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A Year in Review: Top 10 Homebuilding Defects of 2016

Fire Blocks / Fire Stops Missing at Chase Walls

Fire Blocks/ Fire Stops will most likely always be at the top of the list for many reasons. First, construction is complicated. Home designs today include increased ceiling height and elevation changes that are often times overlooked by framers and builders. Given intricate home designs, identifying the path fire and smoke may take through the home can become confusing if a trade is not well versed on the subject. Second, other trades often knock the fire blocks out or cause damage to the components rather than properly working around the blocks.

Gaps or Holes in Sheathing

Holes are very easy to create in fiberboard and foam sheathings. More times than not, these holes are created by trades. The holes can be made out of necessity to complete a job; however, human error plays the largest role. When it is not clearly defined who is responsible to repair the damage, the errors often go unfixed. Requiring the trade that created the hole also be responsible for fixing it will not only result in smaller holes but they will be fewer and further between.

Tip: Have a supply of appropriate tape available during the inspection. Most of the holes are typically very easy to repair.

Electric Nail Guards Missing at Walls

Many times, nail guard installation is left to the least senior member of the crew. This person is usually given a handful of nail guards and a hammer and told to install them throughout the home. Often, very little instruction is given to the installer, which is one reason why nail guard errors are a perennial top defect year after year.

The rule here is that any bored holes must be 1¼″ from the nearest edge of the wood member. Most wall finish materials, both interior and exterior, have attachment requirements which require about a ⅞″ penetration leaving a ⅜″ safety margin. Normal 2″ x 4″ wood framing members have only a 3 ½″ width for the electricians to work with. If you take the required clearance from each side, which adds up to 2 ½″, that leaves the electrician 1″ for a bored hole.

If the 1¼″ requirement isn’t met, some other form of protection must be used. This protection is accomplished by installing a nail guard which should be a steel plate that is a minimum of 1/16″ thick and has the appropriate width and length to cover the area of wiring.

Plumbing Nail Guards Missing at Walls

The notes for #3 Electric Nail Guards Missing at Walls also pertain to Plumbing Nail Guards. In previous versions of the code, the requirement for plumbing nail guards existed when holes or notches were within 1 1/2 inches of the nearest edge of the member. Now, for the 2015 IRC, the requirement is 1 1/4 inches – which brings the requirements for electric and plumbing nail guards in line with one another.

Similar to electric nail guards, there is not a requirement for a specific fastener or fastening pattern. In fact, some approved nail guards come with their own fastening system and do not require the use of a nail or screw.

Plate Penetrations Not Sealed

Often times, “Plate Penetrations Not Sealed” is called because of re-work or because a home is out of sequence. When re-work is performed, it is typically done after a home has been poly sealed. Periodically, we will inspect a home where every plate penetration needs to be sealed at low voltage or at all gas lines. This is typically a sign that the home is out of sequence or something was “forgotten” and added later.

Joist Hangers Missing

Joist hangers are often missed due to human error or not having enough supply on the job site. Doing a thorough punch can catch missing joist hangers, which can prevent a future red tag during an inspection. Many builders often have extra joist hangers in the construction trailer; however, the trades are not always aware where the extra joist hangers are or how to get them.

Tip: An extra supply of joist hangers and communicating their location to the trades is an effective way to help prevent missing joist hangers during an inspection.

Raw Wood Uncovered

Exposed raw wood is found in numerous locations throughout the home and the cause really depends on where it is found. Sometimes, brick returns or brick pockets are exposed. Other times, raw wood is found around cornice returns where 2 X lumber is installed as backing for the cornice but is still left exposed outside the Weather Resistant Barrier (WRB). Better planning of materials installation sequencing in these areas will keep the raw wood inside the WRB and decrease the likelihood of raw wood being exposed.

Chases Incomplete or Not Sealed

“Chases Incomplete or Not Sealed” is really two defects in one. First, “Chases Incomplete” can almost be eliminated through communication. Trades should meet with Builders and discuss their needs for chases. A great opportunity to do this is during a “prototype walk” for the first time a plan is built. The discoveries made on the prototype could be added as details to the plans so that the same mistakes are not made over and over. Second, for “Chases Sealed” we see the following: chases missed by the poly seal crew, holes cut too large to fill with poly seal and improper material used to seal the chase (cardboard, sheathing, etc.). Allowable materials include: drywall of the proper thickness, 2 X lumber and OSB of the proper thickness.

Poly Missing at Brick Ledges / Corners

“Poly Missing at Brick Ledges/Corners” is another problem that is often caused by damage due to rework or improper installation. Improper installation includes not cutting and repairing at hold downs, installing poly too short or not installing poly at all.

Penetrations Not Sealed with Flashing

“Penetrations Not Sealed with Flashing” can exist when incorrect flashing is used, the proper material is not onsite or a typical penetration has not been sealed.​ The picture above shows duct tape used as flashing. Another frequent error we see is trades using foam to flash the penetrations. Now, while foam can create an air barrier around the penetration, the porousness of the foam will not keep water out. Only approved materials should be used as flashing for penetrations.

Tip: We find that most builders assume the cornice contractor will flash all penetrations rather than clearly defining who is responsible for repairing the holes. On the other hand, when trades have to repair their own damage, the holes around the penetrations get smaller and are better sealed.


Most seasoned builders or trades will view the Top 10 list above and think the defects are overly obvious. Keep in mind, however, Burgess works with the best and largest volume builders in the country and these items are missed or overlooked every single day. It’s easy to take the simple things for granted; however, it’s the simple things that slow down construction schedules, increase warranty items and add extra costs. With single family construction continuing to soar, it’s imperative for Builders to walk their homes often, keep trades accountable and trust but verify that the work gets completed correctly. If you need help from extra set of experienced eyes, contact the Burgess Team.

Contact: 888-644-6489, Email: Click Here

About the Data

495,818 total defects were observed from 150,284 inspections. The data for this report used only First-Time Inspections during Pre-Drywall and did not factor in inspections for Final or Energy and did not factor in any re-inspections. There were 278,331 First-Time Pre-Drywall defects of which the Top 10 accounted for 33.1% (92,151). Of the Top 10, the percentage of each Top 10 defect is as follows: Fire Blocks / Fire Stops Missing at Chase Walls (20%), Gaps of Holes in Sheathing (16%), Electric Nail Guards Missing at Walls (10%), Plumbing Nail Guards Installed Incorrectly (10%), Plate Penetrations Not Sealed (10%), Joist Hangers Missing (8%), Raw Wood Uncovered (7%), Chases Incomplete (7%), Poly Missing at Brick Ledges/Corners (6%), Penetrations Not Sealed with Flashing (6%). The inspection data comes from our markets in Texas, Colorado and Florida.


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