Obviously the general poor quality of new construction is nothing new, but unfortunately our unsuspecting customers who think "new" is new are often disappointed.

A few recent inspections uncovered three hidden areas that would not have been noticed by the buyer until after they moved in. Having a keen eye from a building consultant check over the property before settlement is key. With this prior knowledge, the buyer can at least look to have the problems rectified before moving in. Unfortunately is some cases the problems will be unable to be rectified fully, but at least the buyer knows what they are moving into and what to expect.

Example 1: Incorrect fall in shower recess

defect1As you can see from the photos, there is water pooling on the tiles and flowing out onto the main floor area, not draining away toward the floor waste. This has occurred from running the shower water directly onto the tiles. However, once you have someone showering, the water will be more widely spread and a greater volume of water will be sitting on the tiles and flowing into the main floor area. It becomes very wet underfoot.

Unfortunately, in this instance, the fall of the tiles cannot be easily corrected and would require removal and replacement of tiles, which is a major expense. Installing a full shower screen will assist in containing the water within the recess area, but that was never the intention. Doing so alters the appearance of the bathroom and alters the original concept. The client now has to compromise because of poor trade work.

Example 2: Drainage in subfloor

This is often evident where no effort has been made to try and track water away from the subfloor. Drainage can be a costly expense for a builder, though it should not be ignored. You can see from the photos that the soil is very wet. No significant rainfall had occurred, and therefore the soil dampness cannot be attributed to any recent rains. It’s a true case of drainage being ignored.

Having a damp subfloor can not only bring the property into a high-risk zone for termite attack, but it can cause damage to the building elements. If the dampness is left unattended, it can cause musty smells to penetrate into the house, and those with mould allergies could be affected significantly. We have had situations of clients having to move out of a property because of ill health.

Example 3: Paths installed above barriers

Breached damp course

When a path is installed higher than the damp course, this will allow moisture to penetrate the brick instead of the damp course repelling the moisture. Having damp brickwork can cause paint and render to flake and crumble. Worst case scenario, moisture could enter the internal areas of the house and cause damage to frames.

It is difficult to correct other than by ripping out the path and re-installing it at the correct level. It is something that is going to have to be monitored ongoing which will incur ongoing repair costs.

Breached termite barrier

If the damp course is breached, there is a very high risk that the termite barrier is also breached. This means that any weep holes which are below the installed path are now exposed to termites, giving them a very hidden access point straight into wall frames. This may go unnoticed for a significant amount of time and may not be noticed until a significant event occurs like the skirting boards crumbling when knocked by the vacuum cleaner or at an annual termite inspection. Unfortunately, when people are buying new properties they tend to think they are at a lower risk of termite attack, so they tend to ignore the importance of yearly inspections. Typically they won’t know about the problem until it starts to cost them money in termite repairs – and that’s too late

Breached weep holes

Weep holes serve to provide:

  1. Ventilation to the internal wall cavity to reduce any chance of mould and wood rot. “Leaky Building Syndrome” is caused by inadequate ventilation
  2. Drainage; any water that enters the cavity due to capillary action, condensation, damage or accidental flooding needs to escape somewhere and weep holes provide that escape.

The buyers of new houses need to complete due diligence and engage a suitably experienced and qualified building consultant to look at things that are going to be hidden from the innocent buyer.

It doesn’t seem that anytime soon we are going to see a significant improvement in the quality of construction. It’s therefore important for the buyers to take whatever action they can into their own hands and get defects rectified as soon as possible preferably before they move in.