|It's important to check each door and drawer during the walkthrough.|
(Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com)
At the pre-closing walkthrough, you’re almost done with the building process!
Each builder has a different walkthrough process and each house has its own set of circumstances. This is an example of what to expect during the walkthrough process of buying a new home. This pass is typically done a week or two after you have had the property inspected by a licensed inspector and a week or two before closing.
After you share the inspection report with the builder, they should correct any legitimate problems on the report prior to your first walk through. The builder will always have the right to override items on the report. Most will make all inspection repairs and explain any changes.
This is also called a “blue tape” walkthrough because the buyer and/or the construction manager has a roll of blue painter’s tape, and they stick tabs of tape onto items that need repairs or touchup. Minor issues just get tape. Major issues are noted in a formal agreement signed by both parties. Those major issues will be repaired before closing.
The field manager presents a “shopping list” of items to check during the walkthrough. You get a copy for your records while the builder uses the original for final repairs before closing.
There is one additional walkthrough on the day before closing to ensure those repairs were completed and the house is in ideal (not perfect) condition before closing. The builder loses most of their incentive to do repairs after closing. Try to make the meeting as early as possible on the day before closing to ensure they have time to fix anything that wasn’t done.
Once you settle into your new community, it’s a great idea to become a board member of the HOA. This helps you stay abreast of community issues and lets you have a stronger say in what happens in your community. It’s best to make your own rules rather than letting someone else make them for you.
In the kitchen, there should be an emergency repair sticker inside the island cabinet (under the sink). It has emergency numbers to call for various contractors that are authorized to work on the house without voiding the builder’s home warranty.
What to do in an emergency?
Call the builder’s emergency line first. They’ll give you instructions on how to work within your warranty to resolve the problem. If they aren’t available, you can call the numbers listed on the emergency sticker.
What is considered a valid house “emergency?”
It’s an emergency if:
• It is below 45°F outside and the house loses heat.
• It the interior temperature exceeds 95°F when the A/C breaks.
• Loss of electricity to the house itself that doesn’t affect the neighborhood.
• Loss of water to the house itself that doesn’t affect the neighborhood.
• Leaks that require use of the water cutoff valve to stop water flow to the entire house. However, if the local shutoff for a sink or toilet will stop a leak, it is not an emergency and should be handled through the website.
For non-emergency issues, make repair requests through the company website. There is no limit to repair requests within the warranty period(s) for many builders. Check the documents of your specific builders because a few limit warranty repairs to two reports within the first year.
Please read the entire warranty to understand exactly what is and is not covered. If something is covered by a warranty, it MUST be repaired by the builder or the builder’s authorized contractors to keep the warranty in effect.
Smoke detectors are hardwired. Each also has a 9-volt battery as a backup. They need to be changed each October. However, if one begins to chirp, all the batteries should be replaced since they are all the same age.
The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is in the breaker box for all areas that require GFCI outlets. There is no need for individual GFCI outlets as a result. All other outlets are arc-fault protected to prevent damage if children stick items into the plugs. This is required by some city ordinances.
All window blinds are cordless for the protection of children in most new homes. Lift the bottom of the blinds to stack them and raise the blinds. You must manually pull down on the blinds to close them. Because they’re designed to rise easily, you must pull hard to bring them back down. The blinds open and close via twisting the wand.
Windows can have a “tilt-out” sash (it actually tilts into the house). This allows you to remove the window screens and clean the windows while safely inside the house. To tilt the windows, raise the window slightly. Then, move the sash locks on the top of the window toward the middle. The window now tilts toward you while the base of the window is still secure inside the window frame rails.
Warranties at a glance:
1-year warranty (components)
• Workmanship/ installation/ materials
• Kitchen appliances
• Operation of the fence gate
• Minor & major mechanical, workmanship & materials.
o Ex: door hardware not functioning properly.
o Ex: Resilient floor comes loose at edge.
2-year warranty (delivery systems)
• Major mechanical
o Plumbing – delivery systems only, ex: pipe leak
o Electrical – delivery systems only, ex: no power to outlet
o HVAC – delivery systems only, ex: duct work separates
• A/C condenser manufacture
• A/C condenser major components
• HVAC registration (with extended service agreement within 90 days of closing).
• Structural / foundation
• Major structural defects
o Ex: foundation failure, load bearing wall failure, roof support structure failure.
Non-warrantable items (among others)
• Cosmetic defects, ex: poor texture, hairline cracks in any surface, paint, caulking
• Fencing defects, ex: bowed post, warped pickets, wind damage.
• Landscaping – living items are not covered ex: sod, trees and plants
• Storm-related issues.
• Clogged A/C lines
• Damage caused by unchanged A/C filters (change your filters frequently)
Care and cleaning
Manufacturers have deemed certain products acceptable for use in the house without voiding the various warranties. You’ll get a document in your file titled “Countertop Care & Maintenance” (or something similar), which lists many products you can and can’t use and some helpful tips. For stone counters, you’ll look for specific stone or other “multi-surface” products. Avoid anything that uses an acid base to clean because it damages the countertops and sealers.
We use “Granite & Stone Daily Wipes” from Weiman on our counters. It’s available at most home improvement stores and online. It is good for sealed quartz, granite and marble.
The carpets are treated to repel spills. However, the spills must be addressed immediately. You only need to wet a cloth with clean water and apply it to the spill. It should wick up the spill.
If the spill is more stubborn or has been there a while, you may want to consider Resolve carpet cleaner on the specific spill.
Whenever it’s time to clean the carpets, only use water-based steam cleaning. Never shampoo the carpet because the chemicals stay in the carpet and attract additional dirt.
To solve the hairline cracks in the joints, rub some latex caulk into the crack, let sit overnight, then paint. These are not warranty issues.
There are cracks in the concrete under the flooring. This is normal. They may also appear in the sidewalk and driveway.
If a crack gets wide enough that a nickel edge fits in it, it’s a problem. It’s also a warranty item for the first 10 years.
To learn more about the foundation, please read this Construction 101: Pre-Pour blog entry I posted earlier this year.
A diagonal crack from the door frame indicates a structural problem. Similarly, if more than one door no longer shuts properly it could indicate a structural problem. These issues need to be addressed by the builder. There is a 10-year warranty for structural issues.
Often, kitchen countertops are made of granite. Although much more durable than Formica, you still don’t want to place hot pots and pans directly onto the granite from the heat source. Instead, use hot pads or trivets to protect the granite surface. To prolong the surface quality of the stone, use cutting boards rather than cutting directly on the counter.
Because the countertops are stone, they need to be resealed at least annually. You can get the materials at most home improvement stores and online for about $20. It’s a fairly simple process. Here’s a short video that shows you how to reseal your countertops.
You’ll eventually need to recaulk the backsplash and tile intersections with the counters due to shrinkage. Expect this to happen in about 5 years. It will also happen in all the bathrooms because the caulk dries and shrinks over time.
If you have a glass shower enclosure, it’s best to clean the glass and apply Rain-X or a similar glass treatment to help the glass shed water. Additionally, use a shower squeegee to remove standing beads of water after each shower. Texas hard water can leave spots and lime buildup. The combination of glass protection and regular squeegee use will make a clear difference.
Manuals and remote controls are frequently in the kitchen drawer. There are often four remotes. They control both garage doors. The garage doors can be programmed into your cars or operate via WiFi with your smartphones.
Spare bricks are in the garage that match the exact lot of your exterior bricks. You’ll want to keep these to repair any future damage with matching bricks. Similarly, there are flooring and other samples in the attic to provide matching materials for minor repairs.
Most of the house uses LED (light emitting diode) lights rated at the equivalency of 60-watt traditional bulbs. However, sometimes the recessed lights include the trim as part of the bulb. When those lights need to be replaced, you must replace the light and attached trim with a similar bulb/trim.
I personally suggest 5,000 K lights (light temperature/color is measured in Kelvin degrees). These are considered “natural daylight.” The short reason is that all your photos will be the correct color throughout the house.
You’ll also find that you’ll have more energy, be able to see better and will be able to tell the difference between navy blue and black. If you need an area to relax and unwind or take naps, choose low-power 3,200 K lights (orange-color tungsten) for that area. If you want to learn more technical issues about light colors and balancing the light, please read my photojournalism blog post about balancing light.
|(Mark M. Hancock / DFWmark.com)|
Interior joints need caulk as the materials within the house lose moisture and settle. Traditional latex caulk (called ALEX caulk when manufactured by DAP) is useful for interior work. For hairline cracks, smear some caulk over the crack. Allow to dry overnight. Paint the next day.
Condensation is no longer an issue with windows due to the way they are manufactured and insulated. However, you’ll still want to keep humidity down inside the house to help with condensation anywhere within the house that might have temperature differences.
To keep moisture to a minimum, run the exhaust fans located in the bathrooms and laundry while those rooms are in use with flowing water. Also use the kitchen exhaust fan while cooking any foods that evaporate on the stove top.
Sweep and vacuum the lux vinyl floors as needed. Wet mop weekly with a water and distilled vinegar mixture or the classic Mr. Clean product.
You’ll want to place door mats inside each outside entrance. This allows most dirt to be trapped at the doors and saves additional abrasion on the main floors.
Put pads under chair, couch and table legs. Rubber pads or rubber-bottomed area rugs are suggested under furniture to keep them from sliding on the lux vinyl floors.
The HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) filter needs to be changed in the attic. The filter must be properly replaced to ensure the warranty is valid. The recommendation is to change it monthly. However, if it’s relatively clean, ask the field manager if you can use it a little longer. Many have one filter with 20x25x1 dimensions. Newer luxury homes have 4-inch and 5-inch filters that need to be replaced with each season.
If you write the change date on the filter itself, it’ll help you determine if it’s time to change the filter. Even if you don’t change it monthly, please check it monthly to ensure it’s still filtering properly and not clogged.
It is the homeowner’s job to secure a warranty through the manufacturer for the household appliances. This is most easily done through their smartphone applications.
The dishwasher controls can be hidden on the top of the door. It has a countdown clock before it starts. If you need to open it while it’s running, open it slightly to get it to turn off without spraying water everywhere. Once it stops, it’ll start pumping water out. At this point, you can open the door an extra amount to access the controls.
Newer ovens are Wi-Fi enabled for preheating convenience and to monitor the temperature and other variables. These ovens also have touchscreens with variable settings.
The vent built into the microwave over the cooktop can have a four-speed fan. In newer quality homes, it exhausts outside to reduce smell and help control humidity inside the house.
The sink disposal may be controlled by a button on the top of the island. There can be a master power switch to the disposal inside the cabinet under the sink. If it is switched off, the disposal won’t work.
If something gets lodged in the disposal, it’ll stop and trip its internal breaker. Turn off the power switch to the disposal.
There is a sturdy Allen wrench or hexagonal “key” provided to solve most of these situations. Insert the key into the hole in the bottom of the disposal. Rotate the key back and forth until the disposal plate moves freely again.
Once it moves freely, ensure whatever got lodged is removed from the disposal unit. Then, press the reset button on the bottom of the disposal and turn on the power switch. The unit should work properly at this point.
Always use cold water while the disposal is operating. It’s also important to know the disposal is meant for “soft” items. It was not designed to eliminate bones or extremely fibrous vegetation. For instance, large amounts of (formerly dried) beans should not go into the disposal unit - I learned this the hard way and had to replace mine.
If the house has an adequate irrigation system, the house doesn’t need to run soaker hoses around the foundation. However, you must use the sprinkler system to properly maintain the foundation – especially during the dry months.
You may want to buy combination locks for the outside gate and the outside breaker for the A/C unit.
It’s ideal to apply a sealant to the fence for protection from water and to extend the life of the wood. A new coat should be applied each six months, but at least once per year should suffice. When it’s time for a new fence, you’ll need to negotiate costs with neighbors who share fences.
Before you install a gate in your fence to access the greenbelt or other public areas behind your house, check with the HOA before you start. Even if other homes in the neighborhood install these gates in shared community walls, check with the HOA to ensure it is acceptable in your specific circumstance.
The exterior faucet has a frost-proof hose bib. However, it’s important to disconnect hoses from the faucet before a freeze. It’s also helpful to cover the faucets with insulated hard-plastic faucet covers to ensure the faucet doesn’t freeze.
In about five years, the exterior caulk will degrade to the point that the windows and expansion joints will need to be recaulked. Use exterior silicon caulk because it has more flexibility than traditional caulk.
Swails (lowered trenches between the houses) are designed to allow water to drain away from the house and protect the foundation. They are designed to drain to both the front and back. Do not fill or block the swails.
In addition to regular water, fertilize a Bermuda grass yard with 15-5-10 fertilizer twice in the spring and once each fall. Landscaping grass, trees and shrubs are not covered under the manufacturer’s warranty if they die.
You don’t want standing water or dry conditions near the foundation because they’ll cause damage. Level the lawn to keep moisture levels constant throughout the yard.
Roof gutters help prevent water damage to the foundation by ensuring water is distributed away from the house. However, the gutters need to be kept clear and clean and drainage from the downspouts needs to be clear.
Due to Texas’ expansive soil and weather, cracks and movement are inevitable. Homeowners need to monitor the interior for cracks. As interior humidity levels change and stabilize, hairline cracks appear due to shrinkage at the joints. Most shrinkage should happen within the first year.
If the sprinklers were installed by professional installers, you should have about 10 zones. The 1-year warranty period on the system starts when the system was installed – not when the house closes. Note the specific date the warranty will expire. It is often only a few months after the closing date.
To get a free demonstration of how to use your sprinkler system, you can call the installer. You can also visit www.watermyyard.org for money saving watering tips and system tutorials.
It’s my honor to help you find a beautiful new home. If you’re ready, I’m always a call, text or email away. I wish you many years of happiness and joy in your new home!
I’ve Got Your Six!
Mark M. Hancock