Inspecting your newly built house
Part of our service is to administer the building contracts for clients, which includes the final inspections. In Australia, many home owners go to Home Builders who will provide the architectural services themselves, but this approach means the owners don’t have an impartial professional acting on their behalf. When it comes to accepting the finished product, owners are often daunted by this task and are unsure how thoroughly to inspect the house, and what to look for.
Here are some guidelines on how to inspect a newly built house
What to take with:
Plain Round stickers in 2 different colours- for sticking on items you need the builder to attend to. Do not use Post-its for this. They fall off.
A marble or small ball- to put on surfaces to see if they have a fall or are level
A tape measure- to check if blinds, pelmets etc are straight
A set of large rectangular post-it’s- for notes to yourself
A hair dryer- to test power points
A thick black marker- to write on the stickers
A pen- for your post-its and your own notes
A notebook or tablet. I use my iPad with DocsToGo to save myself time typing everything later. I still have a notepad handy in case I need it. You’ll need at least one sheet of A4 paper
If you want to rather write your notes, make sure you have the inspection spreadsheet printed (template available here).
A copy of the list of inclusions and finishes you agreed with the builder
A copy of the electrical layout from the builder if you have one
A good quality camera (not a phone camera)
A few different sizes of plastic waste plugs in case they are missing from the baths and basins.
A jug for pouring water down floor drains
A small step ladder
A pot/pan for testing the induction cooktop, if you have one
Someone to help. It takes LOOOONG to inspect a house properly so if you can split the rooms or tasks, it will make a difference
Drinks and snacks (including something to test the microwave with)
To do beforehand:
Arrange access to the house. You don’t need the builder with you for the inspection. It takes long, and you will rush if you are worried about their time. It is good, however to have the builder there at the end to run through any items you are unsure about. I usually organise an inspection start time of about 10am and ask the builder to meet me at 1pm. That way I have 3 hours, and if I’m finished earlier, I get some lunch while I wait.
Have your floor plans in front of you and make a spreadsheet listing all the rooms in one column, with every part of the room under each room name (floor, skirting, walls, windows, doors, cornice, ceiling). You can download my template here. Next to every item, you need a space for comments and can also make a space to add photos if you like.
Make sure you have a full camera battery and an empty memory card
Start at the entrance and end with the garage. Check that the doorbell works and that you can turn the key in the front door to lock/unlock.
Walk through the house, room by room doing a general inspection as you go. Anything that catches your eye gets a Post-it with a quick message to yourself. Turn on all the lights in each room, close all windows, open blinds, close cupboard/cabinet doors have a quick look around and then close the door as you leave the room. Leave the lights on.
Turn on air con to heat.
Turn the oven(s) on.
In the kitchen, laundry and bathrooms, turn the taps on to warm with the plugs in.
Turn the shower on to warm.
Fill the basins and sinks fully before turning the taps off and leaving the room with the water still in. Leave the bath and shower taps running.
Turn on any heat lamps, heated towel rails, heaters and extractor fans.
Once you have gone through all the rooms, work your way back, turning off any running water. Listen for rattles and creaks.
Start by taking photos of each room, standing in the corners, and try get all walls, skirtings, cornices, lighting, windows and doors in through a few photos.
Inspect each room working from bottom to top- starting with the floor, then the skirtings, then the walls, then the cornices and finally the ceilings.
Mark your sticker with a number using the black marker and stick it on to items that need attention. Note the number on your list with a description. Sometimes it helps to use red stickers for the important items and another colour for minor issues like areas that need to be cleaned or touched up.
When you check the walls, check each wall and everything on it before moving onto the next wall. Look for surface/ paint imperfections, make sure all power points work, make sure all light switches work. You may need to use a post-it to note which light switches are for which external lights while you go outside to look. Check that fans are working, vacuum cleaner sockets etc. Stand back and look at all windows and window coverings before checking that all open and close correctly, check that fly screens are on properly, with the tabs on the inside for future removal. Check that all doors open and close/ latch properly, including cupboard doors. Check cornices and all items on the ceiling. Where you can’t check items, eg speakers that need the sound system hooked up, note this on your list. Hold a piece of A4 paper near the air-con outlet and extractor fans to make sure they are flowing.
In all rooms, check that they are feeling warm from the aircon and check all items on your inclusion list from the builders.
Once you’re halfway, turn the aircon to cool. You may need to adjust the air con a few times if there are different zones.
In the kitchen, check all power points and ensure all appliances are working. Check under the sink for any sign of water leaks. Ensure the sink is full and then remove the plug. Check under the sink again. Listen for suction noises or knocking. Make sure the mixer/ tap swivels and has hot and cold water. Check under the sink again once all water has emptied.
Run a full cycle on the dishwasher and washing machine and check for leaks at the end of the inspection.
In the bathrooms, check for leaks under basins. Make sure the bath empties easily and there are no knocking sounds. Check that heat lamps and extractor fans work. ChecK that the shower works and drains quickly. Run a marble from all corners of the shower to ensure the floor slopes to the drain. Put a marble at each corner of the room and ensure that there is a fall to the floor drain. Pour a few jugs of water down the floor drain to ensure it drains. Check that all taps and mixers are not leaking.
Once you have worked through the interior, go outside and work your way around the house checking from ground surface up to the to gutters. Stand back as far as you can and check the roof for any imperfections and bows. Check any ground floor roofs that are visible from upper floor windows.
Check all taps are working and the aircon unit outside is not shaking while it is on. Check all gates are working and fences are sturdy and straight. Check all garden features and irrigation. Ensure pool pumps are working and pool fences are secure, and gates close automatically and securely. Ensure all external doors open and latch close properly, as well as lock (including garage doors).
Stand on the opposite side of the road and look back at the house.
Remember to be realistic about your expectations and whether the repairs and changes you are requesting may result in even more damage. Just because one corner of a tile looks a little off colour is probably not worth the fight to get the builder to change it, especially considering removing the tile will rip up the waterproofing underneath, and you do not want patched waterproofing!
Be nice to the builder and have the courtesy to discuss the items with them instead of just sending through a grumpy note with a list of items to be addressed immediately.
Go home and rest. You will be exhausted.
Enjoy your new home!