PAGE 2 SKCriON 8A I)AII.YMKRAI.I) SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2008 What to expect from your builder during construction Buying a new home is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Knowing what to look for in the way of quality minimizes the risk. In many ways, choosing a new home is similar to choosing a new car. You consider the reputation of the brand, the car's style and design, the quality of components and workmanship, and the customer service and warranty. When buying a house, you'll need to determine if your builder is reputable and uses solid interior and exterior design, sound construction materials and techniques, and knows what constitutes superior service. Quality in a car includes materials like an aluminum engine, leather seats and triple-coated finish. You'll also look at how the car is put together. Is the gap around the hood uniform? Are the doors solid? Is everything on the undercarriage secure? None of these things will matter for the first few months, but shoddy materials and workmanship will reveal themselves a year'or two down the road. It's the same with new homes. When it comes to building materials, Al Bloom, president of Bloom and Fiorino, Inc., architects in Oak Brook, believes quality windows and doors are essential. "Windows and doors are basically holes in the building and have to be sealed properly," he said. "Better quality windows are double or triple- paned and have low-e insulation." While recognizable door and window brands are some indication of quality, many experienced builders opt for less-expensive non-name brands that perform as well. A solid indicator of quality is the air infiltration rate — which buyers can ask their builders about. As in most products and services, details are important. Even though you might not be able to determine quality techniques by looking at your home as it's being built, the condition of the job site is an indicator of the builder's care. "It's important to see how the site is run," said Jana Hester, production manager for Wheaton-based home builder Wiseman-Hughes Enterprises. "Are the fixtures, such as bathtubs, protected? Is it broom clean? Is debris at a minimum? How do the lots look? Are the dumpsters overflowing? How is the builder managing the job site?" A good builder will meet with you at the site well before the home is finished. You should be able to inspect the structure before it is insulated and drywalled, so that you can see structural elements before they are covered. These inspections can disclose an option that was missed or one that was put in by mistake. They also indicate the construction quality. "If you are walking through a home before it is dry-walled, look for signs of recent water — a stress crack in the foundation wall or water dripping through and around flashings and plywood decks," said Don Zierer, Wiseman-Hughes' director of field operations. "A pool of water in the basement needs to be explained." All of the sealant that stops drafts, fires and air infiltration should be there before the drywall and insulation are in, so check to be sure that there is sealant around all windows and doors, Zierer said. You shouldn't be able to see any light coming in through wall surfaces or where walls join openings. "In a nutshell, look for water and light," Zierer said. While it may be difficult to inspect the lumber, "Grade 3" lumber is inferior and not acceptable for home construction. If you see any lumber stamped with this grade, point it out to the builder. Also, if you see a strip of bark on the lumber that is more than a quarter-inch wide, bring this up. Bark tends to degrade lumber. There should also be a minimum of nails and staples exposed. Expect an orientation walk- through well before closing. The builder's representative should go over everything in the house and show you how everything works. The representative will work with a checklist and note anything that is out of place, from a scratch on a countertop to the wrong carpet color. Finally, your local building inspector is your friend. Most municipalities conduct a series of rigorous inspections on every new home before it's completed. Wiseman-Hughes is a family-owned business that has been building homes in the Chicago suburbs for 50 years. Current communities include: The Plaza on New York in Aurora; Randall Highlands in North Aurora; The Ponds of Sycamore; Devon- aire Farms in DeKalb; Windett Ridge in Yorkville; and Ashcroft Place and Ashcroft Walk in Oswego. For more information, visit www.Wise- manHughes.com. 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