New homeowner at odds with builder
Q: We purchased a newly built home and are nearing the end of our one-year warranty. We've got some concerns about the condition of the property, but the builder always downplays the issues we point out. Our main concern is a crack in the concrete porch.
The builder says he will seal the crack when it gets bigger. Our concern is that an enlarged crack, even one that is patched, is not an attractive or acceptable aspect of a new home. Is it fair to demand replacement of the porch?
A: The answer to this question depends largely upon the nature of the crack. Hairline cracks in concrete pavement are normal. In fact, they are so common as to be expected to some degree in most cases.
Hairline cracks are caused by normal shrinkage when the concrete hardens and also to common expansion and contraction of the soil beneath the pavement due to temperature changes. Whether cracks can be expected to enlarge significantly depends upon whether steel reinforcement was installed when the concrete was poured, whether the soil was adequately compacted, and whether rock and gravel base material was installed, rather than pouring the concrete directly onto the soil.
If you disagree with the builder as to the need for major or minor repairs, it would be advisable to have the porch evaluated by a licensed paving contractor, other than the one who actually performed the existing installation. It is also recommended you have the entire property thoroughly inspected by a qualified home inspector. An experienced inspector will discover defects that are not readily apparent and that the builder will be required to repair before the one-year warranty expires.
Q: How do I check thermal pane windows to make sure the seals are still intact?
I've noticed moisture condensation between some of the dual panes and plan to have them replaced under the manufacturer's warranty. The manufacturer, however, has asked me to list all the windows that are defective. The condensation is obvious at three windows, but I suspect problems at others. I've heard that window seals can be tested by holding an ice cube against the glass. Does this sound plausible?
A: Applying an ice cube to a dual pane window will cause visible moisture condensation only if there is moisture present between the panes. If a dual pane seal has leaked in the past and all the moisture has since evaporated, then the application of ice will do no good.
However, dual pane windows that have leaked and then dried out always have residual water stains on the inside surfaces of the glass. Sometimes, these stains are very faint and difficult to see. But, when light is projected onto the glass at an acute angle, it is usually possible to discern the stains, particularly if this is done at night.
Fortunately, some window manufacturers have lifetime warranties, enabling you to make future claims if other window seals should leak. Check with the maker of your windows to determine the duration of its warranty.
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