to top
By the way my new shower still leaks. " Dear sir…."
On a brighter note Whatprice have found a useful web-site that checks new homes for homeowners find all the faults & get the developer to put them all right. Something this author could have done with! Visit www.InspectorHome.co.uk and take a look at their services, these people could save you a lot of headaches, and help clamp down on those Cowboy builders! Another site worth looking at is www.snagging.org which discusses the, you guest it, snagging!
New Home Check-lists by Jonathan Pearson
"many thanks for the hints and tips with the element of humour !!"
"What about the noisy floorboards? even after screwing them down, they still make a noise. The modern floorboards used now are terrible, but what can you do about it?"