Let us start by clarifying the vast majority of builders are passionate about what they do and strive to deliver the best quality new homes for their clients.
Sadly, there is another cohort that can lead owners of newly built properties to find themselves with a home that contains significant, costly and, at worst, even dangerous deficiencies.
Ask yourself, would you be capable of recognising non-compliance with construction regulations? Or substandard work that can result in structural defects occurring, either now or in the future? Could you recognise bowed slabs, shoddy brickwork or leaning walls? Would you even think to question any of these things?
The power dynamic between builder and owner is more often than not heavily weighted in favour of the builder. This makes sense when you consider most owners do not possess the relevant expertise to identify whether or not the building works satisfactory.
Without seeking expert guidance and advice elsewhere, owners are essentially required to take a leap of faith, and place their trust in their builder to deliver the home they want, at a level of quality they deserve.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can protect yourself throughout the construction process by engaging an external expert to conduct a new home inspection. This is a particularly vital safeguard for owners not enlisting the services of an architect to oversee the quality and compliance of the build in relation to building plans.
A wise owner will seek out an independent consultant with the right knowledge-base and extensive experience in construction that places them in the strongest position to report on the most fundamental aspects of building quality.
They can be called upon to perform high quality and comprehensive checks at various milestones throughout the construction process, as well as on completion. Think of them as a conduit, committed to holding everyone involved in the build – from management, to supervisors, tradespeople and more – to account.
Fundamentally they will work to ensure your builder shows compliance with the relevant Australian standards and building codes. You really can’t put a value on the peace of mind gained from having confidence that every aspect of your home has been built to an acceptable standard at the very least, and ideally meets every benchmark that represents a high quality construction.
The findings of your inspector are designed to protect you in the immediate and long term, thanks to the provision of detailed inspection reports with information that could prove vital to supporting your case, if a dispute with your builder were to occur, supporting an effective, swift and fair resolution.
Beyond the identification of problematic defects, your inspector will also make informed recommendations about the necessary steps needed to rectify any issues that come to light through their work.
The different stages of a building inspection are designed to coincide with points in the construction timeline that hold particular significance.
By utilising regular checks, rather than one final inspection before your builder hands over your keys and you hand over your final payment, there are regular opportunities for problems to be identified and fixed.
The beauty of multiple inspections is the multiple opportunities they provide to check any recommendations from previous inspections conducted elsewhere in the building process have been properly addressed.
Not every owner chooses to have an inspection at every stage listed here, but typically the following milestones are where these regular checks are most likely to occur.
Stage 1 – Frame inspection
Undertaken upon completion of the wall and roof frames, the Frame stage inspection is conducted before the owner makes their Frame stage payment to their builder. It is essential that the overall quality and integrity of the frame is thoroughly assessed.
While it’s mandatory for the frame to be granted approval from a building surveyor – typically nominated by the owner – an independent inspector can study the findings of the surveyor and work to ensure any problems identified are adequately addressed and rectified by the builder.
Stage 2 – Pre plaster inspection
This inspection is conducted before plaster is installed to walls and ceilings. It provides an extra opportunity to ensure any recommended improvements resulting from the Frame inspection have been properly rectified. A crucial aspect of this particular inspection is to ensure the frame is straight so that, in turn, the plaster will be straight.
For owners not intending to engage an inspector at every single stage listed here, this is one of the three milestones at which it is generally accepted an independent expert’s insights are essential.
Stage 3 – Lock up inspection
A Lock up inspection generally occurs before an owner makes a Stage payment to their builder. It involves a number of checks including that:
- plastering has been smoothly sanded;
- doors and windows have been installed and sealed to the expected standard with no cracking, jamming or sticking issues;
- roofing is appropriately fitted and positioned with tiles that are not broken (unless you’re open to providing potential easy entry points for birds and other wildlife!);
- external brickwork is exactly as it should be;
- cladding is fitted correctly and without cracks, scratches or chips;
- guttering and drainage systems are installed correctly, and
- more generally that the works have progressed satisfactorily to the Lock-up stage.
Stage 4 – Waterproofing inspection
Every home contains a number of wet areas. Unfortunately, that means every home also has the potential to experience varying degrees of costly water damage. Bathrooms, kitchens, toilets, laundries, and even some areas of decking need to be adequately waterproofed with the correct, undamaged membranes installed that will prevent potentially devastating leaks.
This check tends to happen just before flooring and wall tiles are fitted, covering the surfaces of potential concern.
Water damage not only has the capacity to wreak havoc on the structure and contents of a property, but can also lead to long term consequences such as harmful outbreaks of mould which can pose a serious risk to the health of occupants.
Often mould can develop undetected, hidden inside walls or other cavities where leaks can remain hidden for long periods of time. And when the day does arrive when the owner realises something is wrong, serious damage has often already occurred.
Stage 5 – Pre paint inspection
Your new home has passed its Frame inspection, you’re confident it is secure and fully waterproofed, plastering has been completed, and elements like skirting and doors have all been fitted. Now it’s time for the Pre-paint inspection. After all, the last thing you need is for a problem to present once your home has been freshly decorated, meaning all that good work ends up being completely undone in order to provide a solution to underlying problems.
Brickwork, for instance, should be fully assessed prior to the first lic of paint being applied. Bricks should not be chipped, cracked or broken. They must be properly placed, aligned, mortared, sealed and rendered to offer your home the ultimate external protection, and a finish that is structurally robust.
Again, if you don’t plan to organise inspections at every milestone listed here, the Pre paint stage is another of the three points throughout construction where a critical eye and informed advice is absolutely vital.
Stage 6 – Fixing stage inspection
By the time a Fixing stage inspection becomes necessary, all fixtures and fittings should have been installed. This typically includes everything from architraves and skirtings to baths, basins and taps.
Inspectors will check all the required elements have been installed to the expected standards, and this should be conducted proceeding any claim by the builder for their Fixing stage payment. If defects are discovered, you are equipped with reliable evidence to support your claim until such a time as these issues have been resolved.
Stage 7 – Final stage inspection
Possibly the most crucial of all inspections associated with the construction of a new home, when it comes to describing a Final stage inspection, the clue is very much in the title. It is an absolute minimum standard of quality assurance. It’s a final chance to protect yourself against existing and future issues, and is an essential part of the process once your builder informs you that practical completion has been achieved, and your new home is ready for occupancy.
It should most certainly be undertaken before final handover and payment is made to the builder, and the keys are officially handed over. It offers a final opportunity to check the completed property has been constructed according to all acceptable standards.
As well as providing yet another opportunity to ensure any previously identified issues have been adequately rectified, it offers the inspector a chance to look out for any new defects that may have arisen since the previous check was carried out.
A Final stage inspection is so important because addressing issues before you move in is more straightforward and much less stressful than dealing with them once you are actually residing in your new home.
Over and above all of this, without expert input you run the risk of major defects arising years down the track. With the passing of time, these issues are not so easily attributable to the builder, and the likelihood is the owner will find themselves having to foot the bill for potentially costly repairs.
Of course, the stages outlined here are not exhaustive. If you have concerns an external expert can perform home inspections during construction at most stages throughout the build.
Your new home is one of the most important investments you will ever make, not to mention the emotional attachment you will likely develop once settled in. It’s therefore the smart choice to seek an independent building inspection to protect yourself by ensuring you are getting what you’re paying for … a quality home, built to stand the test of time.