As a new construction home buyer, you want to know that your investment will be safe and comfortable providing years of enjoyment. While I’m sure you’ve thought about the most important features of your new construction home (like a big kitchen or spacious bedrooms), there are many things to look out for when buying so make sure you ask questions!

Know the limits of your builder warranty

Most reputable builders in Middle Tennessee offer two different warranties on new construction homes. This article will not talk about express or implied warranties (you can find out more about those through this link) but construction warranties but will highlight typical new construction warranty practices.

Most builders offer a 1 to 2-year inclusive warranty (bumper to bumper sort of thing) on everything from cosmetic issues, carpeting, mechanical problems/failures, etc. Builders are also required, by Tennessee state law, to offer a 10-year structural warranty which covers the structural performance of your new home. As reported by 2-10 Warranty Company, the average cost of a home builder’s warranty structural claim ranges between $42,000 to $113,000.

Examples of unhappy new construction buyers can be found if you are looking but as with most things in life, the unhappiest of folks tend to be the loudest. The bias of review websites is heavily tilted toward angry consumers but there might be some truth in all that noise. Have you thought about checking out your builder’s reputation online at places like this?

Check the grading around your home

You may be thinking, “what’s the big deal with grading? It’s just dirt.” But don’t let this fool you. Grading is an important aspect of your home and can have an impact on the foundation, mold, structural movement/settlement, and other things that can cost a lot of money.

Checking the grading around your new construction home will ensure that there are no drainage issues, standing water issues, and more importantly that there are no drainage problems on or near your property line.

The consensus seems to be that a good slope to aim for when grading land extending out from a house foundation is about 6 inches of drop in the first 10 feet (that translates to a “slope” of 5 percent). Many professionals grade land successfully using a lesser slope than that, but those who wish to be on the safe side err in the direction of the greater slope.

Look out for soil settlement or what professionals refer to as “incompaction of fill.” During construction, a large hole is dug to construct the foundation footers. Inevitably the dirt that is filled back in around the foundation walls will settle in the first year or two and new dirt needs to be added to maintain proper grading and to help make sure water drains away properly.

Look out for common electrical slip-ups

Check for excessive gaps around electrical panels and receptacles (outlets). Typical safety standards require no more than a 1/8-inch gap.

Make sure any electrical panels are improperly installed and well secured to the wall. The electrical panel needs to be installed in a safe location, away from water sources (such as bathtubs) and other heat sources (like fireplaces or ovens), and are not typically allowed to be installed in closets or other areas containing combustible material.

Check for the presence of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in the bathrooms and kitchens and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) in sleeping areas, which help to prevent electrocution by cutting power if there’s a dangerous short circuit or current leak somewhere else in the house (think: pinched electrical cord in a door jamb). This prevents deadly shocks while also preventing fires caused by this type of problem!

Kitchen islands are notorious for not having enough (or ANY) receptacles and are a pet peeve of mine. Who wants to have a dinner party and be stuck stringing extension cords to your kitchen island for things like blenders and crock pots?

Scope the main sewer lineSewer scope revealed city main connection was damaged.

If you are purchasing a new home and want to be sure that everything is in good working order, then you should have the main sewer line scoped (inspected) before you move in. Inspecting the main sewer line involves putting a long (sometimes up to 200 feet) fiber optic camera down the main sewer pipe to check for proper pitch, grading, flow, and to check for obstructions (typically construction debris like paints, industrial paper towels, and other obstructions). You would be surprised how often contractors flush prohibited items down the toilet! Installation problems (crushed lines, sun-damaged PVC pipe, and pipes with bellies or low spots) are also common and can be easily missed without a thorough sewer scope.

The photo above is a screen capture from a sewer inspection I performed on a new construction home in 2018 where the sewer pipe pulled loose near the city main connection under the driveway. Thankfully this issue was found BEFORE moving in because the builder had to crack up the driveway, and part of the street, excavate the damaged area, repair the pipe and then put everything back together. Not an easy task and it would have cost my client over $15,000.

Be aware locating and correcting sewer line problems can be very invasive and costly. If you wait to find these problems till after you move in, repairs could be very messy and disruptive to normal living (think cracking up your garage floor to fix a broken pipe).

Pay close attention to the walls for any problems

Inspect the walls for any problems. Smooth drywall will whisper a story if you are listening (sometimes drywall will scream if problems are big enough). Walls should be solid and free from cracks, gaps, or other issues that could lead to water damage and electrical problems.

Check for insulation gaps. If you see spaces between your studs and their corresponding insulation, there’s a good chance that an air leak is occurring. This can cause higher energy bills and a chilly living environment in the winter months when you’re trying to stay warm with your heating system.

Look for water damage inside concrete slabs that line your home’s foundation walls or crawl space area (if applicable). This will not only cost more money to repair later but may also mean there was a safety issue during construction—which would need immediate attention before moving in.

Air ducts should be checked clean and in good working order

Before you move into your new home, make sure the ducts are sealed, insulated, and free of debris/trash. You should also check that they’re not damaged or leaking. If there is mold or mildew on the ducts, this could indicate a problem with how they were installed. If your builder hasn’t ensured that all their work was done correctly, it’s probably best to have them come back and fix any issues before you move in.

Make sure all plumbing fixtures are working properly.

Make sure the water heater is working properly. This will ensure that you have hot water when you need it.

Check to make sure all the plumbing fixtures are working properly—sinks, toilets, showers, and faucets. All these things should be in good condition and be easy to use.

Look for leaks. Leaks can waste a lot of money on bills as well as cause damage to floors or walls around your home if they go unnoticed for too long so if you see any signs of leakage ask a professional plumber to come out and look at them ASAP!

Make sure that windows are functioning properly and leak-free.

When you’re looking at a new home, make sure that the windows are functioning properly and leak-free.

Make sure that the windows are properly sealed. This can be done in two ways: with caulk or by adding foam insulation around the edges of the window frame.

Make sure that there aren’t any leaks in any of your new windows, either air leaks (holes where cold air comes through) or water leaks (where rainwater sneaks into your home). Leaky windows will not only waste energy but also cause mold growth if left unchecked for too long!

Look out for improper installation: if a window isn’t installed correctly, it may open and close improperly or even fall out completely!

Make sure that all appliances have been installed properly and are functional.

When it comes to appliances, look for things like:

  • A stove that has a smooth surface that’s not cracked or damaged.
  • A refrigerator with no dents or scratches on the doors or interior.
  • An oven that lights up and quickly reaches operating temperature.

You want your appliances to be durable and efficient, but don’t overlook the aesthetics of these items either.

There are many things to look out for when buying a new construction home so make sure you ask questions!

Asking the right questions is an important part of building your dream home. A good builder will be able to answer all your questions, but if they seem hesitant or don’t have a good response, it’s time to start asking more questions.

Did any problems arise during construction that were not caught by the inspector?

Did you notice any issues with the house after moving in?

Do you have any other recommendations for builders who provide this type of service?

After asking these (and any other) questions it’s important for both parties involved in the transaction to feel comfortable with each other and their answers. If there are still doubts about a potential builder, ask him/her for references from previous clients or other builders he/she has worked with before on similar projects.

New homes tend to eliminate one set of problems (worn out flooring, old(er) appliances, and HVAC equipment for example) but can easily bring on a whole new set of issues (unused plumbing can start to leak after moving in, sewer lines can back up due to construction debris jammed into the drain by that tile contractor, wiring and plumbing can be damaged during construction and not manifest until months or years after moving in). Please consider having a professional home inspector represent you in your new home purchase. Tom with 3 Arrows Property Inspection has personally inspected hundreds of new construction homes since 2005 and knows where problems typically crop up. Builders and their sub-contractors have a very tall order when building a new home and things will get overlooked and missed. The key to a happy new construction purchase is transparency and a thorough inspection! We hope that you have found this article helpful and that it will make your home-buying process more enjoyable and less stressful.

Introduction

When it comes to the comfort of your home, there are few things more important than a properly functioning furnace filter. It keeps the air in your house clean, so you don’t have to worry about dust or other debris circulating throughout your abode. Regularly changing the filters in your furnace is essential for maintaining good air quality, but you should also make sure that you’re replacing them with the right size and type of filter. Changing out your filter regularly will ensure that it continues to work properly and protect against pollutants from entering into your home’s interior space.

Turn off the electricity to your furnace.

  • Shut off the power to your furnace.
  • If you have access to the breaker box, turn off that circuit breaker for a minute or two.
  • If there is an electrical fuse box in your home, pull out any fuses in that circuit and leave them out for a few minutes.
  • Open up the filter compartment of your furnace and remove the old filter (if applicable), making sure to put it somewhere safe where it won’t get dirty or damaged while replacing it with a new one later on!
  • Carefully remove as much dust and debris from the inside as possible by brushing around with a broom handle until all visible buildup has been removed from within before installing new filter(s). Be careful not to damage any other parts like wiring when doing so though!

Locate your furnace filter.

The first step to changing your furnace filter is locating it. You will find the furnace filter in one of three places:

  • In the air ducts (where warm air travels from the furnace through holes in the ductwork)
  • In a return vent for an individual room or zone within your home (these are often located near windows or doors)
  • In an air return (a large, box-like structure that collects and distributes cooled air throughout your home)

Remove the old filter.

  • Remove the old filter.
  • Unscrew the filter from its housing, and pull it out of the unit. You may have to clean off any dust or dirt that’s accumulated on either side of the filter before you remove it from its holder; this will make installation easier later on.
  • Install a new one—and don’t forget to clean it first!

If you skipped step 1, go ahead and do this now: install a new furnace filter with your hands or pliers (if necessary). If not done already, wipe down both sides of the new filter for easier installation next time around. Don’t forget about cleaning off any excess dust/dirt from both sides of your current furnace and its housing unit before proceeding to Step 3 below!

Check your owner’s manual for the right size and type of filter you need.

Check your owner’s manual for the right size and type of filter you need. If you don’t know where your owner’s manual is, check with the manufacturer or ask someone who works at a hardware store where they might keep records of which filters work best with their equipment.

Install the new filter with the arrows pointing toward the blower motor.

  • Make sure you have the right size filter. The filter should be slightly larger than your furnace’s air inlet opening.
  • Make sure you have the right type of filter. Use a pleated or high-efficiency particulate arrestor (HEPA) filter for best results, as they are specifically designed to trap dust and other particles that may otherwise circulate through your home or office. Some filters come with center grids while others do not; if you’re unsure which arrangement is best for your home, consult with an HVAC technician before purchasing replacements.
  • Make sure you have the right filters for your furnace. Don’t forget about any other heating systems in your home—you’ll also need replacement filters for those!

Replace the doors or panels on your furnace and restore power to your furnace.

  • If you have a gas or oil furnace, check the pilot light first to see if it’s working properly.
  • Turn on your circuit breaker and flip the main switch back on; this should restore power to your furnace.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes before trying to turn on your furnace again—this gives time for all of its components to cool down and allows them to operate properly again when turned back on.

Mark your calendar for when you need to replace it next time, using a highlighter or other marker that will remind you how long it’s been since the last replacement.

Mark your calendar for when you need to replace it next time, using a highlighter or other marker that will remind you how long it’s been since the last replacement.

  • Use a calendar. If there are no markings on your filter, use a pencil to mark the date of its last change in large letters on the top or side of the filter.
  • Make a note on your phone, tablet or computer. A reminder might say something like “Change furnace filter” along with today’s date, or just “Filter.”

Wash out any air registers in your home that are dusty, at least once a year, more often if you have pets or smokers in your house.

Changing your furnace filter is a great way to keep your home comfortable, but it’s also important to know when you should replace it. Here are the guidelines for how often you should change your filters:

Every month – if you have pets or smokers in the house

Every 3 months – if dust is noticeable on surfaces around your house (like floors)

Every 6 months – if mold has formed on walls or ceilings

Every 12 months – if there are cracks in the paint or woodwork of your home

Every 2 years – if you have allergies, asthma or other respiratory problems that might be exacerbated by dust and pollen particles in the air you breathe; if there is visible mold growth inside; if there are signs of distress on window sills etc., such as peeling wallpaper or wallpaper curling up at edges; or if homeowners hire professional cleaning services to clean their homes more than once per year

MERV ratings aren’t everything but changing your filters correctly is essential.

MERV ratings aren’t everything but changing your filters correctly is essential. MERV ratings are based on particle size and not the type of filter.

You need to change your filters regularly.

Need help buying the correct furnace filters?

We found this site to be particularly useful when researching filter efficacy and efficiency. You can find it HERE.

Conclusion

Replacing your filter is one of the easiest ways to improve the air quality in your home. It’s also one of the most affordable and effective ways to keep your furnace running smoothly for years to come. If you’re not sure how often to change it, consult your owner’s manual or call someone who can advise you on whether it needs replacing now or later.

Guard Home Warranty

3 Arrows Property Inspection has teamed up with Guard Home Warranty – one of the largest home warranty companies in North America to offer FREE 30-day home warranties to all of our inspection clients!


What is a Home Warranty and how does it work?

A home warranty is a service contract that covers the repair or replacement of appliances and home systems that break down over time. From air conditioning systems to kitchen appliances, home warranty plans help cover damage and malfunction caused by everyday wear and tear. When something that is covered by a home warranty contract breaks down, the homeowner puts in a Service Request Ticket with us and then selects a licensed service provider of their choice to examine the problem. If it’s determined that the needed repair or replacement is covered by the warranty, we will authorize the contractor to complete the work. As a covered homeowner, you only pay a small service call fee, similar to a deductible.

What are some of the benefits of a Home Warranty?

Home warranties are a hedge against expensive repairs and the uncertainty that inevitably comes with homeownership. By budgeting a little every month for the coverage, you can be protected against large financial costs by having to repair or replace the major systems in your home like the furnace, water heater, electrical panel, etc. Good home warranties even cover appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators. A few years ago the compressor failed in my refrigerator and I was told by a local repairman that it would be over $900 to repair! Thankfully we had a home warranty that covered the repair and when it failed again, Guard Home Warranty came to the rescue and made it right by replacing the refrigerator.

No one wants to purchase a home only to have the air conditioning system (A/C) break in the middle of their first summer living there. Home warranties are designed to give you peace of mind about things like that.

Here’s how a Guard Home Warranty can help:

  • Protects you from unplanned expenses. A warranty could help you cover the cost of repairing expensive appliances and systems that break down when you don’t have the money to cover it yourself.
  • Saves you time and hassle. If a home system or appliance breaks, all you have to do is make a claim with your warranty company and they’ll handle the rest. You don’t have to waste time collecting contractor quotes or tinkering with repairs yourself.

Forbes magazine recently published an article about the benefits of home warranties. Perhaps they are a good fit for your home and your family! Scan the QR code to sign up today!

How to Get Ready for a Home Inspection

 

The process of home selling is full of uncertainties. You can never be so sure until you pass the home inspection stage. That is because the report of a home inspection can alter the property’s price. Sometimes, it can even make it difficult to sell the house and this is a nightmare for home sellers.

Your home’s curb appeal may attract buyers, but as Alltrade Properties explain, it is the property’s condition that determines whether you will sell it. Before the home inspection stage, the seller has complete control over the sales process. But this is often short-lived as the home inspection relegates the seller to an observer. Home sellers do not want this.

However, you can still retain some control or influence over the home inspection result if you follow our recommendations. As a home seller, you need to play a proactive role during the inspection process. It would be best if you get a pre-listing inspection. We also recommend that you apply the following tips while preparing for a home inspection:

1. Declutter, clean, and clear all access points

The home inspector needs free and easy access to every part of the property. If clutter prevents them from accessing critical areas, it will hurt the home inspection report, and buyers will become suspicious.

Also, a dirty property translates to poor maintenance. So it is essential to clean, declutter, and clear the access points. We recommend that you perform deep cleaning. It can be a tedious and technical process, so it would be best to hire professionals.

Keep the building’s perimeter free of clutter. Doing so will enable the inspectors to access the foundation, appliances, walls, and windows. It would be best if you do not forget the attic and basement during the cleaning. All the access points to the crawl space and attic should be clutter-free. The appliances in your kitchen require deep cleaning as well. Ensure that the HVAC filters are clean and functional.

2. Test the function of the home’s systems

During a home inspection, the inspectors will check the functionality of the essential systems in the home. For this reason, it would be best if you test to check if they are functioning.

Inspect the heating ducts to know if they are connected and intact. Check if the ducts are venting out of the attic. Flushing the toilets will help you notice the presence of blockage or slow drains.

Check the water pressure by running all the faucets at once. Test the light switches and bulbs to know if they are working. Inspect your doors and windows to assess the condition of the weather stripping, locks, and seals. Also, examine the functionality of your garage door by testing the remote, manual, and reverse safety mechanism.

3. Make the necessary repairs and replacements

After testing the systems or having a pre-listing home inspection, you may discover areas that require repairs or replacements. The essential ones to consider include:

Roof repairs – Ensure that the roof gutters and downspouts are functioning. That will involve removing debris, lichens, or moss from the roof. Repair every hole or cracks that may cause leaks and replace damaged or missing shingles.

Insulation – Make proper additions, replacements, or repairs if you discover inadequate, damaged, or missing shingles.

Electrical fixtures – Ensure that all your light bulbs, switches, and exhaust fans are in good condition.

Kitchen and bathroom – Replace or repair all damaged cabinets. Fix all plumbing leaks and ensure that the caulking is in perfect condition.

Water damage – If you notice any water damage, trace the cause and repair it.

Doors and windows – Ensure that all your doors and windows are in good condition. The weather stripping, latches, doorknobs, and seals should be intact.

Foundation  Repair all minor holes or cracks in the foundation.

4. Inspect the home’s safety features

The safety of every home is essential and home inspectors will not overlook it. Here, you need to consider:

  • Pest and rodent extermination. You can do this by hiring professional exterminators.
  • Cap flues and chimneys to prevent animals, pests, or debris from entering them.
  • Test the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms using the self-test function. Also, replace dead batteries and expired detectors.
  • Examine your fire extinguisher to be sure that they are working. Note the gauge and expiry dates.
  • Shut off unused gas lines and cover the caps.

5. Final preparations

As part of the final preparation, you will:

  • Provide all the maintenance records for the property.
  • Sketch a map to show all the hidden areas in the house.
  • Make proper labels of electrical boxes, keys, and remote controls.
  • Ensure that you connect all the utilities and keep the pilot lights on.

Bottom line

The home inspection will last for at least three hours, and during this time, you will be away from the property. If you make the necessary preparations, the process will be smooth, giving you positive results.

 

 

With the end of summer looming on the distant horizon (we aren’t excited either) there are some things we can do to help maintain and improve the value of our home.

1. Check your roof and your home’s exterior and make any necessary repairs.

Your roof system is the second most expensive component in a house (next to your foundation) and protects not only the structure but also the home’s contents. Start with inspecting around the eaves for loose debris that might have accumulated there. Whenever you see gunk or leaves, collect and remove it. Next, inspect your roof’s flashing or metal strips typically found around chimneys, vents, satellite dishes, and skylights. It can loosen during a harsh rainstorm or hailstorm, causing potential water leakage. Finally, inspect the covering itself – the shingles, tiles, or metal panels. Check for impact damage, loose sections or fasteners backing out. If you do climb up there – please be careful or hire a competent professional to check it out on your behalf.

2. Give your deck a once-over.

Check your deck system for any rot or age-related damage. Have them replaced. Pour water on your deck to see if the boards should be resealed. If the water beads into small puddles, it is okay. If it sinks into the wood, you should reseal it to protect against water damage. This is also a good time to check for loose fasteners or evidence the deck could be pulling away from the house.

3. Clean your grill

Gas grills: Close the lid, turn the heat up high, and let the grill cook for about half an hour. Then, let the grill cool. Use a grill brush to sweep the inside and wipe down the outside with a sponge and cleaner. Then clean out all the drip trays.

Charcoal grills: Empty the grill racks and wipe away any dust or residue. Use hot water, dish soap, a scrub brush or sponge to clean both the outside and inside of the grill. Be sure to let your dry all surfaces before using it next.

4. Give your lawnmower a tune-up

Keeping your lawnmower in top shape will help avoid performance issues and help increase reliability. The grassy buildup in your lawnmower can invite rust and clog the discharge chute, leaving clumps on your lawn. Routine cleaning can help ward off future problems, so take time this month to do a checkup. Disconnect the spark plug and remove the blade before dislodging debris with a putty knife and wire brush. Use a hose to spray away any remaining clippings.

5. Upgrade old windows and doors. Replace damaged screens.

Windows should shut properly to maintain temperature control. Check the caulking or sealant around indoor and outdoor windows and replace if necessary. Also check for water stains on with windowsills as well.

6. Schedule a cleaning for your HVAC system

Reaching out to your HVAC contractor now could help increase air conditioning efficiency and nip any heating issues before it gets too cold outside. Ensure that the fan is functioning well, the coils are clean, there isn’t faulty wiring that could cause a fire and pay particular attention to the noises the appliance is making. If it doesn’t sound correct – it probably isn’t! Don’t forget to change your filter. Here is a great website digging a little deeper into HVAC maintenance.

7. Power wash the outside of your home.

The Tennessee heat and humidity can cause mold and mildew to grow faster on your home’s exterior, particularly if you have vinyl siding. Use a power washer with a mildew remover compatible with your siding.

8. Prune your flowers, bushes, and trees. Add new additions to your garden.

If you were unable to get to your home’s garden during the spring, it’s not too late! The summer is a fantastic time to work on your green thumb, to beautify the appearance of your home. Consider adding mulch to the garden beds, which create a clean appearance. Mulch reduces weeds and locks in moisture, keeping plants healthier during the hot temps. Also, prune flowers, bushes, and trees, so they’re away from your home’s exterior, roof, and central AC unit.

9. Check your home’s insulation.

This is particularly important for homes more than 15 years old. You can find insulation issues pretty much anywhere throughout your house, from the front door to the attic, to cracks in your garage door (especially if the garage is attached). With higher cooling costs in the summer, now is time to seal any insulation gaps you may encounter. Adding insulation is a great low-cost method of lowering your heating and A/C bills.

10. Inspect your attic and crawlspace

Check both the crawlspace and attic for evidence of pests, insects, water damage, mold, or mildew. Turn off the lights to check for any sign of peeking daylight. Sunlight visible through gaps in flashing could allow insects or water intrusion. Crawlspaces are particularly prone to humidity-related issues as well.

Be an all-season homeowner with these useful tips. Maintaining your home during the heat of summer is just as crucial as other seasons. If you would like a professional inspection of your home to help guide you in maintaining your home, please book an inspection today!

Thomas Recke, ACI

ASHI Certified Inspector

Owner of 3 Arrows Property Inspection

furnace filter
Fireplace

Almost everyone considers a fireplace to be a major sales feature in a Tennessee home. But it’s best to be realistic about this – a fireplace is just another heating system that, like any heating system, can burn you if you are not wary.  Right now – before the winter season – is the best time to correct deficiencies in all of your heating systems.