Common issues in the first year of a new home

What is happening to my new home?!!!

Your new home will go through a lot of changes during the first year – many of which are “growing pains” or more accurately “shrinking pains”.  Most builders realize that there will be issues that occur the first year and when pointed out will correct them. It is best to find and correct these issues as soon as possible before they are covered up and become larger and more costly issues.   We highly recommend having a pre-drywall inspection, new construction pre-closing inspection and the one-year builder’s warranty inspection (11th month inspection).   Each of these inspections focuses on what the inspector sees at the time of the inspection.

Even after having a pre-drywall inspectionand a pre-closing inspection and those defect findings repaired, issues can still show up in a new home during the first year.  This article is related to the “growing pains” that frequently occur.  Read the article “Common Issues found during Pre-drywall and New Home Construction Inspectionsfor the other issues that we have found in new construction during pre-drywall and pre-closing inspections.  Remember, the 11th month inspection will be your last opportunity to have work performed on your home while the builder is still responsible for the repairs at no cost to you. The builder’s 1-year warranty and the inspection report will also give you leverage with your builder should the repairs not be completed in a satisfactory manner. The cost of warranty repairs was already calculated into the cost of the house you bought. You have essentially already paid for these repairs. The cost of the inspection will be far outweighed by the cost of repairs that you will not have to pay for in the future.

 

Here are a few of the common issues we see during 1-year inspections (11th Month):

Shrinkage Cracks

During the first year the lumber used to build your house, acclimates to interior humidity and temperature, the wood will dry to an average moisture content of about 9-10% from about 19%.

The wood shrinks and the entire house settles as much as 3/8”.  Since the floor joists are sitting on the foundation at one end and on wood beams or girders in the middle (for homes with a crawlspace or basement) the house settles more toward the center of the house during the first winter. In the process, diagonal cracks often appear in the drywall at the corners of doors in the interior walls.

This is one reason the builders give a one-year warranty on the house so that these cracks caused by lumber shrinkage can be repaired and the center girder shimmed if necessary. This lumber shrinkage is natural.  Have the builder make the repairs after the end of the heating season if possible, not when the cracks first appear so that the house will have more time to stabilize.

2014s

Nail Pops

These may be caused by the wood shrinkage and the nail being pulled up or pushed down into the drywall causing the joint compound to pop out.  Nail pops can also occur if the contractor misses the stud and the nail has nothing to hold on to. The solution is to use a punch to drive the nail deeper, then apply new finishing compound, sand, and repaint. Nail popping will appear most often near the corner of a wall or ceiling.

 

Moisture Condensation in the new home

As mentioned above the lumber undergoes an acclimation period and dries out 9 – 10 %.  In addition, other building materials may also have moisture being released (concrete, drywall compound, finish materials) and causing the humidity to increase inside of the house during this time.   As the exterior temperature drops in the fall and winter, condensation may form on the inside of windows in the house. Avoid letting the condensate stay on the newly finished window sashes. You may need to open some windows a crack, run the bathroom and kitchen fans to ventilate the house.  The moisture problem during the first winter may be a temporary one, or if it re-occurs the second winter then other measures may be needed to stop the condensation.

 

Wet Basements and Crawl Spaces

Got water in your crawl space or basement?   The first thing I do is look up.  The moisture probably came from the roof, and the roof run-off was not directed away from the house properly.  Does your house have gutters?  If not, it should. Without gutters water accumulates near the foundation and will eventually pass through it.  If the house or a section of the house cannot have gutters, is the ground sloped away from the foundation?  It is essential that the ground slope away from the house on all sides, and that the surface of the soil be protected from erosion by some form of landscaping.   Are the gutters sloped toward the downspouts? Where do the downspouts discharge?  The discharge from the downspouts must be directed away from the foundation, preferably at least five feet away. While downspout extensions are a nuisance when mowing the lawn, they are essential to keeping the basement or crawl space dry.

Settled backfill

Grading and Drainage

Many houses experience problems with water or excess moisture in the crawl space or basement. Most of these problems are the result of improper grading around the house. Ideally, the bottom of wood, metal, or vinyl siding should be at least six inches above the soil level around the house. In the case of brick veneer, the dirt should be at least six inches below the sill plate of the floor framing. This distance is necessary to avoid damage to the siding, sill, and floor joists from water splashing up from the soil or landscaping material. Even though the interior floor framing is protected by brick veneer, enough moisture will penetrate the brick to cause rotting of the sill and floor joists if the ground level is above the sill plate. Unfortunately, few builders set their houses that high above grade, primarily for the sake of appearance.

There should also be a slope of about four inches away from the house in the first six feet. When this slope is present, and the grading level is as specified above, water and moisture problems are rare.

The owner of a new house should be aware that even if the builder does the grading properly, some soil settlement will occur during the first and second years of occupancy. It may well be necessary to add another truckload of dirt around the house to compensate for the settlement of the backfill around the foundation. This is often ignored, because the owner has installed landscaping that will have to be revised or replanted when the soil is added to maintain the original slope.

Foundation weep screed

Balancing the Heating and Cooling systems

An important part of good performance of any comfort conditioning system is balancing the system so the distribution of heated or cooled air is proportional to the loss or gain of each room, thus maintaining the homeowner’s desired temperature, comfort and efficiency. If the heating and air conditioning equipment is functioning properly, rooms that are too hot or too cold signal a problem with the air distribution system of the house.

 

Even with a new home, the owners must be aware that issues will pop up overtime.   Problems might become apparent during the first year that were not evident when you first moved into your house. We recommend that you have your home professionally inspected before the end of your builder’s home warranty.

Catching small issues early

Avoids

Costly large repairs later

For a consultation to problem-solve home issues, call 919-602-0161 or email Ken@TheRightHomeInspectionServices.com

Author:  Ken Neill is a NC Licensed Home Inspector and owner of The Right Home Inspection Services, LLC.  Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding areas.