Building Codes: Are You Really Protected?

“Do I really need my new home inspected?” 

This is such a common question that we get from clients and realtors. Our answer is always YES! Sure we want to make money, but it’s more about serving our clients and we know we can help to prevent a lot of woes later down the line. 

It starts with the pre-drywall inspection. See my blog on that here. Get a third party to inspect your home before all of that stuff is covered up! Need help asking the right questions? Read this blog for what questions to ask when looking to hire a pre-drywall inspection company. I

Are you really protected?

During my 15 years of new home construction, I saw a lot of things that will make your head spin. It’s not the people, it’s the system. Here are some system defects:

One of multiple broken trusses missed by Code Enforcement
  • The International Residential Building Code (IRC) is updated every 3 years, but most jurisdictions don’t adopt the new code. Some jurisdictions are enforcing codes from 2-3 iterations in arrears.
  • The IRC is not actually required to be followed. Each jurisdiction can choose to follow one section of the code, but not another. They can also choose to “interpret” a section of code differently than another. For example, where I live in York County, South Carolina, the County has one version of the code that they follow, but the City of Rock Hill has a much stricter take on that same code.
  • Code Enforcement officials are overworked and under-paid. Think of any other government run organization (the DMV is a commonly used example) and imagine how smoothly the system operates.
  • New home construction is usually about quantity, not quality. 
  • The trades are suffering. Kids are told that they need college degrees to succeed and the building trades are suffering for it. Apprenticeships and trade schools are starting to make a comeback, but there is still a lot of work to do. 

Results of the system defects

Here are some examples of the results of the defects in the system:

  • homes are built to pass inspection by the code enforcement official, not actually to building code. (remember that “interpret” word I used above?) I had one inspector that would FAIL my inspection if my building plans were not inside the home. He could walk right past them in the job box on the way to the home and still fail my inspection and charge a reinspection fee. Argue with him about it and you were “black balled” by him and anyone else he talked to about you.
  • Code Enforcement has zero liability for items that are missed when they’re inspecting. I had an inspector tell me something to the effect of “I don’t give a F$#* about that broken truss; it’s your a$$, not mine.” 
  • There are often too few code inspectors and their footprint is too large and their workload too great to spend any significant time inspecting your home. 5 minutes in and out does not provide a proper inspection. I had one inspector that passed my insulation inspection while sitting in the truck in front of the house. It was raining and he didn’t want to get wet so he handed me the carbon copy slip and told me to hang sheetrock. (https://theshabazzcenter.org/) The 2nd floor had not yet been insulated!
    torn shingle on new home
  • Roofs are not inspected, except for from the ground. 100% of new construction roofs we inspect have mechanical or other type of defect.
  • Crawl spaces are not usually inspected – no time!
  • The building plans that are “stamped” by the Code Enforcement planning department are rarely checked in the field. We consistently find missing load bearing studs in homes we inspect.
  • I was a superintendent and usually had over 20 houses going at the same time. At one point I had over 30 homes in 4 communities and 3 different code jurisdictions. One of my communities was over an hour drive one way. I consider myself to be a pretty good person, but ask me how many days I was able to get to every house?
  • Tradesmen are learning on the job, but there are not enough qualified people to teach them in the field. This is resulting in poor quality work. When you pair that with the inability for Code Enforcement and superintendents to check behind them due to their overwhelming work load and you get defects that are overlooked.

How we can help

  • We come along side of you AND your builder to help produce the best home possible. We are not interested in grandstanding or making your superintendent or builder look bad. I uniquely understand the challenges that the construction industry faces and part of the reason I formed this company was to help in a small way from the private sector!
  • We spend a significant amount of time at your home – usually 3-4 hours, but that could be more depending on the size of the home. The time we spend at your home is really the biggest asset we can provide to this process.
  • Though not required by our Standards of Practice, we do get on to the roof when it is safe to do so. We also have drone capabilities!
  • We look at the plans! We are not architects, but we can certainly read a set of plans that will show us additional deficiencies.
  • In the slim chance that a builder tells you something to the effect of, “we don’t have to do anything because it passed code,” we will help you push back to get the noted defects resolved. 
  • Ultimately, your builder may refuse to correct a noted defect from our report, but now you have “insurance” to back up any future claims should something arise. Your noted defects supersede any warranties because they were noted prior to closing.

 

Be sure to call Freedom Home Services for all of your home inspections needs! Click here to schedule!

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