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  • Richard Knappe

3 Subtle Signs of Quality Workmanship

The devil is in the details. If you are planning to build or buy a new home within the next 5 years, part of your due diligence is to physically inspect the workmanship of the general contractors that you'll ask to bid on your project. While it is a fabulous idea (and fun too), touring a handful of show homes is about much more than falling in love with paint colours and flooring choices.


As an industry insider, here are 3 deceptively insignificant details that I would watch for while I am walking through a show home. These seemingly small signs can help indicate an eye for detail, pride in workmanship, and a passion for a great finished product.


1. Neat and tidy caulking - It may seem insignificant, but lack of proper caulking and poorly done caulking is one of my biggest pet peeves. Its one of those things that often gets overlooked at the end of a project if the builder is in a hurry, but it is a simple step that can protect your new home from unnecessary moisture damage from normal wear and tear.


I like to see caulking anywhere that there is a likelihood of moisture. A lot of this is my personal preference and not necessarily a building code requirement, but rather something I've picked up on from years of experience.


For example, I would look for caulking on the tub and shower fixtures where they meet the tile or fibreglass surround. I do, however, leave the underside of the fixture open to give any moisture that might get behind it a place to escape.


I also want to see caulking on all countertops where they meet another surface such as a tile backsplash or drywall. The seam at which the tub or shower base meets the flooring should also be caulked. Caulking should be neat and tidy without smears on the surfaces being protected. (continued below)

I also like to make sure the thresholds of the exterior doors are caulked where they meet the flooring as there is often a lot of moisture that gets tracked into the house here.


The baseboards typically do not get caulked where they meet the flooring as this area is susceptible to a lot of movement and the caulking often breaks down and creates an unsightly mess. I do like to caulk where the interior door casings meet the flooring only because the end grain of the casing is exposed and can wick and absorb moisture from mopping.


2. Neat and tidy mechanical room - There are several things that I watch for in the mechanical room that you should be aware of too. First and foremost, is the overall layout of the space. Are the appliances that require maintenance accessible? There is nothing worse than needing to change your furnace filter if you have to scrape your arm to get at it. (Continued below)


(The panels on the left clearly not installed with the same level of care as the panel on the right)


The electrical panel in a new home can be a big red flag to pay attention to. If the panel wiring itself is haphazard and messy, odds are the rest of the electrical you may not see behind the walls is just as or even more careless. This doesn't mean that a messy electrical panel is dangerous or doesn't meet code, it just speaks to the overall pride in workmanship.


I want the panel to be labelled in a manner that is actually legible. Some electricians will even type their panel labels and tack it to the wall nearby. The feeds going into the panel should be neat and tidy as well.


It is perfectly normal to have some loose wires coming into the mechanical room. Often times, there are low voltage wires for security system components or future sound systems dangling unconnected in the mechanical room for future use. Loose wires should be neatly coiled and labelled so that occupants can identify what they are for down the road.


3. Interior door finishing - I take a lot of pride in providing a finished product that physically feels better than the competition. When you are touring show homes, do the interior doors rattle when you close them? Do they latch easily? When the door is closed, is the reveal (the gap between the door and the frame) consistent? (Continued below)


Pay attention to how the interior doors handle.

While its probably impossible to catch every imperfection, and let's be real...every house will have its flaws, the point is to be able to spot the difference between sloppy and superior construction.


Remember...generally speaking, you get what you pay for at the end of the day.


Until next time,


Richard Knappe

Construction Specialist