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The Definitive Snag List Generator... 2

Here are some excellent ideas provided by David O'Laughlin. Inspecting your house guided by both these pages should hopefully be some help to everyone.

Again, it's long so consider printing rather than reading.


Hi Louis

My name is David O’Loughlin and I live in Telford (near Birmingham), England. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your website! I read every word and found myself nodding all the way through (nodding with agreement - not nodding off to sleep you understand).

I have had some interesting experiences with house builders over the past couple of years because my various employers seemed to want to move me around a lot. Over the last four years I have conducted the ‘Personal inspection’ of four brand new properties, two were ours and two were for [different] friends...one friend said he specifically wanted me to do it because he said I was "pedantic but thorough". Just to put you in the picture I work as a Hydraulic Engineer - an industrial profession which, when they let me out of the office, gives me some sort of pseudo-informed opinion on structures, mechanisms, wiring and plumbing.

From what I’ve read on your website, building practices in Ireland are pretty much the same as they are in England (lets face it, Ireland is where 99% of ‘English’ builders were born). I’m not trying to be disrespectful in any way and I’m sure that, compared with the alternative, buying a house off a builder is the cheapest way of putting a roof over your family’s collective heads. But, do you ever feel that the builders deliberately leave a few things undone so that, when you do the inspection, there will be something for you to notice and then you will kid yourself you’ve done a good job? I took a peek at a neighbour’s snag list once and all that was on it (for a whole four bedroom house) was that a screw cap was missing from one of the kitchen cupboards!!! Oh to live a life where one can be so easily contented...I’m jealous, really I am.

Anyway here are my tips that you might like to add to your excellent Snag List Generator

Kitchens

Check that the floor tiles are square to the walls and the cupboards

Check that the cupboards themselves are square to the room (remember there are three ways in which they can be out - (1) twisted around a vertical axis, (2) tipping forwards/backwards or (3) leaning to the left/right.

Check the work surfaces are level - they won’t be because nothing ever is but take along an egg (not a technical term for an obscure industrial measuring tool but the oval object that comes from a hen’s rear) Why? ...well the builder will try to belittle your attempts to show him that the worksurface isn’t level by saying it’s close enough for "accepted building standards". For me the proof is that if the egg won’t stay where you leave it on the worksurface then the level is just not acceptable - this is a kitchen after all and eggs will be expected not to gather themselves onto the floor when you turn your back.

If you get a built-in oven in your new house then put your spirit level actually on the shelf in the oven - if the shelf isn’t exactly level (front-to-back and side-to-side) then you can’t bake a decent sponge cake and your wife (if she bakes) will make your life hell or (worse still) stop baking cakes.

If there are spaces under the worksurface for you to put your own refrigerator, washing machine etc. then check that the space is no less than 600mm wide for the entirety of the height of the hole - measure down between the skirting and the wall unit if the space is at the end. Don’t accept it if its 599mm or less because 600 mm is the required distance - even if your current washing machine will fit in a 580mm gap what about the next one? Zanussi washing machines are 599mm wide...I know this for a fact because I was having to tear out the skirting board while the removal men were trying to heave the washing machine towards me because the wife didn’t want it stuck in the middle of the kitchen.

Look under the cupboards at how the water pipes etc. have been brought in through the floor - have the builders left a gap big enough for a mouse to crawl through (in or out)?

Airing Cupboard

(is this what you call a hot press?)

Is there a door handle on the inside? (don’t want the kids locking themselves in there)

Hot water tanks weigh a hell of a lot when they’re full - does it look like its adequately supported underneath? - get on your hands and knees and look (use a torch) sometimes the wooden ‘shelf’ they use is a bit of scrap stuff installed best side up and underneath it can be seen that its split right through, or de-laminated or lacerated with saw cuts.

Get a friend to turn one of the hot taps on full and then off again very quickly - does the heat exchanger coil inside the tank rattle? (it shouldn’t)

Central heating

Check for leaks on radiators, check that the thermostatic valves are on the inlet side of the radiators. If the system is already running when you turn up to inspect then turn it off - let the radiators go cold while you inspect some other things - turn off all the radiator valves and then turn the heating system on again. Check that the thermostatic valve end of the radiator gets hot first when you turn on each radiator.

Check that the radiators are installed level (although they can be ever so slightly raised at one end) - if they are higher at one end then check that this is the end with the air bleed on.

Check that the radiators are securely mounted on their brackets, often the builders rush things and install the brackets before the plaster is strong enough to take the load - give the radiators a shove side-to-side and front to back while looking behind them to see if the radiator is moving in the bracket (it should be free to move a little) of if the bracket is moving against the wall (no no no).

Check the radiators for dents, patches of rust, cross threaded valves and sharp burrs on valves, air bleeds etc. where the plumber’s spanner slipped off the nut. Also check that the lockshield valve covers are not split. Check for redundant holes in the floor.

Now for the smaller bedrooms it is very important to check that you can get a full size bed in without it having to press up against the radiator. In one house we had, the smallest bedroom was supposedly 6’2" wide but when measured up for a carpet turned out to be just 5’11 wide..."so what?" you’re thinking. I complained to the builder that the room was too small and he just said that internal walls were placed to a tolerance of plus or minus three inches. But, I added, 6’2" is wide enough to get a bed in and 5’11" isn’t! In this instance the bed couldn’t go the other way round because of the position of the radiator. Being a reasonable builder he agreed to reposition the radiator rather than reposition the wall.

Attic

Take some steps with you - you might find the builder is not helpful enough to provide steps because he doesn’t want you to look in there. Take a torch as well.

If you have a mains powered smoke alarm fitted to the upstairs ceiling then you might want to peek under the insulation to see how well the alarm has been wired up - a strip connector (with or without insulating tape) is not acceptable, there should be a proper enclosure cut into the ceiling over which the smoke alarm sits and within which the mains connections are made. I love that one because the builders always get it wrong.

Look around for holes in the felt, broken roof trusses, and excessive gaps between the brickwork/roof - turn the torch off and look for daylight. Also look for incomplete cross bracing (one house - mine - had the cross bracing cut right through by the plumber because it obscured the roof tile with the vent in it and he wanted to fit the duct from the bathroom extractor fan.) Ask the builder to move all the rubbish out as well.

Doors and windows

I find that these can be a nightmare - perhaps I’m easily frightened. Check that the door/window frame is square, vertical and that it is not at too acute an angle with the ceiling (ideally the top of the frame should be parallel to the ceiling but we live in hope)

For doors there should be an even gap around the sides and top of the door when it’s in its frame (closed). The size of the gap should be about 3mm. The door should also be reasonably flush in the frame all round when viewed from either side (from each of the two rooms the door separates) Then the fun starts. With the door closed, try to pull it open without turning the handle (if the gap is too big and the locks are too shoddy then the door will pull open). Push and pull the door with it still closed - it shouldn’t rattle in its frame. Open the door and make sure that at whatever angle you leave it...it stays put - it shouldn’t open itself further and it shouldn’t start to close by itself. Now push the door closed without turning the handle - If you feel a definite increased resistance to movement just before it closes then the door is binding on the hinges (it shouldn’t). Carry on pushing and the door should close and the bolt should just click into the keeper plate - now pull it again to make sure that it shut properly. Check that the builder hasn’t taken a file to the bolt to make it fit into the keeper plate - if the fit is so tight that a file can make a difference then when the door grows (in the damp weather) the door won’t fit properly again - it also looks unsightly

The gap beneath the door should be about 10mm - this is so that if you decide not to fit carpets then the gap is adequate. If you do have carpets then you have to expect to trim the doors yourself (how can the builder know how thick your carpets will be?) However, you can only trim about 20mm off the bottom of a door before the internal honeycomb is exposed - this 20mm cutting allowance is for YOU not for the builder. On one house I had, the builder made one door frame a little too short and used up 19mm of the planing allowance in order to get the door to fit. When I tried to trim the bottom of the door to clear the newly fitted carpet I put my fingers straight through the tissue paper thickness of lath that he left me even before I got the door onto the workbench. When I complained he accused ME of ‘overplaning the door’. Moral: if you can’t plane the door to fit a reasonable thickness carpet (plus underlay) then it’s the builder that got it wrong because he didn’t leave YOU the necessary allowance.

Check for paint on the handles - if you try to get it off then the lacquer comes off as well and it’s your fault - so ask the builder to get the paint off and then when he damages the lacquer it’s his fault.

A lot of the above notes on doors also applies to windows - except the stuff about trimming for carpets and the gaps underneath. Its worth checking that the windows don’t rattle when closed though.

Outside

Take a pair of binoculars and look for broken/chipped roof tiles and for cracked pointing in the gullies and the eaves. Look for unfilled holes in the mortar where the scaffolding was attached to the wall. Look for cracked/broken/burst bricks.

The bricks might be covered with mortar on their decorative faces, or concrete splashes, or big green stains where the labourer dropped a bag of cement - ask the builder to clean it off, he’ll say it will come off with the first frost and then you have to say something like " OK, but if we have a frost and the stuff doesn’t come off then you better get your men here with their bucket of brick acid but please tell them not to swill their bucket out on the lawn because it kills the grass and it never grows again in the polluted areas" - well that’s what I’d have said if I knew then what I know now.

This is turning into rather a long E-Mail so I’ll close now, I do have other anecdotes if you’re interested but I don’t want to bore you with them if they’re not really your thing. Anyway, best wishes and keep up the good work. Your feeling for two shamrocks reminds me of an expression of disapproval I’ve often heard...Two cheers for the Boss! (or whoever). One cheer would be good, three cheers would be very good but somehow ‘two’ cheers doesn’t seem quite as good as either of them.

Regards

David O'Loughlin

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