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  1. #1
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    Default do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    In other posts some inspectors stated they always asked for plans when inspecting new homes, or even 'stamped' plans, and/or took photos of the plans so they could review them later.

    I'm curios about those that request and look at plans-- don't you think you are taking on more liability? I'm doing a limited, visible pre-purchase home inspection that meet ASHI and AZ standards. I inspect 15 to 20 new homes a year. It is the same inspection and the same fee.

    My inspections do exceed the standards, as do all of yours. And if a client wants a plan review inspection I would be glad to do that, for a much larger fee. I looked at plans on a new home when I first started in 1993. It was a custom home and the client was building a house around her inherited furniture (stupid, I know). A 2x6 interior plumbing wall was laid out on the wrong side of the line, so now the dining room on the other side was 6 inches narrower and her dining room hutch would not fit where she wanted it. There was another equally silly thing, a bedroom window not high enough for a headboard if I recall.

    I got the dreaded Certified Letter from her attorney, who wanted to drag me into it because I had 'reviewed the plans'. My attorney got me out because of my Inspection Agreement, but warned me that even if I have a client sign an agreement stating this is a "limited, visual inspection" and then I ask for the plans the client could reasonably infer that I was reviewing those plans. Especially if I refer to those plans in even the smallest way in my written report.

    I admit I will at the plans if they are in the home, but I would never ask for them unless I was doing a plan review, which costs a whole lot more than a pre-purchase inspection.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quick answer NO!

    To me that's two different services, since newly built homes could technically be considered more aligned with a code based review. Unless I'm hired to that, it is just another home inspection on a newly built home - thus as a minimum the scope would be as per SOP.

    Another way of looking at it could also be to validate (depending on your area) construction performance review based on a builders new home warranty type inspection.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    No! In my area, plans are just not available on the job sites.
    Even if they were, I'm not reviewing them.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    I would only review them if you are willing to accept the liability for anything that may be wrong from an engineering or code standpoint. In other words, not as part of a normal home inspection.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    I will review plans if I'm feeling especially malicious, have time on my hands or just feel like it. However, ONLY stamped and approved Plans. No stamp I'm not looking at squat.
    Beyond that I tell my client onsite in front of everyone and it states in my report that:
    I didn't do a full plan review, a full plan review takes hours not 10 minutes onsite, a full plan review is not part of an HI but is available as a separate hourly service, etc. You get the idea.
    To put it quite bluntly if I am on an HI I look at available plans because I like looking at plans. More importantly though I also look at the plans so that I can find the detail drawing of X or Spec for a building component, take a picture of it and include it in the report when I say the flipper didn't build per approved plans. Makes it all a nice easy slam dunk to hammer the developer.
    I don't know how it is where you are but around here flippers / developers try very hard to keep approved Plans away from inspectors; both on the private and municipal sides. They know they probably didn't build to approved plans and what to avoid having an inspector bust them on it.
    Getting a call from an attorney for plan review is really about managing client expectations. Obviously I don't know the particulars of the mentioned situation. However, I have had clients try to push off full plan review as part of an HI and I let them have it. I'm not friendly or polite about somebody trying to put me in a trick bag.
    If a client doesn't understand or accept that you didn't do a full plan review while onsite then they are looking to screw someone no matter what. They probably didn't read the report and now want somebody else to pay for their stupidity.
    On a related note, if you find the plans in a kitchen cabinet, wait till everyone is yacking in the basement, pull them out and take pics. Sometimes you have to be sneaky about it. I've had developers rip plans out of my hands and tell me I'm not allowed to look at them.
    Imagine how screwed those guys were after I got done.

    www.aic-chicago.com
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Allow me to correct an incorrect presumption being made relating to the statement of 'for new construction the inspector really needs to review the plans to see what the inspector is inspecting' ... first ... we should really use a different term to put what is done in the proper context ... the inspector is no "reviewing the plans" ...the inspector is "reviewing" what is shown on the plans for comparison to what the inspector is checking (stairs, etc).

    Thus we should change the terminology from "review" to "consult the plans".

    The AHJ "reviews" the plans. The AHJ then "approves " the plans when they don't find anything which they deemed needing correction - then the AHJ stamps the plans. Some AHJ only stamp the front page (which is very poor practice and allows for pages to be replaced ... the best practice is when the AHJ stamps EVERY page.

    Unless the inspector is state certified/ICC certified (as applicable) - I recommend not stating that one "reviews" the plans.

    That is a service which I offer as I am Florida and ICC certified as a plans examiner ... but I don't "review" plans unless specifically agreed.

    Just an expansion of the discussion.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Reviewing plans is someone else's job, not mine. If I'm looking at a ranch and it was suppose to be a two story I don't care. Client gets a report on a ranch.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  8. #8
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Never "review" or "consult" the plans, but I like Jerry's commentary on it. Being precise always helps in our business. I would consult the plans or compare them to the actual structure for an extra fee, but to do a proper consultation of the plans will take hours and that extra fee will be substantial. Around here, not many clients would fork out the money for that service.

    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    No, I never see the plans when I do a new home inspection. What good would the do? All the important stuff is covered in drywall, etc. I do see the initial plans when I do a plan review/cost analysis for a bank but that is far as it goes.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  10. #10
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    No, I never see the plans when I do a new home inspection. What good would the do? All the important stuff is covered in drywall, etc. I do see the initial plans when I do a plan review/cost analysis for a bank but that is far as it goes.
    What good would that do? LOTS.

    Here are just a few examples:

    - You inspect a stair and the risers are 7-3/4" high ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show the risers as being 7-1/4" high! That is why you need to 'consult' the plans.

    - You inspect a deck guardrail and find that it is 37" high ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show the guardrail as being 42" high! That is why you need to consult the plans.

    You inspect a room and find the receptacle outlet spacing meets code ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show twice as many receptacle outlets! That is why you need to consult the plans.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    What good would that do? LOTS.

    Here are just a few examples:

    - You inspect a stair and the risers are 7-3/4" high ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show the risers as being 7-1/4" high! That is why you need to 'consult' the plans.

    - You inspect a deck guardrail and find that it is 37" high ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show the guardrail as being 42" high! That is why you need to consult the plans.

    You inspect a room and find the receptacle outlet spacing meets code ... good you say. WRONG! The plans show twice as many receptacle outlets! That is why you need to consult the plans.
    For a typical home inspector and inspection the plans would be of no or very little help.

    For a person (AHJ) the plans would be helpful.
    For a person doing construction monitoring the plans would be helpful.
    For a person doing a forensic type inspection for a litigation case, the plans would be helpful.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    For a typical home inspector and inspection the plans would be of no or very little help.
    Please explain - what types of things do you look at during a new home inspection? Would you please provide a few examples.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Please explain - what types of things do you look at during a new home inspection? Would you please provide a few examples.
    The posts from Jerry and Scott were the exact argument I was having with myself. In Jerrys example the stairs, railings and outlets met code. But not the plans. To find this you would have to look at the electrical, exterior and interior/detail pages of the plans.

    As another post stated, often I see the plans on a counter or desk. And I will sneak a look when no ones around. But if I saw that the railing was supposed to be 42 inches high, and wasn't but still met code, I could not comment on it without referring to the plans.

    So imho (and my lawyers advise), if you comment on anything regarding the plans you better read each and every page of the plans. Remember my original post- the client sued because her dining room was 6 inches too narrow. I cannot consult the plans in a 3 to 4 hour home inspection.
    I used 'consult' instead of 'review', Jerry. I see your point. Actually what we would be doing is a 'building review'. We are not reviewing the plans to see if they meet code, we are reviewing the building to see if it meets the plans.

    I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. (Thomas Edison)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy West View Post
    The posts from Jerry and Scott were the exact argument I was having with myself. In Jerrys example the stairs, railings and outlets met code. But not the plans. To find this you would have to look at the electrical, exterior and interior/detail pages of the plans.

    As another post stated, often I see the plans on a counter or desk. And I will sneak a look when no ones around. But if I saw that the railing was supposed to be 42 inches high, and wasn't but still met code, I could not comment on it without referring to the plans.
    Actually, you can (and should, for the same reason) comment on it. Here is why:
    - R106.4 Amended construction documents.
    - - Work shall be installed in accordance with the approved construction documents, and any changes made during construction that are not in compliance with theapproved construction documents shall be resubmitted for approval as an amended set of construction documents

    The plans are reviewed and approved and in effect become the code that house is to be built to. Any deviation from the approved plans becomes a code violation - a code violation of (in the case of the 2012 IRC posted above) Section R106.4.

    You were, I presume, basing your 36" height acceptance on the code requirement of 36"?

    So imho (and my lawyers advise), if you comment on anything regarding the plans you better read each and every page of the plans. Remember my original post- the client sued because her dining room was 6 inches too narrow. I cannot consult the plans in a 3 to 4 hour home inspection.
    That time limit is self-imposed ... will your attorney defend you when your client sues you for not writing up the 36" guardrail and other items which they paid extra for? Will your attorney defend you at no cost being as you followed his/her advice?

    Only one person puts a time limit on your inspection, and 'I didn't plan enough time' is not a viable defense ... it will actually provide the plaintiff with more evidence that you lacked experience and knowledge of what was needed to perform that type of inspection.

    Just trying to raise everyone's awareness that new home inspections are not the same as inspecting an existing home.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  15. #15
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Actually, you can (and should, for the same reason) comment on it. Here is why:
    - R106.4 Amended construction documents.
    - - Work shall be installed in accordance with the approved construction documents, and any changes made during construction that are not in compliance with theapproved construction documents shall be resubmitted for approval as an amended set of construction documents

    Just trying to raise everyone's awareness that new home inspections are not the same as inspecting an existing home.
    You seem to be saying that we should be doing a code inspection. There are thousands of details in construction documents and it would take hours to confirm every detail. Where would you draw the line on how far you went with it and how would you document it in your agreement. I am consistent with my approach to every home, new or existing, and stick to the terms in my agreement.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

  16. #16
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    I agree 100% with Jerry, if it's a custom home. But 99.5% of the new homes I inspect are spec homes. The buyer/client never sees plans, and if they did the client is very likely unaware of any plan requirements that exceed code. And if they were savvy enough to know the plans exceeded code, they would be savvy enough to catch this themselves, or to determine it's not important to them. So that's a lot of ifs- if the buyer had the plans, if he could read them, if he knew they exceeded code and you didn't report on it, if he later considered this a problem, and if you're inspection agreement didn't protect you, you could be in trouble.

    But the typical new home buyer would never look at the plans and never realize they called for more than the code specified number of outlets, minimum tread width, etc. Reading these posts makes me much more comfortable inspecting new spec homes, and much more leery of inspecting new custom homes.

    I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. (Thomas Edison)

  17. #17
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    You seem to be saying that we should be doing a code inspection. There are thousands of details in construction documents and it would take hours to confirm every detail. Where would you draw the line on how far you went with it and how would you document it in your agreement. I am consistent with my approach to every home, new or existing, and stick to the terms in my agreement.
    When you inspect a new house and accept (don't write up) things, or don't accept (do write up things), you ARE doing a 'code' inspection because you ARE comparing what you are looking at to what 'should' (code) be there.

    If you are not doing that, then you are only doing cosmetic items (paint chips, drywall nicks, color variations) ... talk about liability ...

    What I am saying is that you 'should' actually be looking at what you 'should' be looking at - 'How it was 'supposed' to be done' ... I.e., as shown on the approved construction documents (the plans).

    You already ARE doing a 'code' inspection based on what you look at and write up/don't write up.

    Missing GFCI protection? That's CODE.

    Broken truss? That's CODE.

    Missing handrail? That's CODE.

    Think about it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Seems to me that if you are performing a 'new home' inspection - either prior to move in or persuant to a one year warranty, plans should be available and reviewed, unless an alternative inspection is contracted for. Plans assist in identifying deficiencies which should be brought to prevailing code. In these circumstances, IMO, the inspection takes on a whole new form of expertise and along with it a greater degree of liability. If reading plans, and using them as a synopsis for the inspection, you had better know how to and what to look for.

    Plan review is typically beyond the scope of most inspections but certainly another marketing tool if, and only if, proficient in doing so.

    What's that saying..."...A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing..."


  19. #19
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    In reality, the home inspector is not provided with the plans, at least not that I know of.

    We confirm that the new house meets the current building codes, yes, at least the parts we can access.

    Whether the house was built to the specs in the plan is the authority's job. What Eric said.
    If the house is built safe, that is, to code, we approve it. If the builder deviated from the plans, such as the wall or window in the wrong place, hey, not our department.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  20. #20
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    In reality, the home inspector is not provided with the plans, at least not that I know of.

    We confirm that the new house meets the current building codes, yes, at least the parts we can access.

    Whether the house was built to the specs in the plan is the authority's job. What Eric said.
    If the house is built safe, that is, to code, we approve it. If the builder deviated from the plans, such as the wall or window in the wrong place, hey, not our department.
    John,

    You are speaking double speak ... 'to code' ... but "not to code' ...

    The approved plans, which may very well exceed 'code' become 'the code' for that house upon approval of those plans by the AHJ.

    Thus, the only way to inspect 'to/for code' is to have the plans.

    Anyone can get a copy of the plans as, once submitted to the AHJ, the plans are now 'public records' and anyone can get a copy.

    Sure, the plans are copyrighted by the designer, but all that means is that no one has permission to build another house from those plans (no AHJ should accept a copy of them - unless the AHJ approved them as a 'Master Set's which a given contractor is going to use for multiple houses (also approved by the AHJ).

    There sure is a lot of resistance to acknowledging what is really being done for new home inspections.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    John,

    You are speaking double speak ... 'to code' ... but "not to code' ...

    The approved plans, which may very well exceed 'code' become 'the code' for that house upon approval of those plans by the AHJ.

    Thus, the only way to inspect 'to/for code' is to have the plans.
    This is an interesting twist to what we normally consider code, but if this is the case, no, a home inspection is not to code. So be it, then.

    Anyone can get a copy of the plans as, once submitted to the AHJ, the plans are now 'public records' and anyone can get a copy.

    Sure, the plans are copyrighted by the designer, but all that means is that no one has permission to build another house from those plans (no AHJ should accept a copy of them - unless the AHJ approved them as a 'Master Set's which a given contractor is going to use for multiple houses (also approved by the AHJ).

    There sure is a lot of resistance to acknowledging what is really being done for new home inspections.
    Maybe the resistance you perceive is general unwillingness to take on more risk. As Scott mentioned, we did not get to see the house before the drywall. How then do we confirm what was done how?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  22. #22
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Maybe the resistance you perceive is general unwillingness to take on more risk. As Scott mentioned, we did not get to see the house before the drywall. How then do we confirm what was done how?
    John,

    You are taking on more risk by not consulting the approved plans. Consulting the approved plans to look forwwhat you should be looking for is less risk.

    Not having looked at the house before drywall makes an even greater need to consult the plans for what you should see.

    Some will get it, some will not, some won't care, and some will have no idea what we are discussing.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    John,

    You are taking on more risk by not consulting the approved plans. Consulting the approved plans to look forwwhat you should be looking for is less risk.

    Not having looked at the house before drywall makes an even greater need to consult the plans for what you should see.

    Some will get it, some will not, some won't care, and some will have no idea what we are discussing.
    No, the risk is that a judge may not agree with your distinction between 'review' and 'consult'. He may rule that the client's perception was that the inspector 'examined', or 'consulted' the plans. The client felt that this service constituted a 'review' of the plans and this service was reflected in a higher fee, was it not?
    The inspector found no discrepancies between the building and the plans, when in fact the vapor barrier (or roof underlay, perimeter drainage, etc) was missing.

    Ok so we should subcontract scoping the drains and get the builder's blessing for some destructive sampling to determine some of the hidden stuff. There is still a greater risk of missing something unseen.
    Go ahead and argue that is not the case, as I am sure you will.
    I will just wait until someone else has gone before a judge before I add 'plan consulting' to my services.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 03-28-2016 at 09:22 PM.
    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    John,

    As I said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Some will get it, some will not, some won't care, and some will have no idea what we are discussing.
    Next time you are doing a new house and are about to decide that the 36" high guard is 'okay' ... ask yourself if maybe your client actually wanted and paid for a 42" high guard ... and what it might cost you to replace that 3 6 " high guard with a 42" high one ... I know where you can look to find out what 'should' be there.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    John,

    As I said:



    Next time you are doing a new house and are about to decide that the 36" high guard is 'okay' ... ask yourself if maybe your client actually wanted and paid for a 42" high guard ... and what it might cost you to replace that 3 6 " high guard with a 42" high one ... I know where you can look to find out what 'should' be there.
    Using the present guidelines for new constructions, no plan review, there is no risk to me if the railing is built to a standard height. I could get dragged into court as a witness, same as anytime.

    The client may want specific items checked. Someone already mentioned that.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  26. #26
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Using the present guidelines for new constructions, no plan review, there is no risk to me if the railing is built to a standard height. I could get dragged into court as a witness, same as anytime.

    The client may want specific items checked. Someone already mentioned that.
    There is risk to you if you don't advise your client that the guard is not what they wanted and paid for ... and were expecting you to let them know that ... which is why they hired an inspector.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    There is risk to you if you don't advise your client that the guard is not what they wanted and paid for ... and were expecting you to let them know that ... which is why they hired an inspector.
    Nope, you lose this one, but feel free to add a comment here below my last one.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    I would be very interested to learn the items that actually are identified and reported by home inspectors on new homes.
    Let's set aside the plans and code questions. Many of the things we see and report in existing homes are actually code issues as mentioned already.
    So, why do you do a new home inspection for the client? Do you and the buyer have the same idea of what they get out of the inspection that the building department and the builder have not already inspected and covered?
    Do you look at their list of options that they purchased to see that the builder got all of them right? That should be high on the list of things to inspect. Or, are you doing the punchlist that the builder did not do while he was building the house?
    And to the point about the handrail at 37" that should have been 42" per the plans, did the builder give the buyer any trouble correcting the issue? Are these the typical errors made by the builders in your area?
    I have so many questions about this topic because I have built many homes in the past. Having a client pay an HI to do a home inspection was so rare ( about 0.2%) that I wonder what benefit there actually is to the client. And the last home inspection on one of my homes that I recall, the HI knew very little about what a new home looks like on the day of the closing that all he could find were paint blemished, hairline drywall cracks at the corners, and he said the new windows were "stiff".
    In a similar thread I asked what types of defects are being discovered in new homes and the answers were all rather oblique. Like they did not want to throw gasoline onto a fire for fear that a builder or code official might be reading this forum and take offense that their work was as sloppy as it may actually be.
    I really wish I had the chance to experience more home inspection as a builder. Maybe I would have gotten better at my craft if I had seen things through the eyes of an impartial HI. But what is there to go wrong if the builders are doing their job? Are they not?


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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    John,

    A well worded and inquisitive post.

    I'll let other respond with what they look at during a new home inspection as that seems to be key to what they are doing, and why, and what they 'should' be doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by John C Hansen, LEED AP View Post
    I have so many questions about this topic because I have built many homes in the past. Having a client pay an HI to do a home inspection was so rare ( about 0.2%) that I wonder what benefit there actually is to the client. And the last home inspection on one of my homes that I recall, the HI knew very little about what a new home looks like on the day of the closing that all he could find were paint blemished, hairline drywall cracks at the corners, and he said the new windows were "stiff".
    I suppose the number of new homes inspected depends on your area and what the inspectors and clients in your area have established as being 'the standard'.

    When I was in South Florida, the last 5-7 years, maybe more, before I retired, new homes were probably 90% of what I did. I had a few high end contractors who had me do phase inspections for them, to keep their subcontractors doing what is required by both code and their construction documents. I had one contractor who told his electrical contractor (I was standing there with them) that he (the contractor I inspected for) paid the electrical contractor 10% more than anyone else and he expected the work to be top notch and done as he specified it to be done, and that if the electrical contractor could not, would not, do what was in the contract documents, he would have to get another electrical contractor. The electrical contractor replied that he only works one way, he does not do one type of work for on contractor and another type of work for another contractor ... needless to say (okay, not "needless" as I am saying it) ... that electrical contractor was replaced because he refused to do what was in the contract documents.

    The electrical contractor's main hangup was that the contractor specified, and paid for, #12 AWG for all circuits, even 15 amp circuits, and the electrical contractor could not understand why, so he would not do it. The reason (which was explained to the electrical contractor on numerous occasions and again on that occasion) was that #12 AWG does not fit the backstab holes in switches and receptacles, all devices had to be wired under the screw terminals, and doing so eliminated 90% of the voltage drop issues they were having.

    The electrical contractor would not use #12 AWG for 15 amp circuits, even though he was being paid top dollar for it and it was in the contract documents.

    There were, and still are, other inspectors down there who did a similar percentage of new homes over exiting homes.

    Those of us inspectors who did new homes tried to work with the AHJ (some welcomed us, some did not, but in the end, they regretted not working with us as their lack of enforcement lead to embarrassing situations for them on many occasions.

    There were also other inspectors who did not do new homes, for whatever their reasons had.

    But what is there to go wrong if the builders are doing their job? Are they not?
    Yes, they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing.

    Think about it this way - how many homes are inspected which are unaltered from the way they were constructed a decade ago ... and how many things home inspectors find. Those same items existed at the time of the new home walk through and the one year warranty inspection.

    Yes, there are some home inspectors who write up things like "And the last home inspection on one of my homes that I recall, the HI knew very little about what a new home looks like on the day of the closing that all he could find were paint blemished, hairline drywall cracks at the corners, and he said the new windows were "stiff".", and there are just as many contractors (builders are "contractors" as they "contract" to build the house) who are either totally clueless or totally don't give a crap ... and that is why buyers of new homes hire home inspectors to inspect their new homes.

    I suspect the percentage of good home inspectors versus not good ones is the same as for good versus not good AHJ inspectors, and the same as for good versus not good contractors, etc.

    Here is a voltage drop calculator from Southwire (maker of Romex): Voltage Drop Calculator

    Do calculations using 'conduit' as that would be the closest to 'sheathed cable'.

    Use 120 volts, shoot for a maximum 5% voltage drop.

    Try 100 foot of cable run (200 feet of conductor run) for a circuit which goes up 6', across 39', down 7', around a room 12' + 12' + 12' + 12'. Do it for a 15 amp circuit.

    What does that calculator say you need for a minimum wire size to meet that 5% maximum voltage drop?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    When it comes to new construction inspections reviewing the plans is helpful. But lets step aside from that for now since it seems to be so controversial.
    An NC inspection differs from an existing home inspection. A lot of HI's, in my opinion, are NOT qualified to look at NC. If you aren't looking at NC inspections through the following categories at the very least, STOP doing them. You are only collecting money and not serving your client properly. This jerk off notion that NC inspections are easy, no big deal, its new is a fallacy.
    If you are a qualified HI doing NC inspections you should be looking at 3 primary categories and documenting them as best possible.

    1 - inherent construction defects; most of the time we can't see this because drywall is up but sometimes you get lucky and can see where Mr. Plumper cut the truss for his shower drain; this is where consulting the approved plans can be very helpful as well; especially for those basement or attic bedrooms

    2 - a list of incompletion items; all new NC has a bunch of stuff that wasn't completed, sometimes things just get overlooked, other times the developer is hoping no one will notice and he can save the money; Buying NC is like buying a new car. Would you let a friend buy a new car with one of the windows missing? Why should you be letting your client buy something that isn't complete. Do you not care or are you just collecting a few to fill out a check box?

    3 - poor or non-compliant installations that reduce life spans, the performance of the home and result in maintenance or replacement costs far sooner than would otherwise occur; this category goes straight to the buyers wallet when hardie board isn't installed properly, when flashings are missing, when joints haven't been caulked, etc. Lets say an exterior component when installed properly can be forgotten about for 10 years prior to worrying about any maintenance cost. However since Mr. developer did a crappy job, that component will need maintenance in the next 1-3 years. This is a huge factor for a buyer. Why should your buyer need to replace the tranny on his new car after 20K miles because dumb dumb didn't tighten the bolts? Why should your NC buyer have to deal with a valley leak because Mr. developer was too cheap to put in proper flashings?

    I write the crap out of NC all the time. When some listing agent or developer tells me 'I don't know why you are here, this is NC, its perfect.' They are doomed.
    Inspecting NC properly if far more important to a buyer since the potential post purchase costs can be significantly higher.
    If you don't understand the importance of the above 3 categories then stay out of NC work until you do. I am so sick and tired of the mutts in our profession making excuses for their bare bones check box idiot reports. As a profession we are helping people through one of the most important and impacting decisions of their life. We need to view it as such and not accept mediocrity as our professional standard.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by John C Hansen, LEED AP View Post
    In a similar thread I asked what types of defects are being discovered in new homes and the answers were all rather oblique. Like they did not want to throw gasoline onto a fire for fear that a builder or code official might be reading this forum and take offense that their work was as sloppy as it may actually be.
    But what is there to go wrong if the builders are doing their job? Are they not?
    What forum were you on where the HIs were worried about what AHJs and builders would think? Around here, it's expected to catch AHJs and builder mistakes. I sense sarcasm with that final question, but in my experience, even builders that "are doing their job" make mistakes. It's hard to be perfect. But production builders, never come close to perfect. Sometimes, my report on a new production home looks like a report on a 30 years old house.

    This has been a good thread and John's commentary is interesting. Around here, less than 10% of new construction is inspected by HIs. Most buyers, think that "new" must mean "perfect".

    As for what I've found; I've found a disconnected duct, a head wall that wasn't flashed to the shingles, many leaks (drains and supplies), mold, no insulation, breakers not sized to wiring, ducts full of debris, double lugged neutrals, outlets, lights and GFCIs not working or wired incorrectly, AFCIs not tripping or resetting, ..... sheesh, and more as I think about it. One more, the service panel fell off the wall as I closed the cover!

    I like the commentary about being on the same page and setting goals and expectations on a new construction inspection with a client. Going forward, I will be more proactive in doing that.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    When it comes to new construction inspections reviewing the plans is helpful. But lets step aside from that for now since it seems to be so controversial.
    Before we set that issue aside - home inspectors don't really "review" plans ... they may check some aspects of what they are looking at with what "is on the plans", thus the term should be revised to "consult" the plans see what the plans show.

    There is nothing wrong with "consulting" the code to see what is in the code ... you don't "review" the code for accuracy either ... you only "consult" the code to see what it says.

    No difference than what you would do with the plans ... so we need to drop the "review" the plans thinking.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    Around here, it's expected to catch AHJs and builder mistakes. I sense sarcasm with that final question, but in my experience, even builders that "are doing their job" make mistakes.
    Lon, yes there was a bit of sarcasm in the last question. But I was one of the builders trying to build completed homes correctly. So I only knew my own work and I never went into the other builders completed homes except their models. You have found some rather interesting items on your new home inspections. While building homes in the Chicago suburbs the code officials were rather conscientious and tried really hard to get the builders and the trades to do things right.

    I asked in this forum a question about the five most often found issues with new homes. Lon, your answer here was an interesting list of some really lame workmanship. And Markus gave some great insight about the three primary categories to report on. 99% of the homes I built were finished. I really went all out to be 100% complete with every option that was purchased by the buyer getting done correctly and completely. That last 1% where something was unfinished or damaged haunted me. It was as though I let my buyers down. But I had always heard "stories" about builders doing less than the buyers expected of them. I hand picked my electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors for their quality. Actually, I picked them all for their quality. I seldom saw the things you guys have seen. So, my curiosity is genuine. The hardest part for me was the small things. Like getting all the window screens installed without having one torn. I have not seen the dark side of NC as some of you apparently have.


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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Very good clarification Jerry. If we clarify the parameters of plan looky-look better hopefully more HI's will be more comfortable with looking at all.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    A few years ago I was an assistant to a GC building an 10,000 sq ft. home for a well known celebrity in Malibu, Ca - actually two homes on the same lot. The architect detailed every minutiae. The blueprints were over 50 sheets, with at least 6 'working' copies, which were amended as necessary and signed off. Not all copies contained the same information or amendments, yet they were all considered 'the' original when changes were approved.

    It would be an absolute nightmare to 'review' the prints during any inspection and would certainly require expertise not commonly found in typical H.Is.


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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    Very good clarification Jerry. If we clarify the parameters of plan looky-look better hopefully more HI's will be more comfortable with looking at all.
    Markus,

    I like "looky-look", but whatever term an HI uses/thinks of when they 'refer to' the code, that HI should use/think of/apply to when they 'refer to' the plans.

    It does seem to be a matter of semantics, and "plan review" or "review the plans" is improper and erroneous as that is not what is being done.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian Page View Post
    ... with at least 6 'working' copies, which were amended as necessary and signed off. Not all copies contained the same information or amendments, yet they were all considered 'the' original when changes were approved.
    Ian,

    That was an error the AHJ allowed, and that GC allowed, as there should be one approved set, or approved "copies" of the approved set, and as the term "copies" means, the "copies" would be just that "copies" - identical with the same changes on all of the "copies" as is on the approved set.

    Doing work as you did during construction, one approved set (or multiple - and identical "copies" ... that is what a "copy" is ... identical) prevents problems between inconsistent 'similar' plans (they were not "copies")..

    Once the work is done, as with a new home walk through inspection, there should be one set, which should (by code) include revisions for *all* work which was not done in accordance with the approved set. The end result is that the approved set and the construction should - should - match each other.

    Unfortunately ... many AHJ do not require that all work not done in accordance with the approved set has revisions submitted.

    Fortunately ... the above is true as now (for litigation) that contractor is on the hook for *everything* which does not match the approved set ... but this is only fortunate for those which have litigation ... without litigation, the "unfortunately" term applies.

    It is in the contractor's best interest to submit revisions for all work which was done differently that the approved set.

    One case I worked on about 5 years or so ago was a downtown redevelopment project, 10 buildings as I recall, and the contractor submitted a set after the work was completed which they stamped "As-Built" ... the problem was ... it was the original approved set with no changes/no revisions ... the developer and their insurance had to pay the buyer of the redevelopment project $35 million for the work which did not match the approved documents (the ones stamped "As-Built") and another $50 million for work done wrong (those numbers are what I recall, they may be off by a couple $million or so).

    The point is, if a home inspector is going to do new construction, they should be knowledgeable enough to know what they are doing, and familiar enough with plans to be able to find what they are looking for ... otherwise ... don't do the work.

    You sound like you know your way around a set of plans, new construction would work for you if you chose to do it.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    John,

    Here are some things I found in the past doing new construction inspections (these were phase inspections and caught the problems before it was horrifically costly to fix (still very costly to fix some of them - but not like if they had not been found until later).

    - Plans showed the finished ceiling height to be 11 feet, measured 10'-4" slab to bottom of trusses ... oopsie.

    - I was standing in a CBS structure to look at the trusses and when I walked in I could see daylight coming in all around the walls ... almost none of the blocks were properly set with fully mortared face shell thickness mortar ... looked like I was looking through a perforated sheet of paper.

    - Second floor trusses were set wrong - the floor trusses has been made with a boxed section for the duct work to run through, every other truss had been set reversed, boxed openings were alternated to the left third of center, to the right third of center, then back and forth all the way ... and the second story was already framed and had trusses on it.

    - All of the trusses met at one point and were attached to each other ... and there was no supporting column below that point as was shown on the drawings ... it was 'going to be in the way of the open floor plan'.

    - This last one I was not involved with, it happened last year in a small town about 20-30 miles up the coast from me ... the house was built on the wrong lot ... yes sir ... ON THE WRONG LOT ... and completed. The owners had the house built, then came down to close on it ... and the house was not on their lot. That house was only about a $2 million house too. Oopsie.

    - One I was involved with was where the surveyor laid the house out, the house was mostly finished when I arrived to work for a contractor friend who was building the houses in that subdivision, and as we finished that house, the city refused final inspection ... the house was on a corner lot and the surveyor laid it out with a front and side setback ... corner lots have two front setbacks ... oopsie. The city made us stop working on the house until a variance was granted (that only took 6 months).

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    the house was built on the wrong lot ... yes sir ... ON THE WRONG LOT ... and completed
    That did happen to me, although I wasn't doing a regular inspection. I was called in to "quickly" settle a dispute over whether a house was built on the wrong lot. It was a subdivision out here on the plains and this was the first house built on it, so it was built on the "staked plains". And shor' nuf', the house was on the wrong lot. A few weeks later, as the dispute between the two parties escalated, the owner of the lot, cut all the sole plate bolts, wrapped a chain around the house and drug it off the foundation with a Cat to the lot where it belonged and unceremoniously left the disheveled home sitting there where two years later (the last time I saw it), it sat as the wind and elements dissolved it into the landscape.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    That did happen to me, although I wasn't doing a regular inspection. I was called in to "quickly" settle a dispute over whether a house was built on the wrong lot. It was a subdivision out here on the plains and this was the first house built on it, so it was built on the "staked plains". And shor' nuf', the house was on the wrong lot. A few weeks later, as the dispute between the two parties escalated, the owner of the lot, cut all the sole plate bolts, wrapped a chain around the house and drug it off the foundation with a Cat to the lot where it belonged and unceremoniously left the disheveled home sitting there where two years later (the last time I saw it), it sat as the wind and elements dissolved it into the landscape.
    Lon,

    If I was the owner of the lot with the wrong house built on it, I would have addressed it differently ... ... send the contractor who built the house a very nice thank you letter, maybe even include a bottle of good champagne, tell him/her that I do not expect any one year warranty work, that I accept the house as is gifted to me, and that I expect no further trespassing to be done on my lot.

    Then I would offer to be nice and to sell him/her my lot and MY house at a reasonable price, a price which would make it worthwhile for me and for them.

    Then immediately place 'No Trespassing" signs all around the lot.

    I don't know who has, is, or will pay for the material and labor to build the gift house, but I would thank them for it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    ...A few weeks later, as the dispute between the two parties escalated, the owner of the lot, cut all the sole plate bolts, wrapped a chain around the house and drug it off the foundation with a Cat to the lot where it belonged and unceremoniously left the disheveled home sitting there where two years later (the last time I saw it), it sat as the wind and elements dissolved it into the landscape.
    Lon, Has anyone got photos of that house?

    I once saw a new house (by another builder) being built and the oddest thing for me to see was all the heavy timbers under the house. as though they were in the process of moving the nearly completed house somewhere else. I learn from conversation with the guys working on an nearby house that the surveyor had staked the house for the developer and it was not placed far enough back from the cul-de-sac on a pie shaped lot. It was about 10 feet too far forward. So, they moved the house back and built a new foundation under it.

    I took photos on film back then. Gosh I wish I could find them to share here.


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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Lon,

    If I was the owner of the lot with the wrong house built on it, I would have addressed it differently ... ... send the contractor who built the house a very nice thank you letter, maybe even include a bottle of good champagne, tell him/her that I do not expect any one year warranty work, that I accept the house as is gifted to me, and that I expect no further trespassing to be done on my lot.
    I agree. I was out of it after confirming that it was on the wrong lot. My brother-in-law knew the guy that built on the wrong lot. He says that the guy was neither a Mensa candidate or nominee for saint hood. He says that the sheriff had several visits to the site where the participants were told to put their guns away. And it might have gone to an even more stupid place if that is possible, but the wife (house owner) rolled her Suburban and was paralyzed. While that diverted their attention, her husband OD'd on pain killers and that effectively ended the legal fight. The wife moved out of state where family could take care of her and that's the last we've heard about it. The realtor on the deal is still around, so apparently he didn't get buried in the animal refuse that was flying.

    Quote Originally Posted by John C Hansen, LEED AP View Post
    Lon, Has anyone got photos of that house?.
    No photos. This was about twelve years ago. The house was finished and days from being moved in when all this hit the fan. After being dragged about 250', the house looked like the victim of a tornado. Two years later, I had a home inspection on the same road and drove by it. The wind was blowing about 30mph. The siding and shingles were flapping in the wind. The owners of the "wrong" lot had put up a large barn and fenced the 35 acres, but there wasn't a house on it. The original foundation was still there. Hell, the well alone was worth $15K or more for the owner.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    The owners of the "wrong" lot had put up a large barn and fenced the 35 acres, but there wasn't a house on it.
    That is where code come in ... ... with codes comes the fact that the barn is an "accessory structure", and an "accessory structure" is "accessory" to another structure, and, for residential, that would be a one- or two-family dwelling or townhouse (which is 3 or more attached).

    Thus, without a house (dwelling) on it, no "accessory structure" ... i.e., no barn.

    The codes work in mysterious ways, don't they.

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    That is where code come in ... ... with codes comes the fact that the barn is an "accessory structure", and an "accessory structure" is "accessory" to another structure, and, for residential, that would be a one- or two-family dwelling or townhouse (which is 3 or more attached).

    Thus, without a house (dwelling) on it, no "accessory structure" ... i.e., no barn.

    The codes work in mysterious ways, don't they.
    Yet, there is a barn....so did the codes work?

    Around here, barns are often the first structure on a property and people live in a RV until they can build or afford to build a house. I've seen deluxe barns with a dinky modular home next to it.

    So, does the house become the "accessory" to the barn?

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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Ian,

    That was an error the AHJ allowed, and that GC allowed, as there should be one approved set, or approved "copies" of the approved set, and as the term "copies" means, the "copies" would be just that "copies" - identical with the same changes on all of the "copies" as is on the approved set.

    Doing work as you did during construction, one approved set (or multiple - and identical "copies" ... that is what a "copy" is ... identical) prevents problems between inconsistent 'similar' plans (they were not "copies")..

    Once the work is done, as with a new home walk through inspection, there should be one set, which should (by code) include revisions for *all* work which was not done in accordance with the approved set. The end result is that the approved set and the construction should - should - match each other.

    Unfortunately ... many AHJ do not require that all work not done in accordance with the approved set has revisions submitted.

    Fortunately ... the above is true as now (for litigation) that contractor is on the hook for *everything* which does not match the approved set ... but this is only fortunate for those which have litigation ... without litigation, the "unfortunately" term applies.


    You sound like you know your way around a set of plans, new construction would work for you if you chose to do it.

    Jerry
    This was a 'power grab' situation. The architect insisted his amendments took precedence over the GC who was tasked with making the impossible work and would have his changes approved. The GC physically made the changes and amended his copy to conform, which was then approved by whichever AHJ inspector showed up. The celebrity had his own copy, and believe it or not - his agent and attorneys insisted in having their own copies because the celeb. was often out of the country. They would make their own amendments on their clients behalf which they would also get approved behind the GCs back, insisting the changes were demanded by the AHJ. I'm pretty sure things were done by the AHJ because of the celebs status. All this caused the GC and our crew to walk off the job for a couple of weeks.

    I'm sure not one of the copies showed all the multiple changes which ranged from design and changes to a sweeping staircase and handrail to new dimensions and design of a 100' x 12' retaining wall holding up a hillside.

    The celeb was really very reasonable and ultimately realized he was being manipulated, primarily by the egocentric architect trying to make a name for himself. When the job was done I had a sign made for the celeb, which was hung over the outdoor wet bar..."The Golden Rule" - He who hath the gold maketh the rules.


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    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    So, does the house become the "accessory" to the barn?
    No, because the code applies to dwellings and accessory structures ... but I guess in some places they may consider that the live live in and for the barn ... making them consider the barn as their dwelling?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  47. #47
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ormond Beach, Florida
    Posts
    26,248

    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Ian,

    Contractors working for very wealthy people have to use special care to avoid those traps.

    Sounds like it eventually worked out for you on that project.

    The AHJ still should have ... and could have ... insisted on at least two copies having all the revisions - the AHJ'S copy and the job copy the inspector looked at.

    But I also know many AHJ who give up their authority to require things to placate people so the people don't complain about the AHJ 'being strict and unreasonable' when it is the responsibility of the AHJ to enforce the code.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  48. #48
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    No. San Diego Co., CA
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Ian,

    Contractors working for very wealthy people have to use special care to avoid those traps.

    Sounds like it eventually worked out for you on that project.

    The AHJ still should have ... and could have ... insisted on at least two copies having all the revisions - the AHJ'S copy and the job copy the inspector looked at.

    But I also know many AHJ who give up their authority to require things to placate people so the people don't complain about the AHJ 'being strict and unreasonable' when it is the responsibility of the AHJ to enforce the code.
    Yep, that's what happened. AHJ with stars in their eyes.


  49. #49
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Gauteng South Africa
    Posts
    4

    Smile Re: do you review plans when inspecting new homes?

    I don't review plans unless specifically requested to do so at an additional cost. Normally I am not requested to do review new homes. This happens more often with older homes that have had extensions and alterations done. Where extensions and alterations have been done to an exiting home I advise clients to check that they have approved plans for the new work and that they have an Occupation Certificate for the new work issued by the local authority in that area. If the client is buying the house I advise them to insist on both the approved drawings and the OC as part of the purchase documents.

    Jurie

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