The most common home building problems are minor setbacks, due to weather or miscommunication between contractors on scheduling. However, there are some major structural problems that are not nearly uncommon enough. Serious structural problems are in a whole other category than having your cabinet knob shipment arrive late. Still those minor problems can be annoying especially when the final walk through is immanent.
Common Home Building Problems One: Footings and Foundations
If footings are poured above the frost line, they will crack during the winter freeze. It is crucial to bury footings deep enough. It is also possible that the footings could crack even if they are deep enough. Curing too fast in the summer heat can cause concrete cracking. Laying the foundation before the concrete cures sufficiently can also cause cracks both in the footing and in the foundation. Dig and pour the footings deeply enough, insuring that footings dry evenly and waiting till the foundation cures for several days before laying the foundation are the best way to prevent cracks.
Creaking floors are a result of and uneven floor joist system, and can also result when floor joists are spaced too far apart. Floor joists must be perfectly level in order to prevent squeaks and sags in the flooring. Splits in floor covering are another sign of poor workmanship. The plywood subfloor must be attached by countersinking screws, and applying putty over the screw heads. Failure to do this, will result in screws protruding into the floor coverings lain on top of it.
While foundation and footing issues are rarely a sign of negligence, but rather an honest mistake, framing issues are always a result of builders trying to cut corners, or examples of shoddy workmanship. It is very important to check the framing on your construction site, before it is covered by siding and dry wall. That way, if you see something wrong, you can insist that the issue be fixed before work progresses, making replacement of studs and trusses more difficult. To avoid framing issues use two by six studs to meet or exceed the code. Local codes are usually either 18” 16” or 14” on center. There is no point in exceeding 14 inches on center, and 18” is generally sufficient.
It is crucial to insure that wiring meets the electrical code, and that it is of good quality. Always hire a licensed electrician to install wiring, and insure that he uses quality wire. Most of the fires in new homes, and recent remodeling jobs as well are caused by sloppy electrical wiring installation or using the wrong gage of wire.
Plumbing issues can ruin a home, if drains and water pipes leak, or are improperly installed. Be sure to test your plumbing before you sign off on the house. Look for signs of leaking on the ceiling of upstairs tubs, as water runs down the drain. This should be done before the final walk through if possible. Check the crawlspace or basement for leaks as well.
Cosmetic issues can be fixed easily, but sometimes a problem with installing costly materials such as countertop or plumbing fixtures can be a major expense. One common complaint that is rather surprising, involves cabinet draw pulls and knobs. So many people say that their contractor did not install them. For a do it yourselfer this seems hardly worth mentioning, but if one pays for drawer pulls and knobs then one should receive the knobs and pulls. Remember though that small cosmetic defects can be repaired or replaced. Structural issues are the major concern.
Believe it or not one of the most serious home building problems is the occurrence of an underground spring, directly under the house. Most underground springs are not noticeable on the ground surface or are only perceptible during certain seasons. At certain times during the year, water can spring up under the home, causing moisture, mold, rot and even soil erosion, which can lead to instability in the foundation.
Underground springs are hard to detect but most contractors and homebuilders do look for them. Still, occasionally they go unnoticed until after the home is built. There have even been instances in which underground springs have lain dormant for decades, only to spring up under a historic home. Underground springs are no one’s fault, and there is really very little that can be done, except perhaps move the house. There is less risk of underground springs on high flat land, but they can happen virtually anywhere.
In order to avoid common home building problems it is a good idea to visit your construction site frequently to check behind workers, and also to enjoy the experience of construction. The construction of your home is one of the most exciting events in life. Don’t miss out. Always be polite to work crews, and enjoy your home building experience. If issues arise take care of them tactfully but be sure to circumvent any problems. For more information on construction and common home building problems, see the other articles on this site and download our 98 page free home building guide.