(Finished Carpentry, Plumbing, Cabinetry, Millwork and Countertops)
Wood and wood-like products are the basic materials used in finished carpentry. Wood is a natural product with individual grain variations in each species of wood. The matching of grain is not a standard procedure and may possibly be accomplished only as a specific contractual agreement between the owner and builder and with the careful selection of matching panels by the supplier. The variations in wood separate it from man-made products. One of the wonderful characteristics of wood is the difference in each piece.
Over the past several years, a marked change has taken place in the area of finished carpentry, paneling and millwork. Considerably less of the labor is being done on the site. Almost all millwork, paneling, cabinetry, countertops and doors are purchased by the builder as a completed product and are warranted by the builder according to manufacturer’s standards.
Scratches, chips, gouges or nicks should be noted by the owner at the time of the preoccupancy inspection. To maintain the beauty of the wood and wood products, wood should be cared for by the owner much like furniture. Builder should caution owner to only use products recommended by the manufacturers when cleaning and maintaining wood products and also in caring for countertops.
During the initial building stabilization period (first heating and cooling seasons), it is not unusual for doors to warp slightly or twist and alternately stick or not close. Warping, shrinking and swelling of wood and wood-like products can occur due to temperature and humidity changes.
If painting, varnishing and/or staining are to be done by the owner, it should be finished at the earliest possible opportunity. Their primary purpose is preservation, protecting the surfaces and edges from weather and moisture penetration. Owner should be made aware that all surfaces must be sealed on all six sides. If a door or drawer fails and if it was not sealed on all six sides and the owner did or contracted for his own staining, then the builder is not responsible to make the repair. Filling and sanding of minor imperfections, nail holes and splits are the responsibility of the painter. If the builder is responsible for the painting and/or staining, samples or names of the paint products should be left with the owner for minor touch-ups.
1. Common Defect or Problem Interior doors, closet doors, cabinet doors, or drawers warp and cannot be closed or will not stay closed.
Performance Standard (a.) The owner should note that during the initial building stabilization period, it is not unusual for doors to warp or twist and alternately stick or not close as the home goes through a settling and drying period, especially over the first heating season. The builder is obligated only to make replacements after this initial stabilization period, since often the door straightens during this process. Doors MUST be sealed on all six sides by the person contractually responsible for painting/staining. (b.) All interiors doors, closet doors, cabinet doors or drawers whose warpage exceeds the National Woodwork Manufacturers Association Standards (1/4″ in most cases) and where the warp cannot be corrected by adjustment of either jambs, stops, and/or hinges and cabinet catches to properly latch after the initial stabilization period of the building, at the end of the first year, shall be replaced by the builder. Doors MUST be sealed on all six sides by the person contractually responsible for painting/staining.
Builder Repair Responsibility Adjust, upon request of the owner, one time only, preferably at the end of the warranty period, any doors and drawers that fail to operate properly. Replace any doors or drawers, which cannot be corrected to be within acceptable tolerance after stabilization. Refinish as necessary if staining was part of the builder’s contract.
Craig’s Comments: Wood is a natural product that reacts to its environment. House can change quite a little during the first few years as they dry out and settle. This can cause doors and drawers to not operate properly. Pay attention and have your builder address them per SC RCS at the end of the first year.
1. Common Defect or Problem Garage to house solid core door warps
Performance Standard Garage to house doors are more subject to weather conditions and thus these doors may warp, but will tend to come back to their original state. This can be a continual occurrence with seasonal changes.
Builder Repair Responsibility If the door does not come back in summer to seal, builder to replace (provided door was sealed on all six sides if staining was owner’s obligation). Refinish as necessary if staining was part of the builder’s contract.
Craig’s Comments: House to garage doors should be tightly sealed, fire rated doors that keep automobile and other combustion products from entering the house. Properly hung and finished (all six sides) doors should seal well. Non-wood doors with appropriate fire ratings may be less prone to warping than solid wood doors.
2. Common Defect or Problem Warpage or non-closing of exterior doors (except storm doors)
Performance Standard Because of the security provided by these doors, the doors must be adjusted or corrected as required.
Builder Repair Responsibility During the first year, if the security of the building is jeopardized, correct as requested by the owner to maintain the security of the building. Replace any exterior doors whose permanent warpage exceeds the standards referred to in item #1 after the stabilization period. Refinish as necessary if painting and staining was part of the builder’s contract. If painting is part of owner’s contract they are cautioned to finish doors on all six surfaces at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent weather deterioration and warpage of the doors and to maintain a warranty on the door.
Craig’s Comments: Exterior doors take a lot of abuse from wind, rain and sun. Where possible, protect exterior doors with overhangs. Some non-wood doors and some species of wood perform better than others.
3. Common Defect or Problem Cabinet doors do not align properly or there is a gap between door and cabinet frame.
Performance Standard Space between doors where doors butt should not exceed 1/8″. Top or bottom alignment should not exceed 1/16″. Separation between the door and the frame should not exceed ¼”.
Builder Repair Responsibility Builder to repair if any of the above conditions exceed acceptable tolerance.
Craig’s Comments: Cabinetry is available in quality that extends from the mass production variety to the custom finery, with many levels of quality throughout all the various types. Cabinetry can also be installed by technicians of various skill levels. High quality cabinetry with close tolerances will cost more. If you want better than SC RCS, expect to pay more.
4. Common Defect or Problem Loosening or separation of veneer on doors and cabinet doors.
Performance Standard Veneer should not crack or separate during the first year’s warranty provided the doors have been properly finished. If painting is to be done by the owner, they are cautioned to finish all six surfaces of the veneer doors at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent weathering deterioration of the door which can lead to delamination or warpage.
Builder Repair Responsibility Builder should repair or replace any doors where the veneer has separated or delaminated during the first year of occupancy. Door replacement due to delamination is the owner’s responsibility if the owner has not promptly followed through on his responsibility to finish the door or has not finished all six sides of the doors. Builder to refinish only if painting or staining was part of the builder’s contract.
Craig’s Comments: This type of problem is usually the result of improper finishing (such as not painting or varnishing all six surfaces) or improper handling of the doors before installation. (This could happen if the doors got wet before they got installed.) Handle it per SC RCS..
5. Common Defect or Problem Shrinkage or swelling of paneled doors, panels in cabinet doors and/or paneling.
Performance Standard Panels will, due to the nature of wood products, shrink and expand and may expose unpainted or unstained surfaces.
Builder Repair Responsibility None.
Craig’s Comments: Wood panels do react to changes in moisture content of the air. So panels will usually be smaller in winter than in summer, potentially exposing unfinished edges in the winter. Large changes in panel sizes could indicate excess air leakage or moisture intrusion problems. These should be evaluated. On the other hand, excess wetting before installation could also cause excess shrinkage after installation. If the doors still function, the panels should reach a more stable size within the first year after installation. Touch up finishing might then be necessary. If wall paneling was excessively wet when installed, permanent gaps may occur after the paneling dries. This is a rare situation, and would probably warrant replacement or reinstallation of the paneling.
6. Common Defect or Problem Panels or door graining and/or color do not match.
Performance Standard Since wood is a natural product and the grain structure is unique for each piece of wood, the builder is only responsible for supplying the grades and types of lumber and millwork and paneling specified in the contract. Grain and color matching is not the industry standard.
Builder Repair Responsibility None, unless matched lumber was specifically stated in the contract.
Craig’s Comments: Wood is a natural material with a seemingly infinite combination of colors and patterns sometimes even within the same tree. Finishes and coloring sued in stains, paints and varnishes also can vary slightly even though the formulas are tightly controlled. If this is important to you, specify things clearly in your contract, or choose the exact materials yourself.
7. Common Defect or Problem Scratches on glass in doors.
Performance Standard Scratching is inherent in the added safety features that are mandated in glass doors.
Builder Repair Responsibility None.
Craig’s comments: SC RCS indicate that scratches in glass in doors is to be expected, and not a builder responsibility. Scratches do not develop in glass by themselves; something must rub against the glass to cause a scratch. If the scratches are present at completion, and are obvious from a distance of 4 feet or more under normal lighting conditions, Craig believes the builder is responsible for replacing the glass. Scratches that happen after occupancy, or are minor, on the other hand, are not the builder’s responsibility.
8. Common Defect or Problem Millwork trim graining or color does not match.
Performance Standard See #7
Builder Repair Responsibility See #7
Craig’s Comments: Natural wood trim is just that: natural. As such, it can have various colors and grain patterns even on the same piece of trim. If this is an important feature, talk with your builder and/or trim carpenter and have them take some extra time (probably using additional materials as well) culling out pieces that do not match as well. Often these culled pieces can be used in closets or other less visible places, so the extra material costs can be kept somewhat lower. If the trim will be painted, consider on of the manufactured trim materials. If the trim has been painted, and the color is not consistent, Craig believes the builder would be responsible for correcting the paint job.
Performance Standard Gaps in miter joints should not exceed 1/16″.
Builder Repair Responsibility Builder should repair any gaps exceeding 1/16″. If the owner is responsible for the staining portion of the contract, the owner is responsible for restaining. If staining was part of the builder’s contract, builder must restain, if necessary.
Craig’s Comments: Gaps in joints in trim work can result from inferior workmanship or from changes in moisture content of the trim. Steps to take to reduce the potential for gaps in trim work are coping of inside corners, gluing joints (especially engineered or non-wood trim), caulking of joints and using dry materials.
10. Common Defect or Problem Gouges, cracks, nicks or other material or workmanship imperfections.
Performance Standard Nail pops, blisters and other such blemishes at the time the owner closes or takes occupancy of the home that are readily visible from a distance of six (6”) under normal lighting conditions are unacceptable.
Builder Repair Responsibility Builder to replace millwork components with the above listed defects where the defect cannot be easily corrected through the use of sanding or filling, so long as these items were noted prior to occupancy. It should be noted that if the owner is responsible for the painting portion of the contract, the finishing work becomes the owner’s responsibility.
Craig’s Comments: Imperfections that occur before occupancy are the builder’s responsibility. Imperfections that occur after occupancy are the homeowner’s responsibility. Therefore, look closely before you close on the house and not any imperfections that you want corrected in writing to your builder. Be nice to your builder: make one list for the whole house, don’t present him/her with a different list each day. Keep the number of trips the builder needs to make to the house down to a minimum.
11. Common Defect or Problem Splices of millwork material within the length of a wall.
Performance Standard Splicing is permissible.
Builder Repair Responsibility None.
Craig’s Comments: Trim materials generally come in set lengths. If the room dimensions are longer than the length of available materials, splices will be necessary. On the other hand, material lengths and room dimensions are such that only in extreme cases will the trim on a wall need more than two splices. (A doorway in a wall effectively turns the wall into 2 walls.) Therefore, Craig’s standards are that no more than two splices are allowed in a wall. Exceptions: when moulding is composed of several layers of trim (such as ceiling moulding), the joints should be at least three feet apart within the layers.
12. Common Defect or Problem Cabinets separate from wall or loosen.
Performance Standard Provided the cabinet installation is secure, some shrinkage may occur which may appear to indicate a gap between the cabinets and their mounting surface. This is normal and requires no correction. However, if the cabinet is actually loose, the builder shall correct.
Builder Repair Responsibility Correct any loose cabinetry from the mounting surface, except those due to shrinkage.
Craig’s Comments: Loose cabinets can be dangerous and should be corrected. Cabinets that were once tight to the wall but are now separated from the wall may not be attached correctly, and should be checked by your builder. Cabinets that are not uniformly tight to the wall may be the result of normal shrinkage of the wall, or a non-flat wall. Cabinets are usually built to higher standards of squareness and straightness than is possible with gypsum board walls. Therefore, it is common for gaps to exist between walls and cabinets.
13. Common Defect or Problem Countertops separate from wall.
Performance Standard Acceptable tolerance is 1/8″ in width.
Builder Repair Responsibility Builder to caulk if gap is over 1/8″.
Craig’s Comments: Walls are not usually as straight as countertops. Therefore, gaps will usually exist between the countertop and wall. (Some installers will modify the edge of the countertop to make it fit more snuggly.) Caulking is usually necessary between the countertop and the wall.
14. Common Defect or Problem Seams in laminate countertops raise.
Performance Standard This will occur occasionally. Owner should keep seams sealed as water can penetrate.
Builder Repair Responsibility None.
Craig’s Comments: Laminated countertop bases (the stuff under the plastic top layer) are typically particleboard or other wood based materials and are very susceptible to water. It is important to keep seams sealed. Talk to your builder or cabinet person about how best to keep the seams sealed. Alternative countertops, such as concrete, tile and the solid composites are less prone to sea problems, but may be much more expensive to install.
15. Common Defect or Problem Exposed plastic laminate surfaces, laminate cabinetry and molded marble crack, chip, delaminate or are burned or scratched.
Performance Standard There should be no imperfections in exposed plastic laminate surfaces at the time the owner takes occupancy of the home. Any defects must be noted by the owner in writing at the preoccupancy inspection and should be corrected by he builder. In some rare cases there may be some latent defects in laminates, which would require adjustments by manufacturer.
Builder Repair Responsibility Correct defects noted at occupancy inspection. Defects occurring after that time are the owner’s responsibility for correction since these surfaces are subject to owner’s damage.