What is new build settlement?
If you have bought a new build property and find that your site manager is mentioning 'settlement' or tells you "not to worry about 'shrinkage' cracks", then this blog will hopefully be of help to you. We explain the difference between shrinkage and settlement, why it occurs and what to look out for.
'Settlement' from a building surveying point of view technically lasts for 10 years, although on a practical basis you should only really notice the signs within the first 12 months after completion.
Shrinkage can however show signs in other places such as cracks in your brickwork / mortar outside. It can also cause floor tiles to crack (mainly upstairs). This is often why the Sales or Site team will suggest against laying tiles upstairs, as they are less durable to cope with the movement of the house.
We would therefore recommend laying a temporary floor surface material in your bathroom such as lino down and then waiting a year before changing to tiles.
What is shrinkage?
Shrinkage is due to the construction materials drying out. As shown in this video, shrinkage cracks often run along the top of walls rather than at openings, at a constant width no less than 2mm. As these 'wet' construction materials (plaster, mortar and concrete) contain a lot of water, it usually takes several months for the shrinkage cracks to occur. Allowing for ventilation (trickle vents) in the property help this drying out period.
So, with this being said, what does the builder have to do? The answer is that it depends what severity the crack is. According to the BRE, anything less than 5mm is considered minor (cosmetic). The NHBC have a similar stance on this and advise that anything less than 2mm is not of a concern. To check this during our snagging survey we use a crack guage ruler and our photographs are date stamped to monitor if the crack grows.
For more information about cracking, a useful document provided by the NHBC is here. Also feel free to get in touch with us if you have any concerns over cracks appearing in your home that may be beyond settlement.
Choosing between snagging companies
Making the decision to choose between snagging companies is difficult at first glance as some companies replicate what we have achieved over the past 5 years developing our snagging survey process. The most important questions to ask yourself before booking a snagging company are the following:
The most common misconception when booking a snagging survey is that we all do the same thing and are all qualified surveyors. This is far from the truth. Even a RICS chartered surveyor cannot offer you the level of service that we provide. But the problem occurs when customers choose to employ certain snagging companies that are cheaper. At face value it seems that we are earning more money from the snagging survey than our cheaper counterparts but as a nationwide company we actually will earn less, in part because of VAT and insurance etc.
We want to ensure that you choose the best snagging company for your new build property so it is important that you choose the best service and not the best price. An un-qualified snagging inspector is quite frankly more likely to miss important issues. For more information about the service we provide, see our webpage why choose us.
What is the new build snagging period?
It depends between developers, however generally speaking the snagging period can be split into 2 sections: within the first 2 months and then before the end of 2 years...
2 month snagging period
It is important to raise your snagging list with the builder within the 2 months of completion because it is in line with the HBF survey deadline. The HBF survey is a scheme most of the larger developers operate as it independently determines customer satisfaction in questions such as "would you recommend your builder to a friend?". The responses to this question alone ultimately determines how many stars they are awarded and display on their flags you see when entering the site!
So, with this in mind the reason the 2 month period is important is because the site team will typically be attentive to your snag list in haste of the HBF satisfaction survey landing on your doorstep. The sales and site team are rewarded for good responses so it is in their best interests that you score them well!
Typically after the survey expires or has been completed, the site team may not be as attentive to minor issues. This is why we slightly change the way we raise snags on our reports after 2 months of completion; focusing on more important (deemed 'out of tolerance') snagging issues rather than cosmetic.
2 year snagging period
There is a second HBF survey that is sent out to customers at 9 months after completion, but interestingly these findings are not published. With this in mind, it is now the 2 year snagging period that's important to consider. Developers provide a 2 year warranty for defects that are deemed out out tolerance, classed by the NHBC / LABC etc.
This is why our company offer a full package which includes an initial snagging survey and then a follow up inspection around 18 months down the line (as well as other benefits such as a thermal heat loss survey)... Both the <2 month and then <2 year surveys are carried out with the realistic expectation of what your developer will be willing to do at these 2 stages.
10 year warranty
After the 2 year period, you would need to raise a dispute with the NHBC / LABC / (other) directly but they will only be willing to investigate more major issues. Approximately 70% of the claims made with the NHBC are roofing issues, to illustrate this point.
The NHBC / other do check your property at various stages during the build as they are there to ensure that building regulations have been adhered to, but they do not pay attention to the quality of finish... which is where a snagging survey is so important.
For more information about the snagging periods and what sort of survey would be best for your property, call our office and we'd be happy to discuss!
As well as being qualified building surveyors, our HomeSnag surveyors are also qualified Building Thermographers. This is important because the majority of surveyors using a thermal camera are not trained to understand when or how to use a thermal camera properly. They may miss issues or likewise misdiagnose something due to not following the necessary procedures.
As a rule to ensure that the correct temperature difference (inside vs outside) is achieved, we only carry out thermographic heat loss surveys during the months between November-February.
The most common heat loss faults with new build houses relate to either draughts or improperly installed insulation. Insulation is found both in the loft and in the cavity of external walls. The cavity wall insulation can range from rigid panels that are built up, or it can be blown in. We use professional thermal cameras and borescope cameras to check for any cavity insulation issues and we spend time in the loft ensuring it has been laid properly. Often in the loft, tradesman carrying out work to ducting and electrics move the insulation aside or it simply hasn't been cross laid to prevent air pockets. It is surprising how little of a gap in either the loft or cavity wall will be noticeable to a homeowner.
Whilst the winter months will lead to the majority of customers calling us to report issues, the effects of poor cavity wall insulation can actually be felt in the summer months too. The reason for this is that the purpose of cavity wall insulation is to stop air flow. So in summer months, a lack of cavity wall insulation will not prevent the warm air from transferring outside indoors to the cooler air... this is simply nature's way of wanting to return to an equilibrium. So if you have one room that is uncomfortably warmer in the summer months, it may be a sign of poor cavity wall insulation because it is too easily finding that equilibrium through the walls.
An example of both missing cavity wall insulation and loft insulation are provided below from one of our reports carried out this year by our snagger Alex. If you would like us to carry out a thermal heat loss survey on your new-build house, click below to check availability. You can choose us to carry out the survey on its own (suitable if you have been in your new build house for more than a year) or as part of the full package if you have recently moved in.
Today our snagging surveyor Alex highlighted an important shortfall in the loft of this new build house. It is a great example of how important it is to employ an experienced surveyor to snag your new build house, as this is something no homeowner would know to look for and of course it has just been missed by the site and warranty inspections.
Couple move into £225,000 dream home - only to find nearly 200 snags
Increasingly, new snagging companies attempt to copy our service and it is important to consider the difference in what we offer as qualified professionals. Our surveyors are qualified in building thermography, meaning we know what to look for and also what to dismiss. Without the knowledge we have, you are unlikely to receive the same sort of service and unfortunately get misleading advice. For example, most of our competitors that have attempted to copy our service are offering to conduct thermal heat loss checks throughout the year, whereas the correct ambient temperatures are needed to see results which is why we only conduct thermal heat loss checks in the winter months, either as part of a stand alone inspection or as part of the full package.
With HomeSnag you have the reassurance of a reputable company with qualified professionals so please ensure you don't choose an unqualified person to attend your house!
Whilst it is rare for a snagging inspection to find major structural issues, recently a Persimmon customer that moved in just 2 years ago had part of their house collapse during the night. It goes to show the poor quality that can go unnoticed by a non-professional. Read more about this story using the link below:
With the financial deadlines for most builders being June and December, the summer is our busiest time of year as plots are often handed over to clients in a dreadful state.
Here are just a handful of pictures taken over the past couple of months by several of our snagging inspectors to demonstrate the array of varying issues we have found
A Snaggers Blog
HomeSnag inspectors are experts at inspecting new-build houses. This blog shares real examples to demonstrate the importance of getting your new build house or apartment snagged professionally
"I always insist that there is specific provision for snagging," says Thomas Moran, partner at law firm Speechly Bircham. "Reputable developers do this anyway, but there are all sorts in the market, some big, some small, so you need a contractual promise than within, say, a year they will come back to remedy any minor defects in the finishing."
read full article here