How To Look At A House
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What are common problems found at a one-year warranty inspection of a new house?
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Here’s our list of the defects we commonly find in an 11th month warrany inspection, along with some that are not so common but happen often enough that they should also be checked. Construction defects that aren’t observable when a home is brand new can be caught by an inspector and fixed by your builder near the end of your one-year warranty. So it’s important to get one, even if you don’t notice any problems.
Site does not drain properly - The ground should slope away from the house on all sides, and standing water in areas other than swales ought to dissipate within 24 hours. Go to our articles How do I look for yard drainage problems? and How much is the ground required to slope away from a house? to learn more.
Cracks in concrete floor slab - Floor cracks are always obvious where the slab surface is exposed at the garage, carport, porch, or patio. But cracked floor tile or grout lines telegraph the same problem inside a home. Hairline cracks due to the shrinkage as the concrete cures are unavoidable and normal. They do not require repair. But larger cracks of more than 1/8” thickness, where you can stick two quarters held side-by-side into the crack, indicate a potential problem. Also, if the crack has “differential,” meaning that one side of the crack is lower than the other, it adds to the significance of the crack. See What causes a garage floor to crack? for details.
Water in crawl space - Homes with an elevated wood floor need a dry crawl space underneath to avoid wood rot and mold problems. Standing water or extermely moist soil is usually related to site drainage problems and must be fixed. This is especially important for a manufactured/mobile home. Details at Is it normal for a mobile home crawl space to be damp in Florida?
Floor or stair tread squeaks, buckles, or separates - Very annoying, common issue for warranty repair.
Missing or inadequate areas of insulation - This is best found by an inspector with an infrared camera. Ceiling insulation is only required over the living spaces of a home in Florida. So missing insulation over a porch or garage is not a defect.
Window difficult to open or close - Usually related to poor installation and must be corrected.
Window glass clouded - All double-pane insulated windows eventually lose the gas between their panes and get hazy, but only after many years. A clouded window in a year-old house means the gas seal has failed prematurely. The beginning of haze is easier to spot if you look at the window from an oblique angle, like in the photo at right.
Door sticks, will not latch, or swings open or closed by itself - Requires adjustment.
Siding not installed in straight line, sagging, bowed, buckled, or loose - These defects are easier to spot if you sight down the wall. See How can I tell if vinyl siding is installed correctly? and What are the vertical butt joint requirements for fiber-cement (Hardiplank) lap siding? for more info.
Cracks in stucco wall - Visible cracks should be repaired. When they are more than 1/8” wide, it’s an issue that needs further evaluation to determine cause. Stucco over wood-frame home second-floors can be especially problematic. See Why is my stucco cracking? for answers.
Sloppy paint - Bare spots of missed paint are called “holidays” by professional painters, and they should be fixed. Also drips, visible brush strokes, and wandering edges.
Roof sheathing wavy, sagging, or dip - Repair necessary anywhere the roof deck surface has shifted. See Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses? and What causes a lump or dip in the roof?
Cracked or damaged shingles - Replacement necessary.
Asphalt shingles starting to buckle or curl at edge - Shingles curling or buckling in the first year indicates a manufacturing or installation defect, and requires repair or replacement. Go to our article Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem? for more on this.
Raised nails under shingles - A popped nail looks like a wrinkle in a line of shingles when you look up at the roof. The reason nails back themselves out of roof sheathing has to do with how well the nail is set in the wood, as well as expansion and contraction of the decking and framing. See Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem?
Standing water on flat roof - Even a “flat” roof is built slightly out-of-level to drain all water off at sides; so any water that is still standing on a roof after 48-hours indicates a problem. Bits of debris often accumulate in the standing water areas over time.
Water hammer - Water hammer is the banging sound of shaking pipes that happens when you shut off a sink or hose faucet that is not protected by a water hammer arrestor device. The shaking can cause premature failure of water pipes. Go to What causes a banging sound when I shut off the bathroom faucet? for details.
Bathtub or shower pan leaks - Wet staining around base at floor signals the problem. But sometimes splashing water beyond the fixture is the real culprit.
Loose toilet - If not repaired, will eventually loose the wax seal and begin to leak. See our toilet checklist at How does a home inspector check a toilet?
Circuit breaker trips repeatedly - This can be a problem in the wiring or a simple overload of the circuit with too many loads.
GFCI or AFCI breakers do not trip with test button - Both types of breakers have a small TEST button on the breaker face to check the protective circuit. Breakers that do not trip using the test button should be replaced. Ordinarily, these devices can last 30-years or more, but a few die within the first year.
GFCI receptacle trips repeatedly - This means that the circuit is leaking electricity somewhere, either in the wiring or one of the attached appliances. The GFCI-device is rarely the problem.
Ceiling fan wobbles or noisy - A fan that wobbles or makes clicking noises needs adjustment.
Attic ventilation inadequate - All attics in Florida are hot in the summer. But when attic ventilation is inadequate or vents are covered by insulation it can be up to 150º F, which shortens the life of the roof and requires more air conditioning below. Ventilation must be adequate and unobstructed.
Air handler vibrates - Mounting adjustment necessary.
Bifold doors come off track or difficult to operate - Alignment/adjustment necessary.
Pocket door rubs in pocket - Eventually blemishes door surface. Must be repaired.
No safety clip at the range - Although the anti-tip bracket kit is included with all ranges sold in the U.S., they don’t always get installed. See Why is an anti-tip device required behind the range? for details.
Gaps at joints of wood molding or trim - Visible gaps must be caulked neatly and, if too large for caulk, repaired.
Nails heads at trim or molding visible - Should not be visible, except when viewed very close to surface.
Cracks in interior walls or ceiling - These can be just seasonal wood stud movement or an early sign of structural problems. Should be checked regularly after repair for signs of further opening.
Garage door safety stop needs adjustment - New garage doors are required to have two safety devices. One stops the door when an invisible beam that runs across the bottom of the opening is broken, and the other stops the door when it hits any resistance on the way down. The second one must be set to reverse the door when it encounters about 15 lbs. of back-pressure. Both are there to prevent acidentally crushing a small child or pet under the door, but the back-pressure setting is often so high that the door does not stop under any level of resistance, and must be adjusted.
There are also usually several problems, such as hot and cold faucets reversed, that the homeowner already knows and makes us aware of when we start the inspection. And many more that would make this list way too long, like a spa tub in the master bath with no access panel to service the pump, that are those rare head-scratchers.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) publishes a booklet listing all these and dozens more possible warranty defects, along with standards for their recognition and repair, called Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. It's used by many homebuilders to determine what does—and does not—have to be fixed during the builder’s warranty period.
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