I am looking for some insight regarding a potential new construction home purchase - hoping to get expertise and perspective from experienced folks on this forum.
Some background … I am a first-time homebuyer and not in the construction industry - thus I have relatively little understanding of structural practices or lingo. I am trying to get an understanding of the risk involved and ultimately whether I should “walk away” from this particular home/sub-division.
The builder is Richmond American Homes, a large national builder. The specific project is located near Seattle (seismic risks). I noticed that the builder has a number of complaints posted from angry buyers online (BBB and dept of consumer affairs websites) about construction quality issues, including some that would be considered “major.” For example, cracking foundation resulting in basement floods, major visible cracking of interior walls, leaky roofs, etc. However, given that it is a large national builder, I don’t have a good feel for what % of the homes these ~60 complaints (over the past 5 years) really represents.
The sub-division I am interested in is currently in the early stages of construction. I just went to the site and the City inspector was there. So I picked his brain and here is what I learned:
He said the construction was following plans and meeting minimum code. He didn’t express concern over the quality of the sub-contractors work, but did express some hesitation about the quality of the design they were building to.
Two-story stick-built house. 2,000 sqft.
Framing: 24" center on stud, with a single top plate.
Main floor has Joist supports. Second Floor has truss supports.
Foundation: Crawl space design. Footers with foundation walls.
Foundation walls are 4" thick and vertical re-bar is spaced 4 feet apart. (he said this was pretty far relative to what he normally sees)
- Foundation interior uses walls rather than posts with support footers.
The inspector said that although it meets code, he feels that the combination of “light framing”, “sparse rebar”, and use of a single top plate all point to a fairly “cheap design.” He didn’t seem confident that it could withhold a 6.8-earthquake.
Given this impression, and the fact that this is a larger national “production” builder (profit over quality), and the seismic risks, does this sound like trouble in the making? What sort of risks would be incurred/exacerbated by use of the the design features described above?
I’m struggling with the fact that it meets local code, and I would think/hope that code has a decent “margin of safety” built into it to ensure that the structural integrity is not compromised.
Some perspective is appreciated. What would you all do? Are there any other questions on design I should ask the inspector to help arrive at an answer?
I would appreciate help!