Quality Built Homes
WHAT IS A QUALITY-BUILT HOME? AND HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOURS IS ONE?
Once new homes are completed and are open for showing, it may be too late to know for sure if they are quality-built homes. Yes, you will be able to see the finishes of the home, and you will be able to see differences from home to home in details like enhanced materials, and luxury touches like granite countertops, designer ceilings, and showcase light fixtures. But the measure of real quality is what’s behind the walls. Here’s what you should ask about.
The Foundation Stage
The foundation is the most critical part of your home because any mistakes made at this point will only get worse as construction progresses. Adding more rebar to the slab may be worth the extra cost because if the foundation fails, it will be costly to repair. Make sure that the proper time was given to let the cement cure and that it wasn’t cut short to accelerate the production schedule. It would be good to ask if a qualified engineer certified the cement mixture and foundation pouring.
The Framing Stage
This stage is when you begin to see the shell or the skeleton of the home, including walls and roof. There are some areas of the home that require treated wood according to code. Pressure treated wood should be used all the way around the exterior walls where wood rests on the foundation. The reason is that cement absorbs water and over time, if not treated, the wood will absorb that water, creating mold and other water damage issues. Some builders ignore using treated wood where it rests on the foundation in interior walls to save money even though the same principle of water moisture applies.
If plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheeting is applied to the exterior walls of the home, look to see if it rests on the foundation where water can accumulate after a rain. It shouldn’t because it will soak up water like a sponge. What about the roof decking? Did your builder use radiant barrier decking which reduces attic temperatures by about 30% and costs only a couple of dollars more per sheet—paying for itself in less than one year with utility savings?
Find out if your home is in an area in Texas that requires windstorm inspections. If it is, the framing stage will have to follow more stringent requirements. The purpose of a windstorm inspection is to determine if the home’s construction can withstand strong winds, such as those present in a hurricane.
Rough Plumbing and Electrical
After the framing and roofing is complete, plumbers and electricians come in to put in pipes and wires. Many holes will be drilled into the studs. In a home that will be completely insulated with spray foam, filling those holes with a can of spray foam is not that important here, but if your builder is using batt or another fiberglass insulating material, it is critical that those holes be covered up. The same goes for receptacles for outlets, light fixtures, and switches. All those small holes and cracks add up to huge costs in energy bills and add to the discomfort of your home.
Heating & Cooling Systems and Ductwork
Your air conditioning system should be sized correctly for the size of your home (see page 28). It should be customized for the square footage, the number of rooms, the number of windows, and so on. This is a mathematical problem that requires figuring out what the load calculations are and then deciding what unit is the right size and type for your home. The ductwork should also be designed and tested to make sure it supplies the right pressures to ensure room-to-room comfort throughout the home. Sounds logical, right? You would be surprised how many contractors oversize the AC unit using the “bigger is better” concept.
The type of insulation used in your new home is not as important as whether or not it was installed properly. The most expensive insulation is spray foam, but it is one of the best along with Insulated Concrete Forms. Spray foam is also more forgiving in its installation since it covers even the smallest holes. Batt and other fiberglass insulation is less expensive but it requires more work—like splitting the insulation to put part of it on the back side of the electrical wire along a wall and the other in front, or cutting it to fit around electrical receptacles. That way, the insulation retains its shape—and its R-value. It’s sad, but not everyone installs insulation that way because it takes too long to do it right.
So How Do You Know If Your Home Was Quality Built?
If you were not present when the above phases of construction were performed to see for yourself, you have two choices: (1) take the builder’s word for it, or (2) look for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. A home with a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification has been inspected (during construction) and tested (after completion) by a third-party home energy rater licensed by the Residential Energy Services Network. You can be sure that your home was not only quality built, but you will also be sure that it will outperform a similar home built to code by providing more energy efficiency, more comfort, better durability, tighter construction, cleaner indoor air, and a better resale value. You’ll have a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate in your hands to prove it.
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