Some Shortcomings in Today's Spec. Homes

The popularity of cedar roofs continues, despite the lesser quality in the product. The need for periodic roof treatments and costly replacements occur in as little as eight to fifteen years. This, in combination with the fact that the cedar used for these roofs is 200 to 600 years old and not being replanted, suggests to me that the time of cedar roofs may have passed, especially in light of the many alternative superior products. See The Ongoing Cedar Shake Roofing Dispute.

The cedar siding used in today's spec. homes is often only half an inch thick and produced of flat grained and tight knot material. Such siding, in order to last, will have to be re-nailed, caulked, and re-stained or painted within two to five years after the construction of the house. My current favorite siding products are the concrete composite systems such as Hardi Board.

The soil around the perimeter of the house and the subsequent landscaping with the associated bark soil covering, often results in soil-wood contact. When siding or framing of the house is in constant contact with the soil, it will likely result in wood damage from mold, bacteria, or insects. Use pressure treated lumber on all decks, and other locations where lumber will continually be wet, and unable to regularly dry out.

While most of the fixtures and surfaces in the bathrooms of today's spec. homes are of good quality, some attention to construction practices and subsequent maintenance is important in this area of the house. In bathrooms where tile is used for the tub or shower walls, most spec. builders use a "waterproof drywall" as a substrate for the tile. While this product is an improvement over regular plaster or drywall, it is not an ideal substrate for tile in a wet situation. Regular inspection of the grout lines for cracks and deterioration should be performed, and careful use of silicone caulk is recommended for repair of cracked grout lines. In those bathrooms where fiberglass tubs, fiberglass tub walls, and plastic laminate is used, it is important to avoid the use of any types of abrasive cleaners.

Interior wall surfaces may require some early cosmetic upgrading. It is not unusual to find a few hairline cracks, especially at doorways and above window corners, and some plasterboard nail pops or corner bead cracking. While such defects are usually not a sign of structural problems, they are deceptively hard to correct. Once the damaged area has been re-nailed, taped and re-spackelled, very skillful re-texturing will have to be performed in order to avoid "bald" or "over textured" spots. It is also not unusual for hairline cracks to reappear over time, since the basic cause of these cracks is due to some continuous movement in the framing of the house. An alternative method of repairing such cracks is the careful use of latex caulk prior to the painting. The elasticity of this material may provide a longer lasting solution.

Many spec. homes are heated with medium efficiency gas furnaces. Given today's fuel costs, this is a very reasonable way to heat Pacific Northwest homes. While most of these furnaces are reliable and give the appearance of operating well without any service for a long period of time, they are complex mechanical devices and should be serviced every one to three years. The high efficiency gas furnaces, those with a rating above 90% in efficiency, are even more complex systems and require service every year. See the topic page on Heating Your Home.

While most of the kitchen appliances are of good quality, there is a tendency by some spec. builders to save a few dollars and install a recirculating, ventless hood over the stove. Such hoods are of no value in exhausting any excess moisture from the kitchen. They also provide very low quality air filtration from the kitchen. Their only benefit seems to be that they can usually contain a light bulb, which helps to illuminate the stove top.

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Spec Homes