What are the Most Important Questions to Ask a Builder Prior to New Home Construction?

Building a home is one of the biggest financial commitments you and your family will ever make. With all the horror stories surrounding the building industry it’s important you are asking the right questions before selecting your Waukesha home builder. Below, our Muskego custom home builders have provided the top questions you should ask before moving forward with a new home construction builder.

1. What is the exterior wall construction?

Although there are several different theories on this topic, 2×4 with foam vs. 2×6 with OSB, it is proven that in Wisconsin a 2×6 wall with solid OSB sheathing is better to withstand the Wisconsin winds, plus the OSB will hold siding better over time.

2. Is the home ENERGY STAR® Certified?

Would you buy a new appliance that is not ENERGY STAR® certified? Probably not, because it is inferior. The same goes for new homes, especially when building a new home. The fact is, a certified home is 3rd party tested to make sure it’s performing optimally, and that all components including insulation, HVAC, bath fans, caulking and windows are installed properly.

3. What is the home builders’ warranty?

The most common phrase is that there is a “standard 1 year warranty”. Who stands behind that warranty in the event that something happens to your new home or if the home builder goes out of business? Is the warranty backed by an insurance company to make sure it’s capable of covering any problem no matter how big? Unlike other Waukesha home building companies, Jewell Homes includes a 10-year insurance-backed warranty on every custom house we build.

4. What type of siding is used and how is it installed?

The siding on the home is the main barrier keeping the outside elements from coming in. The two most common types of siding used on new construction homes are Vinyl and Fiber Cement.

Make sure to ask the following specific questions:

  • Vinyl– is the J channel back caulked? This is not required by most manufacturers; however it is one more layer of protection keeping driving rains from getting behind your windows.
  • Fiber cement– are the lower ends of the siding nailed to prevent ski-tipping? Again, this is not a manufacturer requirement; however fiber cement siding is prone to having the bottoms of the siding curl up over time, much like a ski tip (ski-tipping) to prevent this the ends should be nailed under the caulk. Do not be surprised if most sales people do not know the answers to these questions.

5. How are the bath fans sized and ducted to the exterior?

If the home is not ENERGY STAR® certified and tested there is no way to tell what size bath fan is needed. Per manufacturers’ specifications bath fans should be hard piped when possible. When building a new home this is almost always possible; however it is not the easiest way to do things, therefore most Waukesha home builders do not do it. The fact is that 6″ flex pipe adds 1.5 times more resistance to the fan, and 4″ flex pipe adds 2 times the resistance. Plus, bath fans are removing moisture from the room, therefore if flex pipe is used there will be areas for the water to sit in the pipe.

6. What roofing practices are used?

Code does not require the use of Ice and Water Shield on the home. However, in Wisconsin, it is a relatively standard practice for the Ice and Water Shield to be used on the perimeter of the roof and behind the gutters. For all new homes in Wisconsin, this shield should also be installed in all of the valleys, underneath the tin valleys and behind the siding where any walls meet the roof, i.e. chimney, dormers etc.

7. How is the interior trim finished? On site or pre-finished?

Interior trim can come pre-finished from the manufacturer or it can be finished on site. The best practice is to have the trim site finished since all nail holes can be filled with wood putty and sealed over with lacquer. If the trim is pre-finished it means nail holes will either not be filled, or it will leave putty exposed to the elements, making it dry out and fall out.

8. Is the exterior wall cavity caulked?

Most builders only focus on the R-value of the exterior wall when talking about energy efficient homes. In a normal stick built home at least 25% of the exterior wall cavity is wood studs, which means air leakage can occur.
Heat and cold are only transferred in 2 ways, convection (through air movement) and conduction (across matter). R-value only deals with Conduction, the R stands for the level of Restriction. In order to address the issue of convection, all touching studs must be caulked and the wall must be caulked to the floor. A continuous vapor barrier must be installed. All recessed lights (also known as can lights) and exterior outlets/switches must be caulked to the drywall. Even the best jacket on the market is not going to keep you warm if it is unzipped.

9. How is the basement waterproofed?

In Wisconsin, the standard practice to meet code requirement is to spray tar on the outside of basement walls. Unfortunately, tar cracks over time and leaves your basement vulnerable to water leakage. In order to prevent this there should be a plastic membrane waterproofing system should installed.
The two most common waterproofing systems in Wisconsin are Watchdog and Platon. These basement waterproofing systems provide a separate membrane on the exterior of the foundation.

10. What are the standard site allowances?

Make sure your Waukesha home builder is including enough gravel to backfill the entire garage, all stoops and in front of the garage trench otherwise your concrete will crack over time. Also make sure the site allowances account for winter charges if applicable, driveway stone, permits, trucking excess dirt, erosion control and final rough grading.

11. What is the full list of allowances and their amounts for the project?

Your Waukesha custom home builder should specify allowances up front. If they are not very clear on this they’re probably hiding something, which will make it easier for them to up-charge you in the future.

How do you know the allowances are enough for the project? Don’t be afraid to call around and ask. If the home builder gives you an allowance of $25/yard for carpet, call the supplier and ask if that is sufficient or not.

12. What is the estimated time line for new home construction?

In Wisconsin the weather dictates everything; however most homes under 2,500 square feet should be able to be completed within 5 months of being started. In the winter months this should be extended to 6 months. If your Waukesha home builder gives you a longer time frame they’re probably disorganized and someone you do not want to deal with.

Contact our luxury home builders in Muskego, WI today to set-up a FREE home building consultation to discuss the specifics of your quality-constructed dream home.
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