The Importance of Installation Instructions

Failure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions is one of the easiest ways to void a warranty.  

Often in my forensic engineering work, I observe problems that could have been easily avoided had the contractor followed the manufacturer’s instructions.  Problems that are almost always installation problems include: all types of roof coverings; all types of siding installation; all types of floor covering and many more categories of manufactured products. Different manufacturers will have slightly different materials or procedures to enhance their uniqueness or that are necessary for achieving test performance results or chemical compatibility.   

Reliable consistent construction is not meant to be a creative process.

Many manufactured parts are not compatible with other manufacturer’s similar parts even though they may perform the same function. They need to be installed following specific instructions using specific components in a specific order.

Different manufacturers may have requirements that vary in small, but important ways.

While often there are generic industry instructions or standards of practice, different manufacturers may have requirements that vary in small, but important ways.  Even the NJ Uniform Construction Code specifically incorporates manufacturer’s installation recommendations as accepted engineering practice as stated in N.J.A.C. 5:33-3.6(b).

A good working relationship with your contractor(s) is critical to facilitate monitoring their work.

When contracting work – it is important to be sure the contractor(s) are following the manufacturer’s recommended practice and are only using materials from the same manufacturer.  Many manufacturers of construction products have videos showing how their products are to be installed, that can be viewed on their website or on YouTube. Establishing a good working relationship with your contractor(s) is critical to facilitate monitoring their work.

Construction Dispute Resolution

Low Cost, Fast Results

Avoid construction disputes with clearly defined work tasks, schedules, quality inspection points, and timely communication to manage the risk of problems.  Misunderstandings and unrealized expectations will fuel disputes unless good communication and contractual procedures for dispute resolution are in place.

High-cost settlements may require litigation with expensive legal and expert fees.  Mediation or arbitration may be considered. For small dollar limited issue construction matters there is another cost effective and timely approach that offers the best of mediation and arbitration – it is binding mediation.  This approach is particularly effective when the mediator has appropriate technical and substantive knowledge.

Binding mediation begins with the assistance of a trained, experienced, and skilled mediator.  Mediation offers the flexibility of the neutral mediator to work with each party to fully understand the issues and develop a settlement that is fair and equable to both parties.  A mediation settlement agreement is completed for those issues the parties have agreed upon. When there are unresolved issues and there was a Binding Mediation Agreement completed prior to the start of the mediation, the mediator may gather additional information to make final decisions.  When there has not been a binding mediation agreement but the parties are close to a settlement then a Binding Mediation Addendum may be prepared so the mediator can render a final decision and the parties would not have to go to binding arbitration or litigation to seek resolution.

Peter A. Schkeeper, P.E., F. NSPE is a certified dispute specialist on the CDRS National Panel of Construction ADR Specialists.

Additional information and agreement forms can be seen at

20 Years of the Rehabilitation Subcode

The adoption of the Rehabilitation Subcode (N.J.A.C. 5:23-6) was published in the New Jersey Register on January 5, 1998.  It was the first comprehensive set of code requirements for existing buildings. It remains a stand-alone subchapter, and it contains all of the technical requirements that apply to a rehabilitation project.

Prior to the adoption of the Rehabilitation Subcode, the process in the Uniform Construction Code for dealing with rehabilitation in New Jersey was the 25/50% rule. The 25 and 50 percentages referred to the cost of the alterations in relation to the value of the building.  There were three relevant ratios or thresholds in the 25/50 percent rule: (1) under 25% of the building’s value, (2) 25–50% of the building’s value, and (3) over 50% of the building’s value.

The Rehabilitation Subcode,, is a technical part of the Uniform Construction Code and therefore has no provisions governing permits. This does not mean that permits are not required. In fact, the provisions for permits and other administrative procedures are where they have always been: in subchapter 2 of the Uniform Construction Code.  Work that required a permit before the adoption of the Rehab Subcode may still require a permit.

This subcode is divided into parts that are quite different from the new construction subcodes. These parts must be understood if the Rehabilitation Subcode is to be applied correctly..

  • There are three types of projects: Rehabilitation; Change of Use; and Additions.
  • There are four Categories of Rehabilitation: repair; renovation; alteration; and reconstruction. They relate to the extent of the work undertaken.
  • There are five Sets of Requirements: products and practices; materials and methods; new building elements; basic requirements; and supplemental requirements that apply to the categories of work.

The best way to see how the categories and sets of requirements work together is to review the matrix within UCC Bulletin 98-1,

Along with parts described above, it is important to recognize certain terms and concepts used in the Rehabilitation Subcode which are central to understanding the Rehab Subcode as a whole:  Work Area; De minimis; Tenancy; Primary Function Space; Path of Travel; Technically Infeasible; and Hazard Index. The definition of the terms listed can be found at N.J.A.C. 5:23-6.3. Further explanation of the concepts listed can be found at

There is plenty more to know about the Rehabilitation Subcode (and I know some people have tried to avoid it, even after 20 years). Please visit  to refresh yourself on why we have this subcode and to best understand its project-based application.

Source: Construction Code Communicator, Rob Austin, Code Assistance Unit, 609-984-7609

When N J Building Permits Are Needed, and Not Needed

When N J Building Permits Are Needed, and Not Needed

  •  When you need permits, you need inspections from the local code enforcement officials.

  •  Ordinary Maintenance does not require permits.

  •  This brief will detail what you need to know.

Permit Requirements – Ordinary Maintenance and Minor Work Updated

Pursuant to adoption in the March 5, 2018 New Jersey Register, the requirements for minor work and ordinary maintenance have changed. This document is meant to be an aid to local officials as an easy reference on the types of work that are ordinary maintenance and minor work beginning on March 5, 2018. The Document is divided into two parts. The first part lists the types of work that are ordinary maintenance, the second part lists types of work that are minor work. The items that are new or different have been bolded so that the changes may more easily be identified.


The following items are types of work that may be performed without a permit pursuant to the Uniform Construction Code. The classification of work as ordinary maintenance is not a waiver from code compliance; all work is required to meet code requirements. However, no permit is required and there are no inspections of the work. The list has been arranged by the building type and discipline for ease of use.

For other than dwellings, the following has been designated as ordinary maintenance:


  • Finishes – Painting (interior/exterior), wall papering, trim/molding (interior/exterior) and flooring material repair, replacement or installation.
  • Siding – For other than polypropylene siding, existing siding may be repaired or replacement with like material not exceeding 25 percent of the total building exterior wall. The installation of any amount of polypropylene siding requires a permit.
  • Windows/Doors

Glass may be replaced in any window or door. The replacement glass must be of a type and quality that complies with the code;

Windows and doors (including garage doors) may be replaced in the same rough opening without altering the dimensions or framing; this includes means of egress elements (such as emergency escape openings) when dimensions and framing are not altered, and the height, width or net clear opening is maintained.

Screens may be repaired, replaced, or installed.

  • Cabinets – Nonstructural elements such as a cabinet may be repaired, replaced or installed.
  • Decks – Any part of a deck, porch or stoop that does not provide structural support for any roof or portion of a building may be repaired or replaced.
  • Insulation – The installation of insulation when installed adjacent to or not more than one and a half inches from an interior finish, except that the installation of foam plastic insulation requires a permit (Note: ordinary maintenance used to be limited to roll or batt insulation, now any insulation other than foam plastic is allowed as ordinary maintenance).
  • Gutters – Exterior gutters and leaders may be repaired, replaced, or installed.
  • Spas/Hot Tubs – Storable spas and hot tubs may be installed when provided with a lockable safety cover that complies with ASTM F1346.


  • Fixtures and fixture parts – Fixtures may be replaced with a similar fixture provided that there no change in the piping arrangement (Note: the replacement of fixtures was previously limited to single family dwellings, now fixtures may be replaced in all uses as ordinary maintenance); faucets and working parts of faucets may be replaced; existing fixtures may be refinished (relining fixtures is not ordinary maintenance).
  • Valves – Hose bib valves may be replaced provided that an approved atmospheric vacuum breaker is provided (Note: the replacement of hose bibs used to be limited to single family dwellings, now they may be replaced in all uses as ordinary maintenance); valves and work parts of valves may be replaced including shower or combination bath/shower valves (Note: the replacement of shower valves used to be limited to single family dwellings now they may be replaced in all uses as ordinary maintenance).
  • Ball Cocks – Ball cocks may be replaced provided that an approved antisiphon type is used.
  • Piping repair/replacement – Piping may be replaced to repair a leak (Note: the repair of leaks used to be limited to replacement of piping between any two adjacent joints, that is no longer the case).
  • Appliance Replacements – Domestic clothes washers and domestic dishwashers may be replaced.
  • Traps – Traps including traps on culinary sinks may be replaced.
  • Drain cleaning – Stoppages may be removed.



  • Receptacles, switches and outlets – Receptacles, switches, or lighting fixtures that do not contain emergency battery packs may be replaced with a similar item. However, receptacles in locations where groundfault circuit interrupter protection, damp/wet, or tamperresistant must comply with Section 406.4(D) of the electrical subcode (Note: The limitation on 20 amps or less has been removed).
  • Equipment – Repairing any installed electrically operated equipment such as doorbells, communication systems, and any motoroperated device (In the event of a fire protection system being interrupted for repairs, the fire official is to be notified in accordance with the building subcode).
  • Communications Wiring – Communications wiring may be installed (i.e. Ch. 8 and data circuits between computers/information technology equipment from Article 725 of the electrical subcode) in a Class 3 structure (see N.J.A.C. 5:234.3A), provided that the rearrangement does not involve penetration of a fire rated assembly and is not in a hazardous location (see Ch. 5 of the electrical subcode).
  • Appliances – Domestic dishwashers may be replaced.


  • The replacement of sprinkler or smoke detector, smoke alarm, or heat detector heads with a like device.
  • The repair or replacement of any component of a fire alarm or smoke and heat detection equipment (other than the replacement of a fire alarm control panel) may be repaired or replaced.
  • The installation of batterypowered smoke alarms and the installation of batterypowered or plug in carbon monoxide alarms.


  • Motors, pumps and fans – Motors pumps and fans of the same capacity may be replaced.
  • Heating, supply and return piping and radiation elements – The repair or replacement of heating supply and return piping and radiation elements where there is no rearrangement of the piping system.
  • Duct work – Duct work may be repaired or replaced.
  • Air Conditioning Equipment – Repair of air conditioning equipment and systems along with the repair or replacement of control devices for heating and air conditioning equipment.
  • Liquid applied chimney lining – The application of liquid applied lining material inside an existing chimney.

Ordinary maintenance: For all dwellings, any work listed above is applicable to residential uses plus the following:


Kitchen range hoods – Kitchen range hoods may be replaced provided that the replacement hood exhaust rate does not exceed the exhaust rate of the existing hood or the exhaust rate of the replacement hood does not exceed 400 cfm.

Replacement of domestic appliances –

  • Domestic clothes dryers may be replaced provided that no change in fuel type, pipe size, or location or electrical characteristics is required.
  • Domestic stoves and domestic ovens may be replaced provided no change in fuel type, pipe size, or location or electrical characteristics is required.
  • Exhaust fans – Bathroom exhaust fans may be replaced.

Ordinary maintenance in oneand twofamily dwellings: Any work listed in the two categories above applicable to residential uses plus the following:


  • Finishes – Installation, repair or replacement of interior finishes of less than 25 percent of the wall area of the dwelling. This shall include plastering and drywall installation. (1) Vinyl wall covering of any amount is ordinary maintenance; (2) Paneling is not ordinary maintenance.
  • Nonstructural components – The repair or replacement of any nonstructural component, such as a partition.
  • Roofing – The repair or replacement (including total replacement) of any amount of existing roof covering on detached oneor twofamily dwellings.
  • Siding – The repair or replacement of any amount of existing siding. Exception: The repair or replacement of polypropylene siding is not ordinary maintenance.


  • Alarm systems – The installation of a burglar alarm, security system.
  • Doorbells – Doorbells may be installed, repaired or replaced.
  • Landscape irrigation systems – Plugin landscape irrigation unit under 30 volts may be installed.


Like ordinary maintenance, minor work is a category of work that requires less oversight than do construction projects that require plan review, a full permit, and inspections. Minor work requires a construction permit, but allows work to begin before the permit has been issued once notice of the work has been given to the local code enforcement agency. The notice may be oral, written, or email.

It is important to note that with the March 5 changes, minor work permits may be issued regardless of whether there are prior approvals. Those prior approvals do not need to be checked by the code official prior to issuing the permit. The applicant is responsible for ensuring that the prior approvals are satisfied. Also, minor work permits no longer operate with a final inspection within 30 calendar days; when requested, up to three business days are allotted to perform the inspection.

For other than dwellings, the following has been designated as minor work:


  • Porches – The construction or total replacement of any porch or stoop that does not provide structural support for any roof or portion of a building.
  • Repair and/or renovation work – Repair and/or renovation work in a Group B, Group F, Group M, or Group S occupancy performed in accordance with N.J.A.C. 5:236, not including work categorized as ordinary maintenance pursuant to N.J.A.C. 5:232.7.
  • Radon – The installation of a radon mitigation system provided no new electrical work is required. (Note: this used to be limited to oneand twofamily dwellings. Now the installation of radon mitigation systems is minor work in all buildings, provided no new electrical work is required).
  • Elevators – Minor work on elevator devices shall also mean and include work as outlined in N.J.A.C. 5:2312.8(b) and not involving any structural modification to a building.
  • Partitions – Repair or replacement with no reconfiguration of space or of any nonstructural component such as a partition in structures other than oneand twofamily dwellings (see ordinary maintenance one- and twofamily dwellings).


  • Piping – Replacement of existing plumbing piping with new and approved material of like capacity.
  • Drinking fountains – The installation of drinking fountains and condensate drains in existing structures.
  • Water Heaters – The replacement of existing water heaters with new ones of like capacity.
  • HVAC Equipment – The replacement of existing boilers, warm air furnaces, air conditioning units and air conditioning condensing units with new appliances of like capacity.


  • Communication wiring – The installation of communications wiring in any Class 1 or Class 2 structure or any Class 3 structure involving the penetration of a fireresistance rated assembly. Note: Communications wiring is any wiring covered by Chapter 8 of the electrical subcode, “including data circuits between computers/information technology equipment, which may be classified as communications circuits in accordance with Article 725 of the electrical subcode.”
  • Alarm systems – The installation of a burglar alarm, security system, or doorbell in structures other than oneand twofamily dwellings (see ordinary maintenance for oneand twofamily dwellings). Exception: controlled, delayed, or sensor released egress doors.


  • Alarm Systems – Any change of an existing transmission means from a digital alarm communicator transmitter to a fire alarm supervising station. (1) For the purposes of applying this provision, transmission means shall mean the existing phone line(s) that transmit fire alarm signals from a digital alarm communicator transmitter to the supervising station. A certified fire alarm service company, licensed fire alarm company or licensed electrical contractor shall submit Form F391 signed by the contractor to provide a verification statement in writing to the fire subcode official within 24 hours that all required signals remain operational after the new transmission means is installed.

Minor work in all dwellings: Any of the work above applicable to residential uses plus the following:



  • Fixture installation – The new installation of fixtures in an existing space where the new installation of additional fixtures may be accommodated with no increase in the size of the water distribution system, water service, or house drain (Note: this used to be limited to oneand twofamily dwellings, now the installation of additional fixtures in existing space is minor work in all dwellings).


Minor work in oneand twofamily dwellings: All the work in the two categories above applicable to residential uses plus the following:



  • Renovations or Alterations – Renovation or alteration work provided that no primary structural members are altered in any way, and further provided that the work does not constitute reconstruction.


  • Appliances – Minor work shall also mean and include new electrical work incidental to the installation of air conditioning, equipment, clothes dryers, and ranges or oven.
  • Outlets – The installation of five or fewer outlets where existing circuits and/or available space for circuits and service are adequate to support the load. Fishing is considered minor work regardless of the number of fixtures / receptacles. (Note: the limitation that the devices/outlets are limited to 125 or 250 volt has been eliminated; fishing was previously limited to 5 receptacles).
  • Rewiring – The replacement of existing wiring with new wiring of the same capacity provided that the new wiring shall be of a type approved for the use by the code.


  • Detection/Suppression – The installation of a fire detection or suppression device.

Finally, though not ordinary maintenance or minor work, the permitting requirements for garden type utility sheds also changed. No permit is required for a garden type utility shed that is 200 square feet or under provided it does not have electric, water, gas, oil or sewer connections.

Source: Code Assistance Unit

(609) 984-7609

Renovation or Expansion Project Questions

  • Are your plans and specifications adequate to assure you will get done what you expect?
  • Do you have a time based plan?
  • Are your design and contractor agreements complete?
  • Do you need a fixed price contract or would a time and material agreement be better?
  • Does this project fit into a master plan for future work?
  • Do you have all necessary permits?

Problem avoidance is achieved by thorough planning, application of quality assurance principles, and careful structuring of the work to permit periodic planning re-evaluations.

Planning is often rushed as people want to get the job underway. While understandable, this is a mistake. It is only through documented planning that you can assure everyone will know what to do and when. It does take an initial investment of time to get the planning right.

This may be the most frustrating concept for a building owner to accept but it is the most important step to avoid problems. Quality Assurance requires that there be detailed documented plans and monitoring of expectations and results at every stage of the process. More demanding expectations require greater planning time. Some year-long projects can require up to six months creating an effective plan.

Because creating detailed work plans takes significant time, some contractors are charging a fee. Such a plan should present the sequence of pre-construction activities. It should include the proposed methodology for performing various phases of the work. It needs to describe possible equipment and personnel to be used, general sequencing of the work activities, the use of the site for staging, stockpiling and other activities, and security. The plan needs to be time based with “hold-points”, as needed, so monitoring of work progress can be performed. Local code enforcement official inspection points and architect inspection points need to be identified. Third party inspections may also be appropriate and should be identified on the plan.

Few construction projects are completed without any changes. The more complete the project requirements are defined at the beginning the easier it will be to create change-orders as needed. Good change order management is critical to reducing potential disputes between contractors and building owner.

Mini Pre-Contract Pre-Inspection Checklist

Here is a brief mini inspection checklist to consider before entering a contract to purchase a home or building. Engineering and environmental evaluations are necessary after completing the purchase contract agreement.

First impressions are good. Having the ability to review what you saw in the comfort of your home or office is priceless. This mini checklist will help you to do just that, adding some objectivity and confidence to your search. This will enhance your confidence when you retain a professional inspector for structural, habitability, safety and environmental evaluations.

  •   Take pictures. Front and rear views plus significant features.

Modern real estate listings and website presentations often include pretty pictures.  Obtaining a Google Earth overview and actual photos of when you were at the property will improve the quality of your decision making. You do not need any special camera equipment. Smart phones are very convenient, unobtrusive, and do an excellent job to achieve this objective. Taking a photo of the front yard and rear yard from both sides of the building will help you to understand the drainage grading conditions. Water intrusion is one of if not the largest cause of problems to buildings.

  •   Talk with neighbors.

Much can be learned by having discussions with potential neighbors. Have there been any flooding or elevated ground water problems in the neighborhood? Do the neighbors know anything about the property you are purchasing?

  •   Consider location risks or zoning problems

Check current zoning requirements for this location to learn if the existing structure is non-conforming and what restrictions may exist at this location.

  •   History of additions, alterations, permits

Learn the history of additions and alterations.  Were they designed by an architect or engineer?  Are plans available?  Building permit history should be available from the local building department. An “opra” official public records act request may be required.  Today histories are often kept on a computer for at least 10 years that should be readily available.

  •   Exterior condition of roof, siding, windows, & doors

Your photos may include sufficient detail especially if you take both a distance photo and close up photos of each side.

  •   Foundation cracks and/or water entry history

Look for any foundation cracks or any indications of water entry history. Check for any odors.  Understanding the source of odors will be important particularly if there is any indication of air quality mold problems.

  •   Plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical, appliances

Make notes of first impressions of the interior conditions and equipment observed.

  •  Well, septic, pools, engine generators, specialized equipment will require special testing

Make a list of equipment and features that may require specialized evaluations.

Wet Basements

Wet basements plague many homes. A wet basement can lead to foundation failure and cause air quality mold problems. This brief will be an introduction to discussing various causes and some of the approaches to monitor and remedy water and moisture entry problems. Sometimes homeowners do not realize that they have a basement water entry or moisture problem.  Professional assistance may be needed preferably from people who are not selling specific “waterproofing” products.

If you detect a musty odor there may be moisture entry and potentially a mold problem. The problem may not be visible.  Water, organic material (such as wood or paper), and humidity allow mold production. Environmental and health mold experts are needed to evaluate conditions when there is a problem that will affect you or your family.  This brief will deal with building and site conditions that permit moisture intrusion.

Water adversely affecting buildings has many forms. Rain water, surface water, ground water, condensation water, and plumbing water are the primary suspects.  Water is in the air we breathe. Warmer air will contain more water than colder air. This is why when one breathes on glass moisture condenses out.  The dew point is the temperature when the air will release water from the gas state (vapor) to water in the liquid state. The dew point temperature may exist on a basement steel column or within an exterior wall cavity. The basement steel column will eventually exhibit rusting.  The interior of an exterior wall cavity is not likely visible.  It is complicated to determine when a dew point will be experienced within a wall.  Water can enter a building through openings in the exterior envelope. Wind driven rain will increase the potential for water entry. Sometimes capillary or wicking action will suck water into a building. Water saturated soil against the foundation wall can cause pressure to drive the water through porous masonry. Elevated ground water can cause pressure to drive the water up into a basement through porous concrete or openings in the basement floor. Special conditions such as flooding require flood resistant or elevated construction to prevent problems that is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Rain water generates roof water and surface water. Getting roof water and surface water away from the foundation is the first priority. Each inch of water on a 1,500 square foot building would generate 935 gallons of water. When this water is not diverted away from the foundation, serious problems can result. An easy way to understand where roof water is affecting the foundation is to observe ponding of water when it is raining so hard (2-4 inches per hour) that were you driving you could barely see the car ahead.  During these short periods of extremely heavy rain water overflowing the gutters and ponding of water at the foundation will be evident.

Adverse drainage grading is a significant source of water wetting the foundation walls. Even meeting building code requirements for drainage may not be adequate to assure all surface water flows away and downhill from the foundation walls. Sometimes a drainage slope of one to two inches drop per foot for 12 or more feet is needed.  On relatively flat property swales may be needed or a drainage system that collects the water and pipes it to dry wells. When there is overflowing roof water and relatively flat grading it may be necessary to construct a water collection system on the ground adjacent to the foundation that pipes roof and surface water to dry wells.

Openings in the building envelope (roof and walls) will allow water entry particularly during strong winds.  Sometimes a specific wind direction and velocity creates water entry. Brick veneer that lack drainage weep systems are vulnerable to moisture intrusion from wind driven rain. Even vinyl siding, with drainage openings, is vulnerable to wind driven rain water entry. Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) without drainage provisions or with poor sealant systems are vulnerable to moisture intrusion. Leaking plumbing piping and leaks from water using home appliances are sources for water entry.

Recommend monitoring for moisture or water entry as part of you maintenance check-up at least once a year and after major rain storms.  Consider monitoring instrumentation to detect basement water.

Ice Dams

During freezing periods ice damming can cause water entry into the roof system that is normally waterproof from heavy rain even wind driven rain.

Ice Damming is when there is ice or frozen snow at the lower edge of the roof preventing melting water from draining.  The ice causes melted water to extend up the roof under the shingles. Often these are formed due to a warm roof surface melting snow that allows ice to form.  The warmth can come from the sun or due to poor roof ventilation or due to poor house insulation.

Roof surfaces that extend past the side of the building will have greater vulnerability due to air flow under the soffit similar to how bridges freeze before the highway freezes. On sloping roofs water can back up under the shingles potentially causing interior water damage.  A totally waterproof membrane such as ice and water shield extended sufficiently up the roof surface can reduce the potential for water intrusion on shingled roofs.  

As with wind driven rain the water entry may not be readily detected. Ice dams can be removed but should be done by an expert roofer experienced working in winter conditions.  On low slope roofs particularly with internal roof drains there can be blockage of the drain system.  Consider a low temperature activated roof heating element installed by a licensed electrical contractor.

Demanding Inspector = Buyer Protection

When purchasing a waterfront home or property located in a FEMA Flood Zone, I require seeing a Flood Elevation Certificate prior to proposing my service. This is necessary to provide a flood risk assessment which is part of my inspection service. It may require more time necessary for due diligence.  (more information regarding FEMA can be seen in my other newsletters and in Post Disaster Structural Services section of website)

When purchasing a home of new construction or a recent major renovation, I require a review of the local building department files. It will require more time necessary for due diligence. (see purchasing new construction newsletter)

When clients hear of these requirements they may view me as being difficult.  They are probably right!  However, these requirements are for the protection of any client I am working for. I am a stickler when it comes to providing my clients with as much expertise as possible to help them make an educated decision for their most important investment.

Inspection of Completed New Construction & Major Reconstruction or Post Disaster Reconstruction

New Construction Home Inspections Require a Licensed Professional Engineer or Architect

As a professional engineer experienced with construction defect litigation support I know first-hand how easy it is for new construction to cover up significant material defects. Poorly trained, poorly supervised workers lacking adequately detailed instruction can result in bad work. A nice finish can distract even a good observer.

New construction requires a different approach than when inspecting existing buildings. New construction generally does not display shrinkage or settlement, and workmanship errors may be obscured by the new finishes. Understanding how the designer intended the structure to be assembled, the materials to be used, and how the code inspections progressed are all important factors to evaluate. These critical factors generally go unseen during a visual inspection.

Caveat Emptor: Closing the New Construction Loop with a Professional Inspection

Very few new construction projects have inspection services provided by their design professional or by third party inspectors during the construction period. Buyers of new construction should have an engineering inspection performed by a licensed NJ Professional Engineer or a NJ Registered Architect. The NJ Home Inspection Professional Licensing Act home inspection regulations do not apply to new homes. The licensing act specifically excludes new homes and states: “…shall not include any such structure newly constructed and not previously occupied.”  (N.J.S.A. 45:8-62) NJ Home Inspectors are not licensed for new home inspections. Engineers and architects are licensed for the design of the structure and all systems within a home so they do not need to refer further review to technical specialists as is so often done by home inspectors.

When inspecting a newly constructed home, a new addition, or a major renovation, it is important to begin with a review of all construction documents including the Architect Drawings and a review of the local Building Department records. The details defined as well as the details not defined in the construction documents are very instructive in guiding the engineer or architect in their condition assessment.

Understanding how the home was to be constructed, the type of materials that were to be used, and the history of issues that developed during the construction process is critical. Observations of how structures are located on the property including surrounding topography are needed to understand how roof and surface water drainage is being managed. Visual condition observations of hundreds of items are needed, including all Structural systems (roof, building frame, foundation, basement, crawl basements, exterior and interior walls); Waterfront structures (bulkheads, piers, docks); Building covering systems and penetrations (roof covering, building siding, windows, doors, flashing and sealing systems); Property (site facilities, drainage, retaining walls, property safety, parking); Electrical system; Plumbing system; Mechanical systems (heating, ventilation, air conditioning); plus special features such as EIFS, or client requirements such as Radon testing, or other engineering inspection or testing needs. Photo documentation helps to illustrate the observations. Summarized findings specifically written for the particular home are needed to assure a clear understanding of issues identified and complete a new construction home inspection.

A NJ OPRA (official public records act) request is necessary to obtain approval of the building department records so additional time may be necessary for the inspection process. It may take up to one week to obtain approval to review these files, so please advise your attorney to allow adequate time for this due diligence to be performed.

Without doubt the investment in new construction inspection by a licensed professional engineer or architect is an expenditure a new home or building owner should make to understand the condition of the property being purchased.