Homes are the single largest investment 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 questions 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 do not use rebar, or use the absolute bare minimum in their single story (rambler) homes in much of Eastern Washington. Typically, not using rebar can save a builder between $1800-3000 per home. Much of this is due to the seismic activity, or tectonic plates and 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 additional force on a foundation causing cracks. Actually, cracks in concrete is natural and is to be anticipated. That’s where rebar comes in. The steal reinforces the concrete, holding it together, instead of it simply falling away.
- 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 sufficient 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 6″ inches deeper) compared to the builder who only has a combined total wall height of 24″, or the bare minimum.
- 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 nut shell, a builder is awarded credits for the number of 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, not you when you order their standard home. 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 larger 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 from another builder. True Built Home has uses heat pumps and full furnaces on 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.