In this week’s episode let’s have a look at some of the reasons why your new build home has defects.
Let’s start this off by saying all newly built properties are going to have defects. This is normal and the number of snags we find in new build homes varies from as little as 40 to 180 and upwards depending on the size of the property and the quality of your site manager and subcontractors who have built your new home.
The latest House Builders Federation customer satisfaction survey states that 95% of new build homebuyers have reported snags to their builder since moving in. There are a number of reasons why the quality of new build homes is getting worse, research has shown that the main cause of the decline of quality in new build homes is the industry placing profit above quality and until the industry puts people before profit this situation is not going to change.
Check out some of the snags we have found on our YouTube channel.
What causes defects in new build homes?
There are other factors which can also impact the build quality these are:
- Planning delays
- Tight-build programmes
- Poor workmanship
- Use of sub-contractors
- Skills shortage
- Lack of inspections
- Inexperienced site management
These are just some of the things which can impact the production of a newly built home, once developers have been granted planning approval, it then becomes a rush to get on site to make up for any lost time that they might have lost through the planning process.
This can have an impact on the subcontractors and site team being pushed to gain some of this lost time back, which can also have a knock-on effect throughout the build process.
This usually manifests itself with unrealistic build programmes, giving subcontractors and trades insufficient time to complete the build on your new home to a good standard. I have seen first-hand the result of this and the poor workmanship and quality it creates, there is no wonder that the number of snags in newly built homes is on the increase.
Will newly built homes always have defects?
What is worrying is there is no sign of this improving. One of the reasons for this is that we are seeing fewer apprentices on-site, a lack of proper supervision and quality of tradespeople. Combined with the current climate and greed of the industry this is not going to improve. But there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel.
Hopefully, as we go through this year the New Homes Quality Board and New Homes Ombudsman will start to have an impact and developers will improve the quality of newbuild homes which they produce and hand over to new homebuyers.
Time will tell if they are going to make a difference. In my opinion, these organisations are just a band-aid and not a cure for the problem which is a pandemic across the house-building industry. It is a sad fact that you have more rights to buy a pair of jeans than you have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a new build property.
There are other organisations that have the potential to help increase the quality of new builds. I am referring to the warranty providers such as the NHBC LABC and Premier Guarantee. There are other warranty providers than the three I have just mentioned but they do not have any set standards they enforce.
Warranty providers need to be tougher with developers we see daily new homes which have issues that do not comply with the NHBC LABC or Premier guarantee standards and are signed off and passed.
These organisations have a major role to play in helping to raise the quality of new build homes. One of the biggest issues is the number of new built home registrations which are increasing year on year.
Unfortunately, not all developers are qualified to register with the NHBC, LABC or Premier Guarantee either through choice or are not of sufficient size to qualify. We then see other warranty providers who are just an insurance policy with no set standards that the developer must adhere to.
This has an impact on the warranty providers’ inspectors who are limited to the number of inspections they can carry out, having a heavy workload is going to impact the time they are allocated on-site to inspect your new home depending on whether it is to carry out building control or warranty inspections.
What is the difference between Building Control and Warranty?
The Building Control Surveyor is interested mainly in compliance on the day that they visit, or at the time that a completion certificate is issued. Warranty Surveyors are generally required to consider the performance on an ongoing basis, therefore, must be satisfied that say a basement waterproofing is appropriate for all ground conditions and water table events or that a flat roof will not pond excessively and fail within a 15-year period due to increased pressure from ponding on joints in any membrane or deflection of the structure. On the other hand, a Building Control Surveyor may only be concerned that there is no water ingress at inspection, or upon Completion.
It sounds complicated, let me explain. The NHBC carry out five key-stage inspections, which are:
- Drains (if you use NHBC for building control)
- Pre-plaster (first fix)
- Pre-handover (CML)
The time allowed for each inspection is no more than 20 minutes which in total is 1 hour 40 minutes, over the length of time it takes to build your new home let’s say it takes between eighteen and twenty-four weeks to build your new home so you can see this is no time at all.
It all relies on the site team to ensure each process of the build sequence is conducted correctly to produce a quality newly built home. The burden on your site management team being able to deliver this relies on a number of things such as,
- Having sufficient time in the building programme
- Having quality subcontractors and tradespeople
- Given quality materials to achieve the specification
- Having the support of their senior management team
- Having the experience and knowledge to build a quality home
- Full understanding of Building Regulations and warranty providers’ standards
Achieving this all boils down to getting on-site ahead of schedule and having everything in place to achieve the building programme on time to produce a quality newly built home with minimal defects.
What can do wrong?
In an ideal world, developers need to understand that customers the ones who are keeping them in business should come before profit, unfortunately, this will never happen as most PLC house builders are driven by profit to satisfy their shareholders
Programmes and Production drive the site team to produce your new home, this can be anywhere between 18 and 24 weeks or more to completion. Costs drive the quality and the materials used; subcontractors are encouraged to cut costs to win the contract. At some point, corners will be cut to enable the contractor to make a profit
Trades are interested in making money and have little pride in what they produce, this lack of interest and ability leads to poor quality. No one cares or bothers to think about what they are producing for the end user, the new home buyer.
The little details matter in the overall quality and finish of your new home, it is the attention to detail or lack of it that separates the poorest builders from the better ones. The house building industry is in desperate need of qualified managers and assistant site managers with the knowledge and experience necessary to produce a quality home.
Subcontractors are notoriously bad at supervising their own work and taking responsibility for poor workmanship. This is due to a severe lack of good trades within the industry. One of the reasons for this is there has been little or no intake of apprentices over the last few years which is now starting to have a huge impact on the industry.
So, it is no surprise that the quality of newly built homes is in such a poor state. Unfortunately, it always comes down to the site team to implement and insist on quality, they should also have systems in place to monitor and improve it.
Quality control is so important to the finished home, there are others who also have a role to play in achieving the quality of the finished product, these are the warranty providers such as the NHBC, LABC and Premier Guarantee who are inspecting your new home.
We have already spoken about their role but let’s look at the warranty providers whether this is the NHBC, LABC, Premier or any other warranty provider. The length of time they spend inspecting your new home is approximately 1.40min in total spread over 5 key stage inspections. These inspections are built stage-specific, such as foundations, drainage, superstructure, pre-plaster and pre-handover, better known as CML.
It’s only at pre-handover that the inspector looks at the finished product including decoration, this is generally a walk around the house looking at the finish, heating systems, checking the benchmark certification etc, it is unfortunate that this is only a visual inspection, they do not carry out a thorough close inspection.
Why doesn’t the site team or NHBC pick up the snags in my new home?
This is a good question. Why do the site team or the warranty providers not pick up the defects in your new home and have them rectified before you take legal completion?
A reason for this is time, given more time your site manager could make a better job of your new home. Probably, but they will be under pressure from their senior management to complete houses within a set time frame which can be anywhere between 18 and 24 weeks or more.
I appreciate site managers are under pressure, I have been there both in their position and the one putting the pressure on them to produce their houses on time. However, this is no excuse for poor quality and a lack of attention to detail.
We need to take this a step further back from the site team and look at the procurement process and selection of sub-contractors. Everything comes down to price, it may not be the cheapest sub-contractors who are appointed but they will be expected to cut their costs during the selection process to win the job.
This will mean that at some point corners will be cut to recover some of the costs, which can lead to poor quality. This is where the site team need to be vigilant and put quality first inspecting every aspect of the build process to make sure no corners have been cut.
The site manager should have quality control checks in place. Having these checks in place is not a guarantee for getting a quality home at the end of the process, but it certainly helps. It does not matter how many quality checks are in place if the site manager has not got the time, knowledge, experience or drive to follow these through.
Attention to detail seems to be a factor missing in most new homes, as the little details are usually missed leaving the new homeowner with defects and disappointment.
The NHBC and HBF are quick to state that new homeowners are satisfied with their new homes, and 91% of new build homeowners are happy to recommend to a friend. Unfortunately, the survey questions are weighted in favour of the builder as they are all vying for 5-star status. What they should be concentrating on is giving their customers a quality product and not patting themselves on the back by achieving 5 stars.
So, to answer the question of why your new home has defects… time as well as business pressure on the site team, costs, knowledge, experience poor subcontractors all contribute. This is all whilst the site manager is having to deliver anywhere between 30 and 50 homes a year, which makes it near impossible to produce a new home without defects.
Over the past ten years, there has been an increase in the number of professional snagging companies. Whilst there is still no specific qualification to be a professional snagger these companies have a role to play in raising the standards and quality of newly buit homes.
It is not always fair to continually blame site managers for the quality of their new homes. There are a number of reasons which are out of their control such as:
- Unrealistic Build Programs
- Demands from senior management
- Shortage of materials
- Poor subcontractors
These are just some of the things site managers have to manage and deal with on a daily basis to achieve the completion of your new home.
We see this daily, as a professional snagging company it is our job to find snags, finding snags is easy, identifying the right defects that your developer will fix comes down to experience and knowledge of having worked in the industry for years.
It all starts with honest reporting as professional snaggers we have a responsibility to report the snags we find without inflating our reports with issues the developer is going to refuse to do. This has no value to anyone inflating a report just to make it look more impressive is nonsense and puts the customer in conflict with their site manager when he refuses to fix snags which are within the standards and tolerances.
What is important is for your developer to accept the report and rectify most of the issues raised. There are always going to be some issues the customer is happy to leave and an agreement with the site manager can be made.
How can a professional snagger help?
This is how professional snaggers can help raise the quality of new build homes for our customers.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. There are some developments where we snag their new homes. The site teams let us know they have been watching our youtube videos and other social media channels. This is really encouraging that the site teams are happy to discuss them with us and are proud that they have picked up and learnt from them.
As a professional snagging company this is fantastic because what we are starting to see is we are educating some site teams, not all as there will always be site teams who resent professional snaggers I can understand this but we are not the enemy.
This is sad because it is not in the best interest of their customer the new home buyer. Being in a position where we can help site teams raise the quality of new homes by highlighting snags they have missed has to help, after all this is why there has been a rise in professional snagging companies.
So, what are we going to do as a professional snagging company to help raise the standards, well this year we are going to be introducing a defects management training programme for site managers and assistant site managers.
Training and educating site teams to improve the quality of the homes they produce has to be our goal after all we are on the same side both aiming to give our customers the best possible home. This could eventually lead to new build home buyers not needing the services of a professional snagger. Will this happen, I doubt it but it sounds good.
The problem is we live in a greedy world, developers will still demand their numbers and site teams will be under tremendous pressure to deliver on the business goals.
We have to remember the government needs 300,000 new build homes a year, last year was the highest number developers have achieved with 250,000 new homes being built this is still 50,000 below what is required year on year.