James Dulley: Why it’s wise to do a final payment day inspection | Homes and lifestyle


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Dear James: The construction of our house has just been completed. Before making the final payment to the contractor, should we do an inspection even if there is a warranty?

— Chad R.

Dear Chad: Even with a warranty that should cover any problems you encounter once you move in, it’s wise to do a final inspection. Most contractors are very reputable and fix any issues you find, but you sort things out faster so they get the final payout. It is often easier to make repairs while the house is still vacant.

Have your laptop or tablet and cell phone to photograph and record everything or at least bring a friend and a representative from the contractor’s company. Your friend will provide an extra pair of eyes to find faults and be a witness if questions arise later.

The contractor‘s representative can immediately assess any issues you find and discuss them with you. Most of your concerns will probably be valid, but other things may be acceptable by industry standards. The contractor’s representative can explain these questionable areas to you and what would be needed to correct them. Some may require additional fees.

Record everything discussed even if you decide it is acceptable practice. If after several years from now, even beyond the warranty period, a specific problem worsens, you can show the contractor that it was noticed and discussed initially. You’ll be more likely to get it repaired at no or reduced cost.

Don’t be afraid to question areas of concern and don’t be afraid to offend the contractor. They are used to it and should accept it as part of the job. Remember, a home is the biggest investment most people make in their lifetime, so you have every right to be picky.

The kitchen and bathrooms are good places to start your final inspection. Carefully check all appliances and open and close every cabinet and drawer. They must close tightly and squarely. Any misalignment or squeaking will only get worse over time. Walk back and forth through the floors; listen for the squeaks and feel the springy places.

Check the flatness of the walls. Hold a small flashlight against the wall and shine it along the wall. You’ll quickly notice raised areas, often at drywall joints. This is one of the areas you should discuss to see if the flatness is up to industry standards.

Smell the stains on the walls and especially in the corners where there is drywall tape. It must be as solid as the wall. If some of the stains seem spongy, you should have them reattached now as they will surely come off in several years. When it does, it’s a very dusty job to get it back together.

Don’t forget the exterior. Walk around the foundation and make sure the ground clears away from the house and there are proper drainage provisions. Check the quality of the caulking work around windows and doors for more effectiveness and to prevent water from entering the walls.

James Dulley is a mechanical engineer, avid DIYer, and nationally syndicated columnist with Creators.com. Email him your questions at Here’s How. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.


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