Is My House Well Built?


So you say you are a pretty good judge of “good or bad” work? Ask yourself “what should I look for in a new home”? The simplest things to look for usually tell the entire story of the Builder and how good of a job he does. Here are some tips from a guy that has built many homes and DOES know what to look for. These things can be done without ever talking to the Builder or Salesman.

First, go directly into the Basement. If it has not been pressure washed…RUN

Is the poured wall flaked off?…muddy?…cracked? Is it insulated at least 48″ down from the box sill (new code)

Look at the jack Posts to see if the writing on them are upside down. If the sticker is upside down, someone did not pay enough attention at the start of the job but to put the posts in upside down, so what do you suppose the things that are hidden under the walls will be like? Close one eye and eyeball the post with the corner of the basement wall to see if it is plumb, if not…you decide.

On the jack post, look to see if you can see the threads on the screw adjusters. They are supposed to be installed, adjusted and concrete poured around them, thus not visible. If the screw is at the top of the post by the beam they are upside down and / or put in after the floor was poured… good!

Don’t be alarmed by a wood beam. Wood beams actually have a better fire rating than does a steel beam and they cost about the same.

Make sure the concrete floor is sawn at least a 1/2″ deep every 12′ or so. Concrete will crack….count on it. That is why we saw it….to create a weak spot so that it will crack inside the saw mark and at least be straight.

See if there is an “expansion” between the concrete floor and the basement wall. A piece of sill sealer or even a shingle will work. If there is none the floor will crack around the entire basement about 4′ out from the wall.

Is there a drain on the furnace that goes into a floor drain. Does the floor drain have a grate?

Is there bridging in between the floor joists on any span over 8′?

Is the floor joists doubled on any span over 6′ where there is a parallel wall above it?….that is a code very few people catch.

How much insulation is in the Box Sill? (where the floor joists set on the basement wall)

Are there risers on the basement stairs or can you see through them. Is there full walls beside the stairs or just a stiffener stud?…You decide which one is better.

Do the stairs squeak? Are the stairs glued underneath? Are the treads rounded in the front with 1 1/4″ nose on them or are they made out of a 2×10?

See if the 1st floor squeaks. Go back in the basement and look up at where the plywood sits on the floor joist and see if any glue was used. If so, some will ooze out.

If the floor squeaks up close to an interior wall, the wall was not secured properly to the floor. 90% of all floor squeaks are not caused by loose plywood rather interior walls riding on the sub floor. The floor deflects when you put weight on it and moves enough to squeak.

Eyeball up the interior walls with the exterior corners to see if they are plumb. If there is a taper…there is a problem. Do the same with the edges of the windows and an interior wall. This will tell you if the window is level. If not, it will not work properly and will eventually break the glass due to the pressure.

Lean down and look at the bottom edge of the cabinet doors. If they are all the same the builder has adjusted them, if not that will tell you their attention to detail.

Do the interior doors latch when closed? How are the margins on the interior and exterior doors when closed? Are the miters on the casing tight? It is hard to tell with painted woodwork. Some Builders use painted woodwork so they can caulk bad workmanship and no one will ever know…not all…but some.

Make sure the sump pump discharge line runs out the box sill and not the concrete wall. The vibration of the pump after a few years will cause them to leak if they are in the basement wall.

Are the counter tops caulked?…baseboards?…casings?…sinks?

Is Vinyl or Aluminum Siding lapped backwards? In other words….stand at the front door and see if you can see seams in the siding. If the answer is yes….the siding was all put on backwards.

My favorite! Do you have to put the key in the locks with the jagged edge up or straight edge up? If the jagged edge points to the bottom, it is upside down. Water will set in the tumblers and freeze the lock up… good!

Is there a paint on the walls with a sheen on it or is it a flat paint? A flat paint is used by most builders because it will hide any imperfections in sanded drywall. This is very acceptable. Flat paint does what primer does to painting a car.

Has the furnace filter been cleaned?

Is all of the screw heads on the switch plates and plug covers pointing vertical? Or are they pointing just any old direction….this lends to the credibility of the Detail work.

Is the tile and the linoleum square with the walls? Is it nicked up?

See if any of the light fixtures are not “tight to the ceiling”. If not….it’s loose….very common problem.

Does the grade slope away from the house?

Does the garage floor slope towards the door or is it flat?

Is there sealer on the garage floor and the exterior concrete?

Look at the neatness where the wiring runs into the main panel.

Is the Electrical Panel labeled?

Is there smoke detectors in every bedroom?…other rooms?

Is there an outside air device on any wood burning fireplace? This is a must as with today’s air infiltration requirements and insulation mandates. The fireplace will make the house cold if it does not have outside make up air.

Do the floors feel springy?…..they shoudn’t.

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