Homes are the single largest investments families across The United States make on a daily basis. However, to some builders, maximizing their profits is the driving force behind their motivation. This odd but scary fact is amplified when savvy clients do their due diligence, ask the right question, and use common sense to avoid shady, cheap builders, and choose a builder like True Built Home instead to build their future investment and the place they call home. So, where are some builders cutting corners to make higher margins on your hard-earned money?
Rebar in the foundation
It might shock you to know that some very high profile on your lot builders in the Spokane area do not use rebar for foundations that are 4 ft or shorter on their single-story (Ramblers) homes in much of Eastern Washington. As one Spokane County plans examiner said, “I would not recommend that”, and neither do we. Typically, not using rebar can save a builder between $1,800-3,000 per home. Much of this is due to the seismic activity, or tectonic plates, large-scale movement of plates below the surface of the earth. In layman’s terms, we haven’t had many earthquakes so you don’t have to use rebar. However, even if the earth doesn’t move, load on a house, say in a corner, can put added force on a foundation causing cracks, sagging, and costly repairs in the future. ON BRAND NEW HOMES!
Actually, cracks in concrete are natural and are to be anticipated. That’s where rebar comes in. The steel reinforces the concrete, holding it together, instead of it simply falling away. One of our foundation crew here in Spokane simply said, “I will never do a foundation for builder “X” because I don’t want the liability in the future”.
When visiting with a builder, you need to request actual proof that their foundation plans call out rebar in both the footing and stem walls.
The frost line
What is a frost line? Here is a link for Spokane City and County. Essentially, due to the freezing conditions in Eastern Washington, code requires that a minimum of 24 inches in depth be cut before you can pour a foundation unless otherwise stipulated (such as flood areas). The frost line – also known as frost depth or freezing depth – is most commonly the depth to which groundwater in the soil is expected to freeze. When water freezes under the ground it causes “Frost Heave”.
The diagram above warrants your attention, especially when a builder sets the start of the foundation right at the minimum requirement. Combine that with a lack of enough or any rebar in a foundation and you can understand why we said, “alarming” in our article.
True Built Home in the Spokane area uses a 6″ x 12″ footing, steel-reinforced, with a 22-24″ stem wall. In total, your foundation wall will be 28-30″ in height (requiring that the excavation be dug normally 4-6″ inches deeper) compared to the builder who only has a combined total wall height of 24″, or the bare minimum. 24″ wall, no rebar, sleepless nights, and the potential of costly repairs in the future should alarm you.
Heating and cooling your home
Sometime back, Washington adjusted the energy codes for all counties. As a result, they raised the bar for the efficiency of hot water tanks and heating/cooling (HVAC) of homes. In a nutshell, a builder is awarded credits for several different methods he chooses to reach the code in order to be issued a building permit. For example, the type of hot water tank, the thickness of insulation, heel trusses, HVAC products, and many others. So, the builder chooses how to achieve that method.
When the code changed sometime back, we wrote an article about it. You can reference it here. Here’s the rub: 1 ductless unit will get the builder the same amount of credits as a full heat pump furnace package! So, why do some builders use an inferior approach to heating and cooling the entire home? Because it saves the builder thousands of dollars. Sure, if your home is 1,500 sq. ft. or smaller, these are great units and that’s what we use for our smaller homes. However, if you have a 2,000 sq. ft. two-story or rambler home and you want cooling in say the back-half of the home, or upstairs, be prepared to shell out thousands of dollars for an additional second or even a third ductless unit.
True Built Home uses heat pumps and full furnaces in every branch in all homes 1,500 sq. ft. and above. On our ramblers, we run the venting in the ceilings of rooms. This keeps construction debris from accumulating, having the plenum in the attic allows for additional insulation value, and not hanging it under the joist in the foundation crawlspace avoids any dampness due to flooding or bad weather.
Every home that True Built Home builds has been engineered. What does that mean, and how do some builders say they do, but they are just bending words? Most homes built today have engineered scissors trusses. So, the factory, vendor, or supplier who builds those trusses sends a stamped set of plans of your truss package that have been engineered by the company that supplied the trusses. This applies to the floor system or floor joist. They are required to create a plan of the joist and stamp the plan as engineered.
However, what about the interior and exterior walls? What about the load on window and door headers? Some counties do not require it. As a result, a builder with a slick marketing machine can say tongue-in-cheek, “Our homes are engineered”, because the trusses and the joist are but, the final third of the home is not. In effect, they are saving themselves around $1,500-1,600 on a 2,500 sq. ft. home. So, while they may be giving you triple pane windows (about $200 more for an entire home), they are holding back on what we consider causing sleepless nights as a builder and for a client. When homes are cheaper, there is a reason.
If homes are similar in price, but lacking critical items, such as rebar, engineering, or efficient means of heating and cooling your home, then why choose an inferior and fearful product for you and or your family? What would happen if years after you built with builder “X” and it was reported that their homes are failing, and you wanted to sell it? It would be like what happened when the Louisiana Pacific siding failure happened and people with their siding packages were stuck trying to sell their home at a reduced price, or never selling the home, dealing with a warranty, paperwork, scheduling, etc. As one person said, “the cheapest person always pays the most”.
True Built Home has always built homes with the concept that we would live in our homes, worry-free. Do your research. Be savvy. Ask hard questions and obtain proof. When you do, True Built Home will rise to the top of your home building choices.
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