The Stages of New Home Construction

In my experience, at many home inspections of re-sale properties, and after reciting the litany of problems with the home to the dismayed client, I have heard well intentioned Agents comment, “If you want a perfect home you’ll have to go buy a new one!” This is when I usually jump back into the conversation and politely, but strongly disagree. I tell the client that I frequently find more problems with new construction than with older homes. With re-sale homes there has been a time frame of actual performance to evaluate, as opposed to new construction where the home has not been put through years of “testing” and correction. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not promoting re-sale properties as superior to new construction. I’m just saying that new construction has the potential to contain many deficiencies that may take years to surface, and are rarely “perfect”.

There are many reasons for imperfection in new construction, but that is not the topic of discussion here. The purpose here is to identify the key “stages” of construction. Most residential construction projects can be broken down into 5 stages:

Foundation Stage:

  • This includes excavation, footings, foundation walls (or slab), waterproofing, backfill and compaction, and underground plumbing. Municipal inspections are typically performed on the foundation (prior to pouring) and underground plumbing. In some areas an engineer can inspect and sign off on the foundation in lieu of municipal inspection.

Framing Stage:

  • This includes wood or steel framing, exterior wall and roof sheathing, exterior trim and siding (and/or stucco/brick), windows and exterior doors, and roofing. Municipal inspections are typically performed on the rough framing. Some municipalities inspect the roofing.

Rough Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical Stages:

  • This includes water and waste/vent piping, plus setting of the water heater; ductwork, venting and furnace installation; wiring and electrical panel installation. Municipal inspections are typically performed on all three.

Insulation and Drywall Stage:

  • This includes wall insulation, (but not attic insulation at this time), drywall installation, tape and texture. This stage cannot begin till the rough stage inspections are passed. Many municipalities do not inspect the insulation but rely on the contractors “certification” of installation. Many municipalities have a drywall nail/screw inspection prior to tape and texture.

Paint, Trim, Finishes Stage:

  • This includes finished flooring, cabinets, countertops, wall tile, mirrors, shower doors, final electrical (including fixtures), final plumbing (including fixtures), and final mechanical. Municipal inspections are performed on the final electrical, plumbing, and mechanical. When these inspections are passed, the municipality then typically performs a “Final Inspection.” I usually call this a “Final” to avoid confusion. Based on this “Final” inspection the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) is typical issued.

Important Information:

  • Before signing on the dotted line make certain your newly constructed home has been issued a certificate occupancy by the local County Building Department.
  • And even the best builders and Municipal code Inspectors are still only human and things can be forgotten or missed. It is for this reason you want to hire your own inspector and have a complete home inspection.