How to Prepare for Issues That Arise From a Custom Home Build
Arranging to have a new house built is a popular option for homebuyers, especially those who can’t find exactly what they’re looking for at a price they can afford.
But many people who choose to go down this path don’t often realize the various pitfalls that come with building a home.
So to help you prepare for the potential pitfalls, here are the issues that can arise with a new, custom-built home within the first year after you’ve moved in, along with common problems detected during a one-year inspection.
WHY PEOPLE CHOOSE TO BUILD OVER BUYING PRE-OWNED HOMES
A custom home is as unique to the homeowner as a home can get. Custom homes are built to the homeowner’s specifications to suit their lifestyles and modern design choices—from energy-efficient and architectural windows and doors to luxury kitchens and bathrooms.
Also, newly-built homes don’t have the wear and tear that pre-owned homes have, so it’s like moving into a clean, untouched space that truly belongs to the homeowner.
IMPORTANCE OF THE ONE-YEAR INSPECTION + WARRANTY
Custom home builders will give a one-year warranty on a newly built home to address any repair issues that tend to arise after the first heating season—i.e., winter, when the indoor heating system is running daily.
The one-year inspection (which is usually completed at 11 months) is the last opportunity to have the builder perform work on your home that is covered under their one-year warranty. The cost of this inspection is worth it to avoid the cost of future repairs that your builder won’t cover.
Also, the builder’s one-year warranty and the inspection report will give you leverage with your builder in case they don’t properly make the necessary repairs.
ISSUES THAT CAN ARISE DURING THE ONE-YEAR INSPECTION
The following are common issues that occur during the first year of living in a new house.
The new lumber in a house loses most of its moisture content during the first heating season. As it loses this moisture, the wood shrinks. And as the house settles, diagonal cracks can appear in the drywall at the corners of doors in the interior walls.
Your builder will be able to repair these shrinkage cracks after the first heating season. And you won’t want to repair them beforehand since more cracks can appear throughout this first season.
Nail popping is another result of lumber shrinking during the first heating season. Nail popping occurs when the head of a drywall nail pushes the finishing compound loose and pops out of the wall. And it often occurs near the corner of a wall or ceiling.
When the wood shrinks, it can leave a small space between the drywall and framing member. And if pressure is applied to the wall finish, the drywall will slide down the shank of the nail, and the nail head will protrude and pop off the finishing compound.
To repair this, your builder will use a punch to drive the nail deeper, apply a new finishing compound, then sand and repaint.
Trusses are the triangular wooden roof frames extending from wall to wall. The bottoms of trusses are often covered in ceiling insulation, so they are warmer than their upper parts. Because of its proximity to warmth, the warmer wood dries faster and shrinks during the winter.
When the truss bottoms shrink, they get pulled upward (rise), which can also lift the ceiling off the interior partitions. The trusses return to normal in the summer, and truss rise usually only occurs during the first heating season.
But sometimes it can reoccur every winter depending on the location of the cut in the log of the bottom truss. Your custom home builder will be able to repair the drywall tape and even use molding to cover the joint if necessary.
When the cold weather arrives, and the heat goes on for the heating season, a new home will likely have moisture condensation on the windows that drips down onto the window sash and sill. This extra moisture is coming from the materials drying out in the house.
Both the new lumber and the concrete are losing water content. And even interior finish materials, like plaster and drywall taping compounds, will lose moisture during the first heating season.
To remove this extra moisture from the house and prevent moisture damage to your new windows, open your windows a crack and run the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. You can also use a dehumidifier if it’s too cold to leave your windows open a crack.
Condensation Between Window Panes
You might notice condensation between double-glazed window panes and removable interior storm panels. If there are vent holes through the frame between the panes, be sure to clean these holes out with a pipe cleaner or wire each fall.
Wet Basement and Crawl Space
The settling of the backfill around the home’s foundation can direct water from the roof and yard to the foundation, resulting in flooding of the basement or crawl space.
If there is water in the basement or crawl space, it must be pumped out. And if flooding is a regular occurrence, you may need to have a perimeter tile leading to a sump pump.
Also, consider the effectiveness of your roof runoff. Does your home have gutters and downspouts? If not, install them or have the ground slope away from your foundation.
Grading and Drainage
Even if the builder does the grading properly and there is a slope away from your home to keep water and moisture away from the foundation, settlement will occur during the first two years. So be prepared to add another truckload of dirt around your home to make up for the settlement of the backfill around the foundation and to help keep your basement or crawl space dry.
Balancing the Heating and Cooling System
Balancing the heating and cooling system means making sure the distribution of heated or cooled air is proportional to the gain or loss of a room. In other words, making sure each room is comfortable—not too hot or too cold.
To balance your heating system:
- Open all dampers—in the duct system and at the register and grille faces;
- Set the room’s thermostat to a comfortable temperature;
- Leave around six thermometers at table height in different rooms, observing them once or twice a day in the winter;
- Partially close the dampers in the duct system that are supplying the rooms that are too warm;
- If there are rooms that don’t get warm enough, partially close the dampers to all the other rooms until the cold rooms warm up to the desired temperature;
- Mark the damper settings once the system is balanced to comfortable temperatures.
Repeat these steps in the summer to balance your cooling system.
Building a custom home is an exciting and rewarding experience. But it can also have some challenges. If you’re building your own home in Ontario, keep these issues in mind so you are better prepared for what’s to come during the first year in your new home.