We had our house built in 2002. There are definitely some things we would have done differently if we had known what we later learned. This list is a result of that experience.
We got special dispensation from the county so that we could remain in our mobile home while our house was being built right behind it.
We only had two places where we could have the house built since the mobile home was still standing in the most obvious place for a house.
We had a choice of the circular driveway that was in front of the mobile home and far too close to the road for our needs. My husband worked graveyard. The second choice was the one we selected. It was in the backyard about fifty feet behind the mobile home.
Any other choices would have either put us too close to a neighboring fence or would have required us to cut down a lot more than the six trees that we had to destroy.
1. Stand Your Ground:
If the building supervisor tells you to do something that you’re not comfortable with tell him that you’re not willing to go that way. If it isn’t already in the contract as a requirement that is required of you, then everything is up to negotiation. Don’t give up without a fight, if something is really important to you.
When the building supervisor first came on our property he said that we would have to cut down some trees. He had wanted to clear our entire front yard of plants and trees so that they could just drive up to the building site.
I told him that we had already cut down six and we weren’t cutting anymore down. We had spent fifteen years growing some of those trees and some of the others were why we had originally bought the property.
They walked their supplies in and we kept the trees including the one that’s in a corner between the front steps and the front porch. We did clip back some of the trees so that the builders could bring their trucks in closer.
2. Don’t be a Nice Guy:
I learned early on, especially from the incident about the trees, that when building a house it does not pay to be a nice guy. Yes, be courteous, but don’t be agreeable when it is going to cost you down the line.
We definitely paid for this one. The framers had the foundation, floors and wall framing in. But the roof wasn’t yet on when the heavens opened up and just poured.
The plywood floors weren’t pressure treated so they didn’t do well with the rain. As the floors dried after the rain, they became just like the corrugation found between the layers on corrugated cardboard boxes. Or another way to describe their appearance, is to say that they looked like a series of very closely placed speed bumps. They appeared in certain sections of the house.
We should have insisted that the floors be replaced in the damaged areas. But we didn’t. Instead, the company had their people ripping up the top layer of the floors and replacing them with some sort of liquid gunk that
didn’t work. Then they used something else that did work long enough for them to later pass the house to us.
One of builder’s employees who used to be a county inspector said that we should have had the floors replaced. But the work had already been done and we felt that it was too late to do anything about it. We were surprised when the floors passed inspection.
3. Be a Constant Presence:
If the builders know that you’re going to be there often, on a consistent basis, they’re going to know that you are watching what they are doing. It helps on two counts. In the first instance, the builders are going to be a bit more careful because they know that you are right there to note if they have missed something.
I noticed that the insulators had left some spaces empty in the walls. I said something about it and they went back right away and fixed it. If I’d not been there to see that, we would have had a house with spotty insulation because the drywall was put up the next day since the inspection had already passed this work, amazing.
Don’t depend upon the inspectors to catch the things that they might actually pass on.
The second reason to be consistently present while the house is being built is that you become acquainted with the subcontractors. We became friendly with many of the subcontractors and inspectors. They explained a lot of things about our house and what was going into it. They also gave us advice on how to take care of our home, which has been very helpful.
4. Inspect Every Aspect of the Building and do it Daily:
When the weather is dry, the builders will push as fast as they can, around the official inspections, to get the building done. Time is money. The quicker they can push the house out to completion the less they have to pay the subcontractors and the sooner they can start charging you. If they can cut some corners they will save even more.
If you don’t inspect daily the house will be built according to what the builder wants to do and not necessarily according to your specifications.
If we’d not been inspecting every day, we would have missed the damaged cabinet and might have been stuck with it. Also, if we hadn’t been inspecting the job orders daily we would have missed that somewhere along the line the ac/heat pump had been replaced with a heat only heat pump in the job order. Even though by law the heat only is required, in Florida the house would have been uninhabitable without the ac.
I don’t mean whine and I don’t mean be a nuisance for the sake of being irritating or picky. But I do mean complain if something isn’t the way it ought to be, or isn’t the way it has been agreed upon.
I saw that one of the windows had been installed with a broken pane, yes, it was just a corner. But we were paying for a new house, not a fixer-upper.
I went to the same employee who had talked to me about the floors. He told me that it definitely ought to be replaced. So I complained and it was replaced. If I’d not complained they could have hung the breakage on us and the double pane thermal windows are expensive to replace.
6. Ask a Lot of Questions:
If you don’t ask questions over anything that might be bothering you, now, it could come back to haunt you later.
When the framers had built the frame and took us through the entire building they had made a comment about how they always got shorted in building materials for this particular house design. My question received the
answer that told me that our house was the strongest built model of this particular builder. Each of the load bearing door frames in the house have an extra beam on each side. That’s helpful information during hurricane season.
When the insulators were insulating the attic floor but not the roof I asked why and found out that it would cause problems with ventilation when the house was finished. That saved us from a possible problem if we later had decided to insulate the roof because we had thought that the insulators hadn’t finished their job.
I also asked questions when the building supervisor told us about repeatedly replacing the insulation under the house of one client. I asked why and he told me that it was because the client had pigs under the house that kept tearing down the netting that held the insulation up. Since we do rescue outdoor cats we took note of that. We regularly go under the house and inspect for any fallen insulation and tack the netting back up.
If we had asked more questions about the heat pump we would not have needed to have it rebuilt eight years after the house was built.
The builder only told us about one of the two filters needed for the unit. The one he missed telling us about was the more critically needed one, the one right on the intake part. We found out a few years ago when the space under this unit became flooded because the upper part had become clogged. It caused permanent damage to the unit by rusting out its entire core.
7. Check on All Parts as They’re Put In:
The best time to catch any problems is right after they have been installed. If we had checked on the sink on our bathroom we would have found that the fixture leaked and that the counter had a small chip on the corner. The chip is still there and the the sink still leaks even after we replaced the faucet.
8. Don’t Assume Anything. Look at the Strangest Things…It’s Your House:
Damage can pop up in some of the strangest places because of mishandling or faulty installation by the subcontractors. It never occurred to us to look in these two places. But if we had we wouldn’t have gone through what we had to go through later to replace them.
We found after we had moved into the house that the kitchen sink was leaking a great deal under the sink. It really stank. We found that the elbow under the sink hadn’t been completely connected.
The water from the sink destroyed two cabinets. The sides completely separated from the floor, front and backs of the cabinets. In this instance the company did honor the warranty and did replace the cabinets at their cost. The elbow was connected properly and it still doesn’t leak.
In the other case, the toilet sprung a leak in its cabinet. My husband tried to fix it but it began to leak again. We had to buy a new toilet.
9.Don’t Sign off on the House Until All the Work is Done:
All the work to be done on a house includes repairs and replacements. Our building supervisor kept trying to push us into signing off on the house before everything was done. He claimed that we didn’t want to pay for the house. It is true that we didn’t want to start paying for the house until it was finished. But we didn’t have a problem with paying once the job was actually done.
There were still some things that hadn’t been done or repaired but the supervisor was in a big hurry to move on to the next job. The AC was uneven in the house but we couldn’t get him to listen to us. He kept throwing the warranty at us as if it instantly took care of everything.
10. Don’t Depend on the Warranty if You Have Already Signed off on the House:
After we signed off on the house we had the company come out to check on the AC. But because we already had the house all I got was a lecture. He didn’t even bother to check it out. He said that some of the big houses had that problem but that the smaller houses like ours didn’t.
To this day, during the winter we have to open the vents more in two rooms to give them more of the heat and during the summer we have to close the vents more in those rooms to keep them from being too cold. One of the rooms has developed mildew during the winter months and the other one sometimes smells like it, also.
In another situation, when we complained about the leaking toilet the company implied that we had broken the toilet ourselves. This is the back of the toilet, the water tank. How could we have possibly done something to put a crack in the back of the tank? Anyone interested in gymnastics?