When I was in school, grades were given in real numbers. A test score of 70 might have been a passing grade but it was a long way from the 95 on an honor student’s test paper. Having a home deemed “up to code” is like receiving a passing grade on a test, yet missing the Honor Roll.
Every town and county have building codes and require inspections which every new home must pass before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued. Is it enough to simply meet code or should you expect a lot more from your builder?
Building codes focus on matters of safety. Foundations, framing, electrical and plumbing systems receive thorough inspections as part of the permit process. Inspectors make sure that GFI circuits are installed in all bathrooms and kitchens, that smoke detectors are properly installed and that all bedrooms have egress windows, for example. Meeting building codes does save lives by assuring that critical elements are properly done before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued.
Quality has nothing to do with the inspection process, however, and that’s where problems can occur. Many home buyers think that meeting code is the equivalent of receiving the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”. They feel that building codes are designed to ensure that a new home is better quality than an older home. That’s not necessarily the case. So, how do you know if your new home is a 70 or a 95? Ask very specific questions about the quality of materials and products used.
- How well is the trim molding installed?
- Have the walls been professionally painted?
- Are the plumbing and electrical fixtures of good quality?
- Check the appliances. Most builders will tell you that they only use Energy Star Appliances, but that’s only the beginning. What is the Energy Factor and how does this appliance compare to similar products? An electric water heater with the Energy Star rating is not as efficient as a gas-fired tankless water heater.
- Examine the doors and windows. Inexpensive double hung windows may be Energy Star rated at purchase, but if the window is not properly installed or the seal breaks in a year, energy savings go right out the window, literally.
Energy Star does not guarantee durability or quality of the product over time; it simply means that the product meets minimum government requirements.
Pay attention to details. What you see can tell you volumes about what you cannot see. If the finish work is sloppy, what does that tell you about the electrical work or the pipes behind the walls?
New home builders do provide home styles and designs that meet what homebuyers today say they want. CAUTION! Look beyond the model home furnishings and décor. Don’t assume a great floor plan equates to a well-built home. Invest in the best quality home you can afford and spend your upgrade dollars first on items that will save you time and money later.