The walkthrough, or new home orientation as it is sometimes called, is one of the most important phases in the construction of your new home. It is a time for you to meet with the builder and let him or his representatives acquaint you with your new home and all of its components. The walkthrough is also a time for you to give your new home the once over, looking for any construction issues not up to quality standards. Here is what could be considered the ideal walkthrough in detail.
Allow Enough Time
Allow ample time to go through your new home. In my experience an hour and a half to two hours is sufficient for average sized new homes. Also, leave any pets, kids, or curious friends and relatives at home. There will be plenty of time for them to experience and enjoy your new home in due time. The walkthrough is serious business and should be treated as such. Minimizing distractions is critical.
What to Bring
To ensure a successful walkthrough bring along several pens or pencils, a black permanent marker, a packet of neon green dots available at office supply stores, a pad of legal paper, some bottled water, and a ton of patience. Understand that everything might not be perfect once you start the walkthrough. It’s just the nature of home building that no matter how careful, the builder can’t catch everything. But, if you follow my advice, the builder and his employees will be in the position to get things corrected for you in a timely fashion.
The order of the walkthrough is not really important as long as everything gets covered. As you find items not up to standards, place one of the neon green stickers I suggested you bring on the item and write it down on your legal pad or a punchlist provided by the builder, or both if you feel it necessary. Green dots can mysteriously disappear but if you write it down it can’t be forgotten for long.
Things To Look For
Breaker Box and Electrical System
You will of course be tempted to head for the front door and bask in the glow of your fresh new home. But not so fast. Let’s cover some things in the garage first. The garage houses several important components of your new home and you should become familiar with them. The first item on the list is the breaker box. This is where the electricity that comes into your home is regulated. The walkthrough representative should show you where it is and how to operate it.
Make sure that each breaker has been clearly labeled for you. This will eliminate headaches down the road. Also, there should be some GFI outlets in the garage. Now is a great time for the walkthrough representative to test those in front of you, and to show you how they work. Also, make sure they test the GFI outlets inside the home when you get in there.
Hot Water Heater
Be sure to check the hot water heater. Make sure the size, measured in gallons, is what you contracted for. The walkthrough representative should show you how to turn it off so you will know how to when necessary. There are timers available for your hot water heater that can easily be installed that will save you some money on your electric bills. If your hot water heater comes with a timer, have the walkthrough representative show you how to set it.
The main water shutoff valve to the home will usually be located inside the garage or sometimes on the outside. The walkthrough representative may advise you to turn the water off if you will be leaving the home for days at a time. This is probably good advice, at least initially until you’ve lived in the home a while and made certain there are no leaky toilets or pipes.
If you do turn off your water, make sure that you also turn off the breaker for the hot water heater. The hot water heater has coils inside that can burn up if there is no water passing through. When you return home, it is very IMPORTANT to make sure you turn the water back on before turning the hot water heater back on.
Air Handler and Air Filter
The air handler, which distributes the heated or cooled air throughout your home, will usually be in the garage as well. Make sure the walkthrough representative opens the filter door to show you how to change the air filter. Using the black permanent marker, make note of the filter size in a conspicuous place on the front of the air handler. You should change the air filter about every month for best performance.
While you’re still in the garage, open and close the garage door to check for proper operation and make sure the remote controls work. If your garage door opener came with an outside keypad, ensure that it too works. In the event of a power outage you may need to open the garage door manually. Have the walkthrough representative show you how to do that.
Once inside the home, the best place to usually start is the kitchen because there is so much to cover there. Make sure that there are no scratches on the kitchen countertops or cabinets. Open and close a random selection of cabinet doors to make sure they are working properly. Make sure the hinges are tight, and the cabinets aren’t sticking or rubbing against anything as you are opening and closing them. The representative should give you care and cleaning instructions for both your counters and your cabinets.
Turn on the kitchen faucet and set it to the hottest setting. Here we are checking to make sure that the hot water heater is working properly. As long as you’ve got hot water after what you feel is a reasonable length of time, you’re doing just fine. Have the walkthrough representative show you how the sink disposal works, and how to clear it if it gets clogged. Also have them show you where the individual shutoff valve is for the water in the kitchen as well as the locations of the GFI outlets.
Examine the appliances that came with your home. First, examine the outside of them to make sure there are no scratches or dents. Accidents do happen during construction, but assuming you bought new appliances, and not scratch-and-dent specials, they should be in brand new condition. Turn the stovetop on, check that the burners are working, and then try heating the oven. Assuming everything is working thus far, start the dishwasher to run through a cycle. This is to mainly make sure that there are no leaks in the dishwasher, either when it fills or when it drains.
While the dishwasher is running do a quick check of the refrigerator. If there are integrated ice and or water controls in your refrigerator make sure they work. Don’t use the first batch or two of ice; just discard it in the sink. Also, most manufacturers suggest running through and pouring out the first couple of gallons of water from the refrigerator. This is to make sure that the water line becomes clear of any debris that may have gotten inside during construction and installation.
If your home came with a microwave, also check to make sure it works. In the laundry room, start both the washer and the dryer if provided and make sure they are working correctly. Make sure the dryer vent hose is connected.
All of the appliance instructions and warranty information should be kept in one easy-to-access location. Some of them may have cards for you to fill out and mail in to the manufacturer to record your warranty.
Drywall and Flooring
Before leaving the kitchen, examine the flooring for quality. Also check the walls for any drywall imperfections and check the paint for any spots the painter may have missed. As you see things that don’t meet your standards, write them down on the list and place a green dot on or near the problem area. This is so that the drywallers or painters know exactly where to look to correct the problem areas.
Continue your flooring and wall inspection throughout the remainder of the home. Don’t forget to look up every now and then and inspect the ceilings.
Systems and Components
As you are going through the home, have your representative show you how various things work, such as how to set and control the thermostat, how to use the security system and intercom if there is one, and how to operate the central vacuum if you bought one. If your home has a fireplace, whether it is wood burning, gas, or electric, have the walkthrough representative show you how it works. Make sure you are given instruction booklets on each of these items and that you place them with your appliance booklets.
Visit the bathrooms and check that the plumbing works. Again turn on the hot water, then the cold water to check the functioning of each. Be sure to check the showers and baths, as well as the sink. Water lines sometimes get reversed. Hot will be cold, and cold will be hot, but this can be easily corrected. Flush the toilets and make sure they have adequate water flow and don’t remain running long after you flush. Check the tile work inside the showers to make sure that there are no holes or gaps in the grout or caulking. You don’t want water getting behind your tile in there. Examine the vanity tops for scratches and cabinets for loose hinges.
Be sure to inspect the outside of your home as well. The walkthrough representative should familiarize you with where the hose bibs are located, the sewer cleanout, the A/C unit and anything else that is important. Make sure all of the exterior walls of the home are evenly painted, and do an inspection from ground level of the roof to make sure there are no shingles that look loose or out of place. If your home comes with a sprinkler system, you should be shown how to operate that.
After you feel you’ve examined the home top to bottom and have made note of anything that is not satisfactory, you should have the walkthrough representative go over any warranty paperwork that is given to you, so you have an understanding of what items in the home are covered and for how long. Most warranty plans cover most everything for a short period of time, usually the first year. The systems of the home, things like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, will be covered for a little bit longer, maybe up to two or three years.
There will also be a warranty on the structure. This is the longest lasting component of the warranty. When you hear a builder say a ten-year warranty or 15-year warranty, they are referring to the warranty on the structure. The structure is usually deemed to include the foundation and footings, beams, lintels, columns, walls, roof framing systems and flooring systems.
When things settle down a little bit and you have some time, it can never hurt to read over all of the warranty information. This will help you feel more comfortable with the warranty claim and repair process should you ever need to go through it in the future.
The walkthrough representative will usually give you a list of subcontractors who worked on your home so you can call them if you have a problem with something. You should also be sure that you have a list of repair people to contact should an emergency arise on a weekend or during any non-business hours.
These people should include the heating and A/C contractor should the heat or air break; the electrical contractor if you lose power due to something other than a loss of overall power from the power company; the plumber for if your hot water heater breaks or if there is a sewer stoppage; and finally the number for the roofer if you get a roof leak. I also recommend having the number for a 24-hour water extraction company handy, just in case a pipe breaks or a water heater bursts and your home is flooded.
Write all of these numbers down on one piece of paper and tape them to the inside of a cabinet so that you can find them easily in an emergency.
Sign Here Please
To conclude the walkthrough, the walkthrough representative will typically have paperwork for you to sign stating that he walked you through and familiarized you with everything in the home, and that all the workmanship was satisfactory. Just make sure that the items you found to be unsatisfactory are either on this paperwork or will be attached to it in some form or fashion.
It is not absolutely critical that these items all be completed before your closing, so long as they are documented as needing repair. Invariably in the days and weeks after you move in, you will find more items needing the builder’s attention. Just write all these items down as you find them and bring them to the builder’s attention.
It has been a long process but now you are all set to enjoy what you have longed for, a beautiful new home in Florida.