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RE: 10 days remaining; punch list questions (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: bevangel on 07.31.2010 at 03:35 pm in Building a Home Forum

uh oh, based just on what you've written so far, I foresee problems. First off, does your contract specify TRCC "standards"? There are a couple of things you need to know about TRCC and the TRCC standards.

First, TRCC (for you non-Texans, that stands for Texas Residential Construction Commission) is now a DEFUNCT state agency. It was sunsetted this past September when the legislature finally got the message that the TRCC was operating as a builder-protection agency and that homeowners simply weren't going to stand for it anymore.

Second, while the TRCC was in effect, it adopted a set of minimum warranty standards that replaced the old legal standards of good workmanship and fitness for purpose.

The TRCC standards include a one year warranty for workmanship and materials, a two year warranty for plumbing, electrical, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, and a ten year warranty on structural components. Each standard specifies in excruciating detail what is and what is not considered a defect. Whether those standards still have any legal effect now that TRCC is defunct is up for debate and, so far as I know, no legal cases have yet worked their way thru the courts to settle the issue.

IF your contract specified that the builder would meet TRCC minimum warranty standards, then my guess is that a court would say the standards apply in your case. If your contract did not specify TRCC standards but you entered into the contract with your builder before TRCC was sunsetted then there would be a good argument that the standards should be applied because both parties were relying on the rules in effect at the time the contract was signed. But, if you entered into your contract after TRCC was sunsetted AND your contract doesn't specify TRCC standards, then I think you would have a winning argment that TRCC standards have no application.

And, given that TRCC's warranty standards were written so favorably to builders that 8 foot tall walls could be out of plumb by as much as two inches, the earlier legal standards of good workmanship and fitness for purpose served homeowners far better than the new warranty standards. Prior to TRCC, it was was left up to juries to determine if an alleged defect was bad enough to be considered covered by implied warranties of good workmanship and fitness for purpose - and since juries were likely to think about issues as if they themselves had had to face the problem in their own new homes, they tended to require builders to meet standards that the rest of us find more reasonable. Like, walls should not bow an inch and a half in the middle and there should not be 1/8 inch gaps between pieces of trim work!

But, even tho the TRCC standards are so loose (despite being so detailed) that a house has to be practically falling down around you before it is considered "defective", NO WHERE in the TRCC standards does it state that a punch list defect must be "visible from 20 feet. If your builder is telling you that, he is lying thru his teeth (which is why I predict you'll have problems).

Instead, different potential problems are defined in different ways. For example, paint issues are often "punch list" items and RULE 304.21(2) specifically states "Paint shall cover all intended surfaces so that unpainted areas shall not show through paint when viewed from a distance of six feet in normal light."

Another big punch list item is often defects in hard surfaces such as ceramic tile, granite, finished concrete, etc. RULE 304.20(3) specifically states. "A surface imperfection in floor hard surface shall not be visible from a distance of three feet or more in normal light. A surface imperfection in non-floor hard surface shall not be visible from a distance of two feet or more in normal light."

See what I mean about your builder's so called "20 foot" requirement!

I think you would do well to download the old TRCC warranty standards and read thru them carefully well before your walk through. If you believe that they ought to apply, get your builder to state in writing that he considers them to apply then take a copy with you to your walk through so you have it to refer to.

The TRCC warranty rules can be downloaded from the site linked below. DON'T just rely on the so-called "plain language" versions. They leave out the details and those are what you need to read. The formal versions are rather long but other than that, they are not difficult to read or understand. So read them and be prepared to make your builder meet them.

And, forget the idea that you'll do the walkthrough to find defects WITH your builder in 1.5 to 3 hours. He'll be doing his best to rush you along and distract you from seeing defects. Go to the house ahead of time with several very observant friends and do your own walk through without the builder there. If your house is a 2000 foot home, expect to spend at least 6 hours. If it is larger, expect to spend proportionately more time.

Make detailed notes of all the issues (room by room) so that when you are walking thru with the builder, it is just an opportunity to point the issues out to him. That you can do in 1.5 to 3 hours... and you can give him a typed up copy of your lists at the end so that he can't claim you never mentioned something.

If you're anywhere in the Austin area, I'll be happy to try to make time to meet you at your new house (before your date with your builder) and help you do a walk through. I've gotten pretty darned good at seeing the defects and I am sick to death of lousy builders screwing homeowners. I just this minute finished talking to my next door neighbor who is in the process of having a horse barn built behind her house and it is already a total screw-up...to the point where I think her best option at this point would be to fire the builder, tear down what he has done and start over. Among other things, the concrete foundation is not level but rises and falls with the slope of her land and then her builder put NOTHING between the concrete wood 2x4 sill plates so they're going to rot out almost immediately.

Anyway, back to your situation, while your builder may SAY he'll be showing up for a year to finish punch list stuff when you find it later, don't count on it. Once he has his money, you have ZERO power to get him back without filing a lawsuit against him. Anything on the punch list that you aren't willing to fix yourself better be fixed before you close. Since he seems to be lying to you already about the 20 foot thing AND wants to rush you thru the walk thru in 1.5 hours, I somehow doubt he is going to be a stand up guy and come back to fix problems you find two months after you move in.

Here is a link that might be useful: TRCC minimum warranty standards

NOTES:

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clipped on: 06.05.2011 at 11:41 pm    last updated on: 06.05.2011 at 11:42 pm

RE: Any walkthrough tips? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: bevangel on 02.20.2010 at 09:39 pm in Building a Home Forum

This question came up once before about a year ago. Unfortunately a search for that thread doesn't pull it up anymore.

Fortunately, I saved a copy of my reply and those of several other forum members on my home computer so I'm going to paste those here:

*****
My post:

No matter how picky your are now, you're going to find more stuff after you close. It is also possible that your builder will try to rush you when you do your walk thru with him.
I would advise taking a couple of very persnickity (sp??) friends with you this weekend and spend several hours going over each room and making lists of the stuff you find so that, when you're doing the final walk thru it is actually just a time to point out issues to the builder - not be looking for them. People seeing the place with fresh eyes will see problems that you noticed months ago, that your builder promised to fix, but then somehow never got around to doing. Consider making it a game to see who can find the most things that need fixing. Doing the real looking prior to the "final walk-thru" will also allow you to present your builder with a nice typed up list of issues. Keep a copy for yourself and then check issues off as they are corrected. Otherwise, chances are, half the stuff you point out will never get corrected.

Some things to look at:

Whole House
_ Turn every light switch on and off.
_ If you have ceiling fans with multiple speeds, check that they work on every speed.
_ Test every electrical outlet (both top and bottom as we've actually found that on a number of outlets in our current house - which was purchased from a previous owner - only one half of the outlet has power and the other half is dead!)
_ Open and close every window. If your windows tilt out to clean, check that function on every window as well.
_ Open and close every door, interior and exterior.
_ Check that doors are plumb and square. The crack around a door should be even on all sides when the door is closed and you should not be able to see light coming from the other side except at the bottoms of interior doors.
_ Lock and unlock every lock
_ Check that walls are plumb, that there are no nail pops and that the paint is even. BTW - nail pops are where the nails holding sheetrock to the studs back up slightly. You see them as little round bumps in the paint. You should not be able to tell where the edges of sheetrock panels are. Nor should you be able to notice any dips or high places in the walls where they taped and floated the sheetrock.
_ Check floors. Tiles should have even and straight grout lines; hardwoods should not have gaps between boards; seams on vinyl flooring should not be noticable; carpet should be tight and should not show seams; etc.
_ Check ceilings. You should not be able to tell where the edges of the sheetrock panels are.
- Take a sprinkler with you and set it so that water falls down against your windows (simulating rain) and check for leaks on the inside. You should not see ANY water on the inside. (Caution - don't spray water UPWARD against your windows as you may drive water through the drainholes, set the spinkler so that water falls downward against the windows.)
_ Check that smoke detectors are working.

Kitchen/Laundry Room/Pantry-
_ Check that every appliance is working properly
* Refrigerator
* Freezer
* Dishwasher (run thru a cycle to ensure no leaks and that it actually cleans dishes. We bought a house once where the dishwasher seemed to work when we tested it but when we actually tried to wash dishes, they never got clean. It turned out that the water had never been attached and the little bit of moisture we were seeing was just moisture from the air!)
* stove top - check every burner
* oven
* microwave
* garbage disposal
* washer (again, run a cycle to make sure its not leaking and that it doesn't dance around)
* dryer (run a cycle with some clothes to make sure it doesn't dance. Also, make sure the dryer vent is hooked up!)
_ Open and close every cabinet and every drawer to make sure they function properly.
_ Look inside each cabinet and drawer to make sure it is finished properly.
_ Turn both hot and cold water on at the sink. Fill the sink with water and then, after a while, check under the sink for evidence of leaking. Check around the sink to make sure that it is properly sealed to your countertop.
_ Check the countertop for flaws. Check the edges of countertops especially carefully as these can easily get chipped or scratched (depending on the type surface) during the building process.

Bathrooms
_ Actually step into shower stalls and bathtubs to make sure they feel solid underfoot. Acrylic tubs and shower bases that "give" underfoot will crack over time.
_ Run water in every sink and bathtub and make sure they hold water without leaking. (Look under the sinks for leaks).
_ Run the showers.
_ Make sure you get hot water when you turn on a hot water spigot. Try it at every sink, tub, shower, and in your washing machine.
_ Run water at several locations at the same time to make sure you have adequate water pressure.
_ Check that both heating and air conditioning work.
_ Test that bathroom fans work.
_ Flush all toilets several times to make sure they stop running when the tanks refill. (Having a bunch of friends out for several hours also means your toilets may actually get "field tested" to make sure they really flush adequately... which not something you are likely to test while doing a walk thru with your builder!)
_ Make sure toilets sit solidly and evenly on the floor and are properly bolted down. There should not be any "rocking" motion when you sit down.

MISCELLANEOUS
_ If your builder installed blinds or operable shutters (inside or out) make sure they work properly.
_ If you have a real fireplace, build a fire in it and make sure the chimney draws properly. If you have a gas fireplace, make sure it works as advertised.
_ Check that you OUTDOOR water spigots work.
_ Check all outdoor electrical outlets as well. These often get over-looked.
_ Check your garage door openers. Also make sure that, it something is in the way of the door as it comes down, that the door stops and goes back up.
_ If you have an attic access ladder, pull it down and make sure it works smoothly.
_ Climb into the attic and make sure you have the amount of insulation you are supposed to have.
- If you're really lucky and it rains while you are checking out your house this weekend, go up into the attic with a flashlight and look for roof leaks.
- Take a sprinkler with you and set it so that water falls down against your windows (simulating rain) and check for leaks on the inside. You should not see any.
_ Make sure gutters are fully attached to walls and designed to drain water away from your house.
_ Check that ground around the house has been graded so that it slopes away from the house.

This is all just "off the top of my head." I'm sure if you think about it you can add dozens of other things to check for. And, no doubt other posters will chime in with other things to add to your check list.

Ultimately, you don't have to insist that the builder fix every little tiny thing. If something won't bother you - or if you can fix it easily yourself and don't mind doing so, point it out to your builder anyway and, once you've gone over everything you can cross those items off your list as a way to show you're being reasonable but that the rest of the list IS important to you.

PS - check your contract and see if you allowed to hold back any portion of your final payment until the check list items are done. (This is called "retainage") If your contract doesn't allow for retainage, then DON'T accept that the house is finished until ALL the major stuff on your list is completed. Don't move in and don't close until there is nothing left on your list that you don't mind doing yourself. Without retainage, once you close you will have zero power to actually get your builder back to finish up the rest of the items on the check list. If he is a good guy, he'll probably get around to it eventually but you'll be low on his priority list. Others though, once they're paid, that is the last you'll see of them. So if you find anything major, tell your builder that the house is simply NOT ready for the final walk-through yet and he need to do X, Y, and Z and then you'll reschedule the final walk through.

*****
A followup post by Meldy_nva:

bevangel ~ That's a really good list! I can't add much to it.
Have a couple friends simultaneously flush toilets while you run water from the kitchen sink... a prolonged lessening of flow at the sink faucet will indicate a problem the plumber needs to check [maybe a constriction in one of the feed lines, maybe too-small lines, maybe something else]. Also turn on the hot water in each tub/shower [adjust so it's not scalding] hold your hand in it and then have someone flush the nearest toilet. There should NOT be any temperature change in shower water. And while you're there, look closely at the faucet units to be sure they are grouted properly.

If you have continuous hot water (recirculating type), check the hot water at the tap farthest from the heater to be sure it really does get hot fast - usually within 5 seconds.

If you have a fireplace or woodstove/s, be sure each is in working order. A very small smoky fire (a small piece of damp wood on top of a small crumpled newspaper fire) will let you be sure the chimney draws properly. Gas fireplaces should be lit and watched carefully to be sure that *all* the flame vents work and that the flame heights are as expected.

When the house is very quiet (a late night visit is best), walk up and down all the steps. There should be no creaks or squeaks. Ditto for walking across hardwood or carpeted floors.

Be sure *everything* in the house is turned off and check the electric meter. It should not be spinning. Afterwords, don't forget to turn the fridge back on.

And an odd one... pull gently but firmly on all downspouts and watch where they connect to the gutter. There should not be any movement. A friend tells me that a 25' downspout makes a terrible clatter when it falls onto the car.

If you have a generator, have someone not associated with the installing firm check to be sure it is properly hooked up. (Yes, you pay for that inspection, and it's worth it.)

Pay close attention to bevangel's last two paragraphs... those have what is probably the most important information about the checklist!

*****
And finally, a few additional things I've thought of since then (tho I may be repeating myself in some cases):
* Test all appliances AND Turn all your major appliance on at the same time. You want to make sure you can run everything without blowing any fuses. (Those of you over 45 probably remember the running gag on "Green Acres" re blowing fuses - LOL!)

* With plumbing fixtures, make sure handles turn on/off easily and that the fixture is firmly seated on the wall or countertop. Check the the hot and cold handles are on the proper sides. (When you are facing the faucet, the handle on your left should control the hot water; the handle on the right controls the cold water.)

* If you have instant water heaters, run the hot water in your shower and make sure you get hot water within a reasonable amount of time. Wait a half hour and try the same thing at your sink. Wait another half hour and try you wash machine. (You need to give the water in the lines time to cool so you can judge how long it will take to get hot water. The longer the water lines, the longer it will take - and some plumbers don't seem to make much effort to keep water lines as short as possible.) After you've tested the time delay to get hot water at all major use points, you need to run all the major hot water users at the same time to ensure that you will get ENOUGH hot water.

* If you are supposed to have screens, make sure you have one over every window and that they are properly installed.

* If your exterior doors were finished (painted) by your builder, make sure they are painted on all edges. Unpainted sides, top, or bottom will allow the door to absorb moisture and warp.

* When checking door locks, make sure the deadbolt latches firmly into the jamb.

* Check windows for scratches or cracked glass.

* If lawn sprinklers were installed, look around the yard for muddy spots that would indicate a broken or leaking pipe in the sprinkler system. Then, run the sprinklers and make sure the heads pop up properly.

* Run both the air conditioner and the heater long enough to ensure that they are working properly. (Not fun trying to check the AC when it is 30 degrees but you can do it by overheating the house first then switching to AC. Check the vents to make sure you are getting the expected cold/hot air in every room. Put a piece of paper up against the return air vent(s) to ensure they are drawing properly.

* Climb into the attic and check that you actually HAVE the amount of insulaton you are supposed to have. If you have the pink stuff, lift it up in several spots to check the depth. (My insulation guy tried to skimp by slicing my insulation in HALF and putting down only half the amount required! Fortunately, I caught it before paying him! R-30 fiberglass insulation is 9 1/2 inches thick. If you have the blown in stuff, take a ruler and slide it down beside a joist to check the depth that was blown in.


* Open and close every cabinet door and drawer. Make sure they operate smoothly. Look carefully at cabinet doors and make sure doors are level with each other and straight. (Newer cabinetry hinges can often be adjusted with the turn of a screw or two but you should not have to go around doing this.)

* Walk the entire floor area (back and forth across the room as if you were mowing the lawn with a small push-mower). Listen for any creaking or popping sounds under carpets or hardwood which indicate that either the subfloor or the flooring is not properly nailed or glued down. On tile floors listen for any change in sound of your footsteps. When you step on a tile that is not properly set, it will sound different (slightly hollow). ItImproperly set tiles crack easily or pop up.

* Walk up and down the stairs several times using both the center and the sides of the steps. Again, listen for any creaking or popping sounds.

* Check the handrail as well as each baluster for any signs of looseness.

Hope this helps!

NOTES:

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clipped on: 06.05.2011 at 11:35 pm    last updated on: 06.05.2011 at 11:40 pm