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.