Photograph construction to keep track of materials and work quality

Dear James:

The contractor is just getting started building my house. I want to make sure my house is being built properly and according to the plans. Is there anything I can do myself to be sure?

– Michael M.

 

Dear Michael:

Most contractors are reputable and will strive to follow the plan specifications and build a sound home for you. As you know, though, many subcontractors will work on the job and often, the general contractor is not there to monitor the quality of their work.

Your local building inspectors will make visits to check on the most important and major aspects of the house construction. If the inspectors do their job diligently, you can rest assured your house will meet minimum construction standards. A home built to just the minimum standards will be structurally sound.

Generally, you will want to have some aspects of your new home, either regarding the design or the materials used, to be above the minimum standards required by the building codes. This is where there is the possibility of some corners being cut on quality. If corners are cut, the defects may not be apparent for many years.

Luckily, today, inexpensive digital cameras are available so you can take many photos of the home as it is being constructed. Sometimes just the fact that the new owners are taking photographs makes the workers more conscious of the quality of their work. Be friendly and joke with them about it so they do not feel threatened.

There also are other benefits of taking photos. Take photographs of the location of drainage trenches, underground outdoor wiring, etc. before they are filled with dirt. If you need to locate them or plan to do some digging years from now, you can use the photos for simple triangulation to fairly accurately determine where the underground items are located.

Another benefit of photos is locating plumbing, wiring, supports inside the wall at a later time. By taking photos of the completed walls immediately before the drywall is hung, you will know what is inside each wall. This information comes in handy if you are hanging a heavy object on a wall or when you plan to do some remodeling.

When materials are delivered to the building site, photograph the quantities and their labels. You compare this to the material specifications on your building plans. With items such as blown-in attic insulation, also record the number of bags of insulation delivered. This will determine the final R-value.

Since you are not a builder or an architect, you probably won’t know which are the most critical areas to photograph. Set the resolution fairly low on the camera so you can take many photos on each trip to the site. After several visits, you will get a feel for what areas are important to record.

Generally any places dissimilar materials meet are areas to concentrate. This can be where the sill plate and wall framing rests on the foundation or slab, chimney and roof flashing, facia, etc.

A fun thing to do is to take several photos from exactly the same position every time you visit the site. When the house is finally completed, you can use some simple graphical software to make a moving picture of your house going up to its completion.•

Send your questions to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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