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New home snag list: the quick fixes and serious issues a builder needs to address

While many new homes come with a 10-year warranty, that does not mean things should go unchecked

There has been a remarkable improvement in construction standards over the last decade or so. The introduction in 2014 of Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (BCAR) made builders more accountable. The requirement for an assigned certifier supervising matters has improved a previously lacklustre approach to quality and compliance on site. Today, a finished house is more likely to be structurally sound and constructed in compliance with building regulations.

Many new homes will also come with a 10-year warranty and that provides a lot of comfort to home buyers. But that doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong and shouldn’t be checked. Before new buyers hand over their cash to the builder, they should get a chartered surveyor to go through their new home in detail to check that everything is in order. The snag list as it is called is an itemised list of uncompleted works or faults. These issues, which the builder should attend to before closing the sale, can range from scuff marks on a painted surface to missing fire seals on the party wall in the attic.

While it is a simple concept, the snag list can often end up being contentious. While the purchaser, quite rightly, wants to ensure their new home meets the highest standards of quality and safety, the builder sees it as something to be gone through before his final payment. Therein lies the tension.

Getting the right professional for the job

When you are looking to get someone to do the snag list you should avoid the temptation to get a builder friend to do it for the price of a meal out. Home purchase will probably be one of your biggest financial transactions; taking short cuts is a false economy.


When choosing a chartered building surveyor don’t be afraid to ask about their qualifications and experience. Ask them how long it will take to complete the inspection. A proper inspection of a typical three-bed semidetached house, with due care and attention to detail, will take about 2½ hours on site. Also, be clear about what is included in the fee; will they return to do a recheck once the builder advises all snags are attended to, for example?

Consider asking your surveyor to review the construction drawings and specifications in advance of the inspection. This way, the surveyor can compare the property as built with the intended specification of the architects.

What sort of items should be on a snag list?

In addition to identifying unfinished works, your chartered surveyor should look for issues of noncompliance; for example, while the attic may have the required thickness of insulation, is it of a standard that will meet the regulations?

A thorough survey will include checking the boundaries of the plot on the ground and ensuring they are accurately reflected in the title maps. The surveyor should also check for a main drain running through the site that might restrict the potential for an extension to the property in later years.

The classic snags and typical remedial actions include:

  • Replace a defective window handle or broken pane: this is a simple fix.
  • Replace a chipped or cracked ceramic tile in the bathroom: not so easy as there will be a different grout colour and all the tiles may require re-grouting for continuity.
  • Fit a T-bar strip at the juncture of a carpet and laminate flooring or ceramic tiles: the builder will tell you it is not in the spec, but it should be.
  • Poor finishes to internal joinery, ill-fitting doors or defective ironmongery; simple fix.
  • Shrinkage cracking at mitred joints in skirtings: you may be able to disguise cracks through decoration but not on a clear varnish finish. The skirtings may need to be redone.
  • Damage and scratches to fitted kitchen and wardrobe units: unacceptable.
  • Damaged and/or poorly fitted electrical fittings.
  • Missing label chart on a fuse board.
  • Damaged sanitary ware in bathrooms and plumbing leaks: unacceptable.
  • Uninsulated cold-water tank and unlagged pipes; simple fix but often the surveyor needs to get access to the tank to spot the omissions.

More serious snags may occur externally such as:

  • Damaged or poorly fitted roof tiles and flashings.
  • Poor falls on gutters and leaks at joints.
  • Poorly fitted chimney flashings, where there is a chimney.
  • Water ponding to flat roofs: inadequate falls are the builder’s problem, not yours.
  • Poorly applied render finishes: very difficult to patch and with you forever.
  • Defective/damaged/poorly fitted windows and doors: simple fix and essential. That gap to the sittingroom door will irk you for many years as you watch TV on the couch.

More serious compliance issues could include:

  • Undersized fire escape windows to bedrooms. There are minimum opening casement sizes for escape purposes.
  • Low ceiling height over staircases: surprisingly common. A 2m clearance is required.
  • Insufficient level of permanent ventilation to bedrooms.
  • Inadequate smoke-detection measures.
  • Missing fire stopping to compartment party walls within the attic.

And don’t forget:

  • Standard of finish to external grounds and boundaries.
  • Make sure you’re supplied with commissioning certificates for all electrical and mechanical installations.
  • An O&M (operations and maintenance) file for the property to include all drawings, certificates of compliance, maintenance manuals, etc.
  • Request, on the handover of the property, a demonstration of mechanical and electrical installations. Modern energy-efficient heating systems can be especially difficult to figure out without a course in computer science.
How do you ensure your builder addresses the issues?

Have your chartered surveyor come back and do a recheck after about a week, which is how long it will take most snags to be rectified. At this stage you should be down to five to 10 items with which you are not happy. You now have to make a commercial decision; close or hold out. Your surveyor should be able to assist you with that decision; perfection is not possible on a building site and often a reasonable meeting of minds is called for. However, if you’re not happy and your surveyor supports your concern, hold tight.

What happens if you’ve paid the builder and things go wrong?

Don’t panic. Call back your surveyor, have them prepare a defects analysis report and issue it to the builder. There will be a year for the builder to sort out any post-completion defects. If settlement cracking appears internally or externally, leave it for a year or so and take care of it during the next redecoration programme.

Pat McGovern, founder of McGovern Surveyors in Dublin, is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,