Defects overlooked during building inspections
Dear Hugh: We are so happy to have moved to the Okanagan. We recently bought a brand new home, and the builder assured us that nothing was wrong with the house because it was given an occupancy permit. After we started to discover problems, we hired a home inspector and got some big surprises. He found plumbing problems in the crawlspace, and a venting problem with the furnace. In addition, the attic wasn’t vented properly. What we would like to know is, how could these problems have been overlooked despite that the municipal building inspector from the city did their final inspection? ~ Stacey
Dear Stacey: Each year there are a few thousand new homes entering the housing market in the Okanagan Valley. Each home takes months to build, with several tradespeople involved. The potential for the perfect home is low.
So, the question is: How do defects escape discovery by local municipal building inspectors?
Well, the short answer is: Incompetency is not the problem.
The better answer is: Systemic limitations with the municipal inspection process, and the experience and commitment of builders to a quality product.
With only a handful of inspectors to cover hundreds and hundreds of new homes, municipal building inspection departments simply don’t have the resources to investigate a home at occupancy as thoroughly as a professional home inspection service.
Some jurisdictions may be an exception, but in general, although they have the skill set, municipal building inspectors do not crawl into attics or crawlspaces, as they don’t pack ladders or equipment to do so.
I’m not aware of any municipality that equips their building inspection professionals with thermal imaging cameras. This means that defective conditions may never be subject to the final inspection. In the end, problems with plumbing, wiring, heating, framing, insulation, etc., in those places that are never seen during the final inspection remain as-is until they cause a problem or are otherwise discovered. This is why inspection by a qualified home inspector is always a good investment.
Municipal building inspectors look for code compliance only, and there are items like gutters and downspouts that are not subject to building codes that rely on best practice. A professional home inspection follows a straightforward process to evaluate the overall home. What is more, home inspectors are required to view areas that most municipal inspectors don’t see.
Buying a home is unlike most things. You don’t get to return it when something goes wrong. Municipal building inspections should be regarded as a preliminary final inspection. Having you home inspected by a qualified home inspector will give you an unbiased opinion of the home, and can be viewed as the final inspection before the home embarks on its working life.
Elementary, my dear Watson.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.