Phased home inspections are different from all other types of home inspections. In other home inspections, the inspector is looking for defects in the house. These are not code inspections because it is very difficult to determine which codes were in effect at the time the house was built. Remember, there are many types of codes covering the foundation, framing, roof covering, roof structure, electrical service and wiring, water supply and distribution, heating and cooling. As a “generalist”, it is not possible for home inspectors to perform a code inspection. To do so would require extensive research of code for each house, thus, adding hundreds or thousands of dollars to the code inspection.
As a result, the home inspector does not look for code violations. He looks for defects where something may be failing. The home inspector has received extensive training and are certified on how to look for and find these defects. Once discovered, whoever does the repairs will be required to bring the defects up to current code.
Because Phased Home Inspections are performed during the construction of a new house, the inspector looks for defects, but he also looks for code violations. The Phased Home Inspector must be familiar with current code. Because of this and since three inspections are performed instead of one, the cost is higher for a Phased Inspection vs. a typical new home inspection performed after construction is completed or a warranty inspection performed prior to the builder’s warranty expiration date.
Isn’t the builder required to have the house inspected by the county or city inspectors? The answer is yes, but the problem is, that in large metropolitan areas like Houston, there are a very small number of inspectors and thousands of homes under construction at any point of time. Inspectors have very limited time to inspect the house. Unfortunately, some do curb inspections where they inspect from the car without looking inside the house! Some home builders will provide their own Phased Home Inspector. This inspector works for the home builder, not for the home buyer who does not have a voice about which Home Inspection company to use.
So what is in a Phased Home Inspection?
Phased Home Inspections typically occur three times during the new home construction process:
- After the foundation has been poured to ensure the foundation was poured or constructed according to engineering specifications.
- After framing is completed, roof covering and electrical and plumbing rough-ins are installed.
- Final inspection after construction is completed.
Like any house, it is only as sound as the foundation. If the foundation fails, walls begin to crack, doors and windows will not close properly. If left unchecked, conditions may worsen and result in very costly repairs, not only to the foundation, but to other areas of the house.
In the Houston area, because of the high water levels, there are two primary types of foundations: a) Pier and Beam, and b) Slab on Grade.
Pier and Beam
The house structure rests upon piers and beams instead of a concrete foundation. There will be a crawl space underneath the house which will require inspection.
Above photo is a house sitting on pier and beam foundation. Note the crawl space underneath the house. The home inspector must contend with all types of critters living in the crawl space such as cats, wild animals, spiders, scorpions, and snakes. A hair full of spider webs is no fun either!
In a typical inspection, the home inspector is required to enter the crawl space. A good home inspector will examine every inch of the crawl space looking for structure defects to the piers, beams, floor joists, and floor decking. The crawl space will be inspected for proper ventilation and vapor barriers to reduce the amount of water inside the crawl space that could deteriorate the wood.
Slab On Grade
These homes have concrete slabs poured on the ground. Slab on grade without post-tension cables are foundations with a pour of concrete inside wooden frames with rebar. Post-tension slabs have steel cables that extend from one end of the foundation to the other. These cables are put under very high tension and binds the foundation together.
The slab on grade without post tension cables is a valid type of foundation where the soil does not settle. It does not work very well in the Houston area.
Foundation failure occurs when the ground supporting the foundation has settled. With a post-tension slab, the entire foundation moves together, thus, minimizing the structural issues that the old slabs presented. When a foundation fails using the old slab method, the concrete will fail at the point of settlement and slowly extended beyond the point of failure. For example, if the failure is at a one side of the house only, the slab in that area will begin to sink while the slab on the other side of the house will remain stationary. The result is the foundation slab will crack and split into two pieces. Post tension slabs prevent this from happening.
Above photo is a slab on grade foundation without post-tension cables.
Above photo is the framing setup for a post tension slab. Note the cables extending beyond the foundation. After the concrete is poured, the cable ends will be cut off next to the foundation and covered with concrete and mud to prevent the cables from rusting.
The second Phased Home Inspection is a framing inspection that occurs after the walls and roof structures have been erected. The roof covering should have been installed. Electrical and plumbing rough-ins should be completed. The frame is the skeletal structure of the house. A poorly constructed frame will result in life-long issues with the house.
The Phased Home Inspector will verify that the house is meeting code standards for structure, electrical, and plumbing. He or she will also look for sloppy or improper construction.
Above photo shows the framing process. Part of the roof has been decked and covered. The electrical and plumbing rough-ins have not been installed. The home inspector will try to inspect after roof, electrical, and plumbing rough-ins are completed.
The final inspection is performed after construction is complete, but before the buyer has met with the builder to develop a punch list of items to correct. This inspection is very similar to a typical house inspection. The Phased Home Inspector will perform a final inspection on foundation, grading, roof covering, roof and attic structure, walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and fireplaces. He will inspect the electrical and plumbing systems. An inspection of Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) will be conducted. Appliances such as garbage disposals, dishwashers, ovens, stove tops, range hoods will be inspected. Even garage doors will be inspected for proper operation.
A Phased Home Inspection provides additional assurance to the home buyer that the house is properly constructed. When spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, or perhaps millions, spending another thousand or so for this assurance is money well spent. We recommend that the home buyer selects the Phased Home Inspector instead of relying upon one provided by the home builder.
Magnolia Home Inspection Services has over 8 years of builder construction and remodeling experience. We are familiar with current building codes.