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Inconsistency In Quality of Construction


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Hi All,

I was just finishing up a warranty report on a 1-year old home and I was struck by the stark difference between this home and another one that I did in that same development back in August.

Both homes were built by the same builder - one of the highest-priced and most vaunted builders in this region - and were sold within 3 months of one another about a year ago.

The first house had numerous interior finish issues, some structural anomalies, there were some electro-mechanical and plumbing issues and plenty of exterior issues. All-told, quite a few for a new house and more than one would have expected from this builder.

The second house, had one or two very minor drying/shrinkage cracks in some drywall mud, a couple of very minor interior finish, exterior and heating system issues, and no structural, electrical, plumbing, landscaping, roof, attic, ventilation, insulation or fireplace/chimney issues.

I'm sitting here scratching my head. The only thing that jumps out at me is that the first house was the model home. It was built first and sold several months later, and another home became the model, after a few more were built. Construction is still going on in this development, by the way.

It occurred to me that I've seen this time and again in various developments, so I was just wondering whether those of you who do warranty inspections commonly see significant differences from one home to the next in your respective regions.



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Well yeah, but in fairness to builders, they shouldn't have to supervise every move a sub makes. I mean, you pay someone 25K to install a couple of HVAC systems, you have a reasonable expectation that the work will be performed well and in compliance to prevailing codes. Having said that, when I built houses, I was constantly dismayed by the callbacks I got due to appalling workmanship. Now I inspect houses rather than build them, and no longer have to answer for the profligate screw-ups of others.

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In large builder companies, the builder's name doesn't matter.

Who is the builder's field superintendent. Is he doing is job.

Who are the subs. Are they doing their jobs.

I've seen fine homes and bad homes with the same builder's name on them. Different field superintendents and subs.

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In this area, the quality swing varies greatly from house to house. Along with the experience of the super, the workload of the super plays a big role.

When I was a super we were given a "release" of houses, about 25-35 at a time. Depending on demand, we'd get 3-6 "starts" a week. A building cycle was approximately 80 work days. If you had 3 starts a week, by the time you finished the first house, Youd be carrying 48 houses. If we were doing 6 a week, You'd be carrying closer to 100. There are a lot of variables involved, but that's the general picture.

In reality, you cannot physically be in every house every day, so the houses tend to build themselves. The busier the tract, the worse things get. The trades are pressured to get in and out, the supers can't be in six places at once, and the AHJ are sometimes doing over 100 inspections a day! This is the "perfect storm" for a crappy house.

Here are some other factors that contribute to poor quality:

Has the crew built the particular model before? Practice makes perfect and it usually takes a few for the crews to get a good comfort level. Multiply that by the number of different trades in a house, and it's unlikely every crew in a particular house has been there, done that.

Weather- This tends to put builders behind schedule. Need I say more?

Season- In Arizona, a large percentage of our labor force is Mexican. Many workers head South to spend time with family at Christmas time. This just happens to coincide with the year-end-make-our-numbers closing crunch. More house closing with less labor. Oops!

Building cycle of the subdivision- As things wind down, so does the workforce. The trades who have been driving to the same subdivision for the last several years are now on to the next new project. The last houses become the red-headed stepchild.

Trade Abuse- Having owned a construction company, I can say from experince that there are some angry, vengful tradespeople out there. They tend to take out their frustrations on the homes they build (sometimes). I've had plumbers nip wires because of a spat with the sparkies.

Lack of Supervision- While it may be noble to think that that HVAC tech should do a good job for the money he receives, that just ain't reality. Most crews just get in and get out and depend on the pick-up crews to bail them out. The problem is, the pick-up crews just want to get in and get out as well.

The Builders are publicly owned and run by bean counters. This is the reality today. "Cheaper, faster, and cheaper"is today's mantra. I've been to "value engineering" meetings where the suits just sit around and figure out new ways to squeeze another nickel out of every house.

Homebuyer ignorance and apathy- Give me a fresh coat of paint and some shiny fixtures and all is well! I'm hoping for a backlash, but not holding my breath.

Once I cool down, I'm sure I'll come up with a few more.

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Originally posted by hausdok

. . . It occurred to me that I've seen this time and again in various developments, so I was just wondering whether those of you who do warranty inspections commonly see significant differences from one home to the next in your respective regions.



In my experience, the single greatest cause of inconsistant quality is inconsistant supervisors.

The subs love to walk all over the younger, inexperienced supers. A good super sets the tone from his first contact with a subcontractor and maintains it throughout the job.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hey Mike,

Another explanation in your case could be; assuming the first house was built first, they could have ironed out their problems, and that's why you don't see the same issues in the second house. I have seen building time lines (so to speak), where a builder in a certain development has taken more time to build one house and less time to build the next one of virtually the same plan.

I know some here might think that's giving to much credit to builders, but it's just a theory.


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