Dear James: The construction of our house has just been completed. Before we make the final contractor payment, should we do an inspection even though it has a warranty?
— Chad R.
Dear Chad: Even with a warranty that should cover any problems you find once you move in, it is wise to do a final inspection. Most contractors are very reputable and correct any problems you find, but you get things fixed faster so they get the final payment. It often is easier to make any repairs while the house is still vacant.
Have your laptop or tablet and cellphone to photograph and record everything or at least have a friend accompany you and a representative from the contractor’s company. Your friend will provide an extra set of eyes to find flaws and be a witness should any questions arise later.
The contractor’s representative can immediately assess any problems you find and discuss them with you. Most of your concerns will probably be well-founded, but other things may be acceptable per industry standards. The contractor’s representative can explain these questionable areas to you and what would be involved to correct them. Some may require extra charges.
Record everything that is discussed even if you decide they are acceptable practices. If, after several years from now even beyond the warranty period, a specific problem area worsens, you can show the contractor it was noticed and discussed initially. You will have a better chance of getting it fixed either at no or a reduced charge.
Don’t be timid about questioning any areas of concern and don’t worry about offending the contractor. They are used to it and should accept it as part of the job. Remember, a house is the biggest investment most people make in their entire lives, so you have a right to be picky.
The kitchen and bathrooms are good rooms in which to begin your final inspection. Check all the appliances carefully and open and close every cabinet and drawer. They should close tightly and squarely. Any misalignment or squeaks will only get worse with time. Walk back and forth across the floors; listen for squeaks and feel for springy locations.
Check the flatness of the walls. Hold a small flashlight against the wall and shine it along the wall. You will quickly notice any raised areas, often at the drywall joints. This is one of the areas you should discuss to see if the flatness is within industry standards.
Feel the spots on the walls and especially in the corners where there is drywall tape. It should be as solid as the wall. If some of the spots feel spongy, you should have it retaped now as it will surely come loose in several years. When it does, it is a very dusty job to have it retaped.
Don’t forget the outdoors. Walk around the foundation and make sure the ground slopes away from the house and there are proper drainage provisions. Check the quality of the caulking job around the windows and doors for efficiency and to keep water from penetrating the walls.
— James Dulley is a mechanical engineer, an avid Do-It-Yourselfer and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators.com. Email your questions to him at Here’s How. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.