There are many home building mistakes which are very common, and others that are completely catastrophic. These simple tips will help prevent home building mistakes, and also to protect your family from financial ruin should these problems arise.
This is a huge red flag. No matter how a building contractor justifies this type of contract language, just don’t sign it. Walk out and find another contractor. Be indignant! You have a right to be. An arbitration clause or contract basically takes away your right to sue, should the worst happen. Even if the whole house literally falls down in two months, you have no legal recourse. The arbitration contract states that courts will not be involved, and that any disputes will be settled by an arbitrator. The arbitrator is seldom a truly disinterested party, and often the arbitrator’s company is a subsidiary of the construction company. In most construction disaster stories, an arbitration clause is almost always involved. The contractor should be offering a reputable third-party warranty, not an arbitration clause.
Some contractors do not like for home owners to visit the jobsite, and even have language in the contract that forbids it. Do not use a contractor who wants you away from the job site. Explain to your contractor that you wish to view construction once or twice a week during the construction process. Explain that you plan to view the home for no more than half an hour or so at a time, but that you wish to see your foundation, your floor joists, your studs, and your rafters as they are installed. An honest contractor will not mind this, but may wish for you to come when the crew is not working. It is possible he will site insurance as a problem, in case you were to get injured. While this is a problem that may have to be ironed out, it is one that must be addressed, because most home building nightmares would never happen if the home owner had toured the site frequently during the construction process.
Many construction errors are made deliberately to save money. There are a few disreputable home builders which give the whole industry a bad name. These are usually the people who want you to sign an arbitration clause and stay off the jobsite. Building inspectors should catch these mistakes but often they do not. It is your responsibility as a home owner to check these things.
• Floor Joists too small, too far apart, or of uneven height – Floor joists are one of the most vital elements and should be 2” by 10”or 2”by 12” inches. Some builders use 2 by 8 inch floor joists, placed 12 inches on center. Since the joists are closer together it is possible this may even out, but it should be your decision, not something slipped in without your knowledge.
• Wall studs too small, or too far apart – Once a contractor constructed a home of two-by-twos. The thing is of course unsound, and worthless, but the problem went undetected until the home owners signed off on the job.
• Plumbing drain lines not installed properly – Do not allow a contractor to run drain lines under a concrete slab. Plan the home so that plumbing is placed at the edges if you have a slab. PVC placed in gravel under a concrete slab can be a recipe for trouble. In addition one home simply had no drain lines to a second story tub. Make sure your plumber does an adequate job.
• Wiring not to code – improper wiring can result in fires after you move into your home. Make sure that the correct weight of wiring is used and that the proper inspectors see your wiring before the drywall is installed.
• Improperly installed windows and doors – Some window installers will find ways to fudge on the difference between the rough opening and the window frame. Many of these ways will cause air leaks around the window frame. There have also been instances of windows being installed upside down, and doors not properly meeting up with their jams.
Most accidental problems occur in the foundation. The foundation is where the earth meets your home, and therefore it can be simply the fault of nature, or just bad luck. Still it is the responsibility of the contractor to make these mishaps right.
• Cracked slab – Slabs just crack sometimes, but the best way to prevent this is to dry it slow, and stay off of it till it has time to cure. Drying time depends on weather and the amount of water in the concrete. Over time slabs can crack due to a broken pipe, or an underground spring as well.
• Cracked crawlspace foundation – This often happens because of an unstable spot of earth under the footing. The best way to prevent this is to dig the footings deep, and remove tree roots completely from under the house.
• Squeaky or saggy floor – this is a sign that either the floor joists are not strong enough, not close enough together, not level or not placed correctly. Using a level on the floor joists before building the subfloor can usually prevent this problem.
• Sagging or leaking pipe under a slab – Despite current common practices, I don’t think it is a good idea to lay PVC pipe under concrete, period.
• An underground spring under the house – This is hard to foresee because underground springs are often seasonal. It is best to choose high ground, avoid low spots, and if possible to observe the lot for as long as possible before beginning construction.
• Leaky basement – In places with a high water table it is advisable to pour gravel between the wall and the dirt. Sealants also help, but basements tend to be damp. A foot to a foot and a half of gravel all the way down, and completely surrounding the basement, should do the job, but in very damp climates with water tables of less than 6 or 8 feet having a basement can easily become more trouble and expense than it is worth.
Avoiding these common home building mistakes can save you a lot of heartache, grief and money. Being diligent in supervising the construction of your home is vital even if you do have a general contractor. It is also a good idea to learn as much as possible about home construction. To avoid home building mistakes,