PROFESSIONAL SERVICES - Types of Inspections

By Graham Wines -Managing Director & CEO of ARCHImedia. Copyright 1998 - 2004, All rights reserved.

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Types of Inspections.

There are several types of inspections that we can offer you. Getting the right type of inspection, at the right time can save frustration and most of all, lots of money.

Check below and see what type of inspection you are looking for.

1. Are you about to buy a house?

If you are, we call that a Pre-Purchase Inspection'.
Before you buy a house it is important to know if the building has any latent defects that are going to need to be repaired once the present owners move out. Some of the problems that we find are major and require a large amount of money to fix and usually take a considerable amount of time and mess to repair. Typical of the expensive problems are foundations & footing systems, roof and land drainage, re-wiring and re-plumbing, leaking bathrooms, rotting timbers, missing structural elements, re-plastering, re-roofing new heating systems and new hot water systems.

Less dramatic are issues like re-painting, re-glazing, repairs to doors and windows, new external timbers, new insulation, new appliances and fittings.

Some of these issues are clearly structural but many are not and can cost many thousands of dollars to get fixed or replaced.

If you are hoping that when you move into the house you wont need to start spending money of things that you hadn't budgeted for and simply can't afford to fix, you should have a pre-purchase inspection to make sure that all the problems are noted and that you have enough money after the purchase is complete to get the urgent and essential things fixed.

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2. Are you building a house?

If you are, we call those inspections 'Mid-construction Inspections' and 'Final Inspections'.
These inspections are not the same as the ones the builder will arrange with his building surveyor. Those inspections will look at the legal issues relating to the structure and materials to ensure that they comply with the Building Regulations and the Building Act. What those inspections will not do is ensure that the building is being constructed in accordance with your contract documents and that the quality meets the industry standard.


ARCHImedia will carry out a detailed inspection to ensure that the builder is complying with acceptable standards of construction and alert you to the issues that may arise from poor workmanship or materials, inappropriate use of materials, defective work and issues relating to timing and staging of the works.

We recommend that inspections take place at the following stages:-

  • Set out
    • We ensure that the building is going to be the correct shape and size and at the right level. Over or under excavation can have dramatic consequences of drainage and views.
  • Frame
    • We ensure that the frame is correctly assembled with the correct materials and fixings. That all studs and installed and correctly spaced, that all lintels are the correct size and bearing correctly. The house is correctly braced and held down. All DPC's are correctly installed and the work is straightened and square, ready for the subsequent stages.
  • Lock Up
    • The building has reached the stage and that all work associated with that stage has been correctly carried out. All windows are correctly installed, all flashings and insulation installed, rough-in of wiring and plumbing correctly executed, roof fixed correctly and all doors, (temporary doors allowed), secure. All brickwork including sills, vents, weep holes & articulation joints have been correctly installed.
  • Fix
    • Ensure that all linings are correctly installed and all door frames, architraves, skirting boards, joinery, cornices, storm water drains, roof drainage and waterproofing are correctly installed and ready for finishes to be applied.
  • Fit Off
    • That all locks, latches, handles taps, tiles, screens, floors sanded if timber or if slab, cleaned. W.C's, basins, baths, lights, power points, security, vacuum, pumps, etc. are all installed and checked and removed where required, ready for painting and final finish.
  • Completion
    • Check all final finishes and prepare audit of defects for the final hand over.

We recommend that at least the four inspections are carried out on all new homes and additions.

Example:

The owner received a claim for payment from the builder. The owner was not sure if the building had reached that stage yet but the builder was putting pressure on the owner for the money or the job was going to be stopped and the costs of the delays would be bourn by the owner.

ARCHImedia were requested to carry out a 'Mid-construction Inspection'. The findings of that inspection were that the builder had not reached the payment stage. In addition, it was found that the builder had made several major errors, which included the omission of a damp proof membrane between the structural timbers that rested on damp brickwork.

Several of the main steel beams in the house were undersized and did not comply with the engineer's drawings.

The roof was in-complete and all the window in-fills were missing, the attached garage had no roof, no doors and no roof frame but the builder was insisting that he had reached lock up stage.

ARCHImedia advised the owner to present these issues to the builder and the claim was withdrawn, works resumed promptly and the claim for 'Lock up' stage was re-presented when all the issues were corrected.

In this instance, had the owner paid and the builder stopped trading, the owner would have had to pay twice for these works to be completed and that would have cost many thousands of dollars.

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3. Is there a single defect that is worrying you?

That type of inspection is a 'Single Issue Inspection'

Example:

There is cracking that has been slowly occurring in the brickwork but recently the cracks have been getting bigger and there are clearly cracks starting to occur inside the house.

ARCHImedia carried out a 'Single Issue Inspection' and found that there were several problems, all contributing to the damage.

The cracks were opening as the ground (foundation), was changing shape. That was happening because the roof drainage had failed and the land had been cut and filled to achieve a stepped footing. A large tree had been drawing moisture from the foundation over the dry months and now that the rain had returned, the foundation was reacting to all the pressures that were now coming into play.

The owner had sought advice from an underpinning company and they had recommended tens of thousands of dollars work of remedial works but did not deal with the causes of the problems, only the repairs. ARCHImedia prepared a report that advised the owner to do repairs and works to drainage, landscaping and stabilization. These were done and not only did the cracking stop, it actually started to close up. So far the underpinning has been avoided with good advice and a good maintenance regime.

4. Are you an 'Owner Builder' who is selling your house?

If you are, the law requires you to have an inspection report attached to your 'Section 32' document and probably a warrantee. You will need an inspection report to obtain a warrantee. We call this an 'Owner Builder Report', or a 'Section 137B Report'.

An 'Owner Builder' is a person who carries out building work on an existing home or builds a new house and is neither a registered builder or an architect. If you have done works as an owner builder, even if you employed a registered builder to supervise your project, and you want to sell your house within the prescribed period, (6 years and six months after the completion date for most domestic buildings but can be up to ten years in some situations) and those works involve anything structural or are more than $12000.00 in value, (as defined by the Domestic Building Contracts Act 1995).

The Acts, regulations and laws are a complex matrix of inter related clauses that place obligations on the owner builder and part of the legal requirement is to have a report prepared which will be easily read by a potential purchaser so that they have a clear idea what it is that was done to the building and whether it was done correctly or not.

The owner builder is also required to get a warrantee for the remainder of the seven years. There are currently three companies offering those warranties in Victoria and the costs will depend on the value of the building and the amount of time left before the warrantee runs out.

ARCHImedia can prepare a report which is acceptable by all warrantee companies and owner builders should understand that the cost associated with obtaining a warrantee are generally no more than the fee for a warrantee that a registered builder would have to pay. Those costs are usually charged to the owner so you are not being penalized for being an owner builder.

In fact, as the owner builder does not have to pay for the warrantee until they sell the house, we often find that the costs are less than if they had paid the builder at the start of a project.

To get the best value out of the owner builder report you should make sure that you have copies of the building permit, occupancy certificate or final inspection certificate, the compliance certificates from the plumber and electrician who worked on the building and a copy of the approved plan for examination.

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5. Five Star energy rating check.

All new buildings are required to have a '5 Star' energy rating. The builder has an approved plan and a specification from an approved '5 Star' energy rater and the building must be built to meet the requirements of the specification. The problem is, who will check the building to ensure that it meets the requirements. After all, there is no requirement for the building surveyor to check it and the builder is not going to check their own work.

ARCHImedia is an approved '5 Star' energy rater by the Sustainable Energy Authority and is authorized and qualified to conduct inspections of the builders work in relation to the energy rating specifications.

Example:

A building is presently being built and the builder has sold the building with the assurance that it will be a '5 Star' rated house.

ARCHImedia was requested to check the building with alarming results. The wall insulation was damaged and torn in many places, making it's insulation value useless.

Additional insulation was specified for the walls but the builder had packed the insulation into the frame without leaving an air space. The value of the insulation was reduced significantly by this error. The roof lights were supposed to be sealed and double glazed but standard ventilated, single skin roof lights had been installed. Windows were standard aluminium but thermally improved were specified. No gap sealing had been carried out around the floors, ceilings, windows or doors as required. The garage had been incorrectly assessed in the audit and the wall between the garage and the house was built as an internal wall rather than as an external wall.

The laundry was not heated but the walls were built as internal walls and so the errors went on and on.

Our assessment was that the building was unlikely to reach '3 Stars', let alone '5 Stars'.

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6. Are you in dispute with a builder or trades person?

That inspection is called a 'Dispute Inspection and Report'. If you are likely to be making a claim from a warrantee company, the report must be structured in a particular way. We call this a 'Preliminary Defects Report'. If the matter is likely to go into VCAT as a claim, the report is required to be in the form prescribed by VCAT. That report is called a 'Practice Note 2 Report'. If you are unsure whether your claim against the builder or a warrantee company is going to proceed all the way to VCAT you can start with a 'Preliminary Defects Report' and then upgrade that report at a later date to a full 'Practice Note 2 Report' for an additional fee.

Example:-

A typical example is a building that was completed recently. ARCHImedia carried out a mid-construction inspection and found that the window flashings had been omitted and that the wall foil insulation was damaged and missing in several locations around the building. These, among many other omissions and defects were reported, even though the building surveyor had not noted these defects and omissions in his report. The owner advised the builder about these defects but the builder ignored the owner and completed the house without carrying out the rectifications.

After the owner moved in and during the first heavy rains, water started pouring into the building. The owner called the builder who insisted that the flashings had nothing to do with the problem, that flashings were not required in houses and promptly went around the house and filled in all the weep holes, making the problem worse.

ARCHImedia was asked to prepare a second report and recommended that the builder pull down all the brickwork and install the flashings and insulation, as required.

Had the builder acted on the problem at the time when he was advised about the problem, the cost to correct the defects would have been nothing. Now, the repair cost will be many thousands of dollars and the mess and frustration will be considerable.

Ignorance and stupidity is significant in the building industry and this is one of many situations that owners can find themselves in after paying for a new house.

The two inspections carried out here were the 'Mid-construction Report' and the 'Preliminary Defects Report'.

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7. Are you in conflict with a neighbor?

We call this type of report a 'Dispute Report'. Like the dispute with a builder, preliminary reports can be prepared and then upgraded to practice note 2 standard if the matter is not resolved and has to go to VCAT for a resolution.

Example:

The owner of a house has significant cracking to their house and paving. Adjacent to the cracking, on the neighbors land, is a large and actively growing tree. Gutters were constantly blocked from falling debris, drains were broken and blocked by tree roots.

The owner has asked the neighbor to remove the tree several times but the neighbor refused, allowing the damage to continue and ignoring the pleas of the owner. The owner then went to an arborist to get the roots removed but the arborist refused as they thought it would destabilize the tree and put it at risk of falling. Where is the owner to turn next?

ARCHImedia conducted an inspection of the tree and the damage and was able to establish what parts of the damage were attributable to the tree, what consequential damage was attributable to the tree and what the costs of repairs would be to address the problem.

The matter ended up in VCAT, where a determination was made in the favor of the owner. She was awarded substantial costs and the tree had to come down, all at the adjoining owners expense.

As part of the reporting process the report had to be brought up to the 'Practice Note 2' requirements as laid down by VCAT. ARCHImedia was able to upgrade the original 'Dispute Report' and a resolution was achieved where common sense would not prevail.

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8. Is your building a commercial building?

We refer to a report on a commercial building as either 'Due Diligence' or 'Commercial Property Report'.

'Due diligence' is a specialist area of the commercial property purchasing process. Not only do the buildings have to be checked for the normal structural and finishes condition but extensive work needs to be done in the area of air conditioning, asbestos materials, lifts, hydraulics, specialist wiring, both low voltage and high voltage, emergency exits, evacuation, fire services, security, public access, core services such as WC's, cleaners & kitchens and glazing & thermal conditions to name only a few areas of expertise.

Purchasers of these buildings often want information about net lettable areas and ROI coefficients, maintenance cycles with allocated costs & facility management plans.

Access can often be difficult due to physical restrictions as well as security issues and a full 'Due Diligence' can be time consuming and demanding.

ARCHImedia can arrange to carry out these highly specialized reports.

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