Some Typical "New House" Warranties

By Douglas Pencille

Introduction | General Structural Warranty | Sub-Contractor's Warranties

Construction Documents | Appliance & Fixture Warranties | "Shell" Warranties



1. Introduction

I perform a large number of "new house" inspections for people purchasing brand new homes.  Almost without exception and without regard to the sticker price, I find that very little information is being passed on to buyers on how to care for their new purchase.  Many times, all they will get from their builder is a handful of appliance manuals.  There are also many warranties associated with the labor performed on their new home, and on the products & components installed - which most people are unaware of.

Let me relate a simple analogy.  When you purchase a new automobile you always receive an "Owners Manual" which in great detail, describes what to do and when to do it.  You also are informed of what your warranty coverages are. All of this is designed to help you get the most life out of your new purchase, and also save you money in the process. 

On the other hand, when you bought your new home, did you receive a "Home Owners Manual"?  Were you informed about what warranty coverage you have on the house and its components?  I highly doubt it!  Your home is many times more expensive than your car, and houses today have a large number of specialized systems that make them very complex.  Without a "Home Owners Manual", many people are in the dark as to what they should be doing, on a regular basis, to maintain their home.  See Home Maintenance Checklist.  Most people are also unaware of the protection afforded them by the many warranties in place on the structure, labor, and interior components.

Listed below are five basic categories of "new home" warranties, product information, and typical procedures that you should be aware of:



2. General Structural Warranty
Most states require the builder of a new house to be responsible for any "significant structural defect" for a period of time after the house is sold.  In this particular region, the builder is responsible for a period of 10 years.  Of course, this warranty is only as good as the financial situation of a particular builder.  In other words, if he is no longer in business then you have no recourse of action.  This is a very good reason for choosing a top notch builder with a proven track record.

It is important to make note of what is defined as a "significant structural defect".  This type of defect is usually considered as something of a larger nature that impacts the load-bearing capacity of the structure, is unsafe, makes the structure not suitable for use as it was intended, etc.  This doesn't mean that you can call the builder back to your house every month after you close escrow, to repair typical settlement cracks or make cosmetic repairs.  What we are talking about here is foundation or load bearing-wall problems, rafter problems, basement water leakage issues, etc.



3. Sub-Contractor's Warranties
While the builder is usually considered the "General Contractor", and is ultimately responsible for a the work performed at the house, there are numerous sub-contractors and materials suppliers working under the general contractor.  These range from the carpenter, mason, electrician, etc., who are actually at the house performing work - all the way to the materials supplier who provides the lumber, the draftsman who drew up the plans, the flooring company who ordered and installed your ceramic tile, etc.  All of the sub-contractors and suppliers who performed work, supplied materials, or performed a service in the effort to construct your new home have a responsibility to you, in their specific area.  

There is typically an implied sub-contractor's warranty, to you, for the work or service provided.  This is usually for a period of one year.  Some specific trades, such as plumbing and electrical, sometimes are obligated to warrant their work for a period of two years. Therefore, it is always important that you have your builder provide you with a complete sub-contractors list.  This should include the name, address, phone number, and license number of the sub-contractor, along with what specific area of work they were responsible for and the dollar amount they were paid.



4. Construction Documents
Many documents are generated during the construction of a new home.  Typically, this would include documentation that is more legal in nature.  Many of these documents will originate with you (i.e. your construction and loan documents, special materials and products for the home that you personally were responsible for, purchase agreement with the builder, etc.), and should already be in your possession. 

However, there are many other documents generated during a building project that you may never see, unless you make it clear that you want possession of  them.  They can include:

  • All final signed off permits for each category.
  • Additional copies of blue prints.
  • Copies of all correspondence with the local building authorities.
  • Copy of a signed "Certificate of Occupancy"  . . . . see Certificate of Occupancy
  • Paid receipts and lien waivers from all parties who provided a service in the building of your home.


5. Appliance & Fixture Warranties
All appliances installed and present in your new home should arrive with some type of documentation from the manufacturer (i.e. furnace, water heater, range, dishwasher, microwave, clothes washer / dryer, overhead door openers, fireplace, etc.). This can include the actual appliance warranty, operating and maintenance instructions, etc. - all very important for you to retain.  Often times I see this paper work torn out of the packing crate the appliance arrived in, left on the floor, and then thrown away with the trash at the end of the day.  It is important that you make it clear to your builder, that you expect him to present you with all of these documents when you close escrow.  

An often forgotten portion of the Appliance Warranty Category are the fixtures (i.e. lighting, cabinetry, sinks, toilets, floor covering, etc.).  Many times product warranty information for these items will not be delivered with the individual item.  You need to be aware that warranties, maintenance and product information, etc., for the fixtures do (should) exist.  


6. "Shell" Warranties
When we use the term "Shell Warranties", we are referring to the exterior skin of the house, or its shell.  This category typically includes items like siding, windows, shingles, etc.  For example, many shingles have a manufacturers warranty of 20-25 years or more, most windows are warranted for at least ten years, some steel sidings have warranties of 30-50 years, etc.  Again, It is not uncommon for the product warranty information pertaining to these items not to be delivered with the individual item, but you need to be aware that warranties, maintenance and product information, etc., for them do (should) exist.  You, or your builder may have to speak directly to the supplier in order to obtain them.   




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