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What Do We Do On New Construction When Doors Aren't Level Or Plumb?

So answer the question - what do we do on new construction when doors aren't level or plumb?

One basic rule of carpentry is that doors and windows be level and plumb.

Level noun 1 a horizontal plane with respect to the distance above or below a given point
Plumb verb 3 testing an upright surface to determine the vertical

When doors are shipped they have little stabilizers on the corners that insure that the door framing is absolutely square.  It is a perfect rectangle.

If it is a rectangle and level, it is also plumb.  We used to test plumb with a weight on the end of a string.  It still works!  Now we use levels with little bubbles.

Standing in the hallway I looked at the front door and with chagrin noticed something.

The right corner is angled down to the right.

When you approach the door it wasn't sitting flush in the wall either, but that did not photograph very well.

Setting my level on top of the door frame surprise, surprise!  Not levelo.  That's perfect Spanish.

And also placing my level againse the side framing, surprise, surprise again, it wasn't plumb!

You will notice that this door has four hinges and each is shimmed.

How do you make sure a door is plumb (or level) when installing it?  That's right, with shims!

In this case the "carpenter" merely used the shims to fill the space beside the hinges so he could nail the door on "securely."

Immediately suspicious I went to the back door on the same level.

Well good gosh, good golly, gee oh gee me!  What did the bubble say?

It wasn't plumb either!

And not level.

My VERY, VERY sarcastic phrase for this sort of work is "7-11 Construction."

What do you want to bet the same crew from the 7-11 parking lot installed both doors?

They were both done exactly the same way.  I bet so.

They were foamed, so this group thinks these doors are installed.

The "carpenters" worked on this and saw how it looked when they were finished.  The house has been inspected every day by the building supervisor.  The house has been inspected by the County structural inspector and given its stamp of approval.

How come I can walk in and glance at the door and see this within seconds of entering the house? 

A door that is not level will never close properly and eventually will bend in its framing and seal out no air.  It will only be good for allowing the pet snake, and his friends, to enter and exit at will.

My recommendation:  this was not the only glaring problem with this house.  If you think for a minute, or less than a minute, that a home inspection is not needed on new construction, you need to reorder your thinking! Absolutely request one at the outset of the building process and make sure it is properly scheduled.  And I know that isn't perfect Spanish up there - don't you see my tongue jammed into my cheek?

 

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 45 commentsJay Markanich • February 21 2013 02:48AM

Comments

Jay, what a shame, you spend all that money on materials and the it is installed incorrectly. Always hire experience local contractors and not the cheapest..
Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 6 years ago

That's a good door too David.  See that it has four hinges?  Heavy.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Good Morning, James. Let's do the "Shimmy, Shimmy Door Shake". I do not think that any new home construction could get by without at least a half a pick-up load of shims...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 6 years ago

Any agent who has been selling new homes for any length of time, may remember when doors didn't always come ready to install in the frame.

The frame may have been constructed by a rough carpenter and the door(s) "fitted" in the frame.

It was not unusual to stand in the room and clearly SEE that the door or window was not "right".  I'm fortunate in that I have a very good eye for "conformation" and can often spot these defects.  Even an oven range or refrigerator that is not level will just jump out at me.

Of course, when a window or door is spotted that doesn't look right, the builder's representative will always say, "It's fine".  To which I simply request that "someone bring a level".  So far, I've never been wrong.

This rarely occurs today with factory built components which provide far better engineered parts than a human could build. 

A house is a very complicated thing and the finished product relies on quality construction.  Or, as we see more and more of today, quality ASSEMBLAGE. 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Unbelievable that the others didn't see this.  Yes, for sure you need an independent (and talented) home inspector for new construction.  It's critical.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 6 years ago

And, Michael, hopefully those shims are properly employed!

Lenn - Once on new construction I looked at the kitchen people installing the last of about 10 cabinets on the wall.  I could see that the bank of cabinets was not level.  I said so.  The supervisor said they were level.  The clients wanted to be sure.  Not level!  They had to tak them all down.  They were relying on the wall on one end, and it's "level," to start the cabinets.  NOT the best practice.

Debbie - level is something I can readily spot, I don't know why.  This door was 1/4" off from left to right.  Actually both were.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay you know where I would be headed but alas he is right now in Clint's territory doing what he does best.  Enjoy your day and send some best wishes to Clint he needs them. :~)

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 6 years ago

This is typical stuff on new construction James.  Everywhere.  The lack of professionalism knows no territorial bounds.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Buyers of new construction assume they're getting a "perfect" house.  This is a good example of why they should have the home inspected by an independent home inspector like you.

By the way, I'd be interested in seeing your take on exterior doors of old houses, when they're obviously not level... Should they be removed and re-installed correctly?

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 6 years ago

They can be Margaret.  I have seen older doors, which are often wood, shaved out of square to fit properly in an opening that itself has become out of square over time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, another example for having a pre-drywall inspection. It will be a whole lot easier to fix before the drywall goes up. I hope the buyers call you back to make sure it was fixed right.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

I don't know if that's in my purview or not Mike!  I think the supervisor is on the hook, for certainly I will see this in a final inspection.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

A new house definetly needs a home inspector.

Posted by Jimmy Faulkner, The Best Of St. Augustine (Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage) over 6 years ago

It does Jimmy, and that fact becomes more and more evident for me every year.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I can just picture agents across the nation wondering what are you referring as a 7-11 construction. .I think that's just a local thing on the DC metro area. . lol

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 6 years ago

I don't know Fernando!  It might be, but I doubt it!  It's an enormous issue in the DC area.  And pretty sarcastic.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago
Jay, whether working with a buyer or a seller, I like to be present during inspection for many reasons. Your sample above would be one of the reasons.
Posted by Wika Hutchinson, Broker, CRIS, SFR, CDPE over 6 years ago

Yes to this post...I know of a developer/construction team that puts out AAA product priced right....BUT...He is the exception rather than the rule. A good inspector....yes and it should become mandatory and or normal just like title insurance and hazard reports...

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Jay you have a big advantage over the others who should have spotted the discrepancies and fixed things. That advantage; your eyes are open, you want to see. The others just want to see it done and the structure guy doesn't care, not his department.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 6 years ago

Level and Plumb, I'll write that down.  :)

This construction stuff has so many thing to remember Jay, no wonder why the other inspectors missed it.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

Jay, Great example of the old "plumb out of plumb". I see this often. Many really do not take the time to properly shim and secure the door frame to live a life of holding the door in place.  This is where using wide shims is so important on the hinge side. Also with the pre-hung doors the exterior trim also can make it more difficult to shim properly.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Generaly, it is still true today,,,,you get what you pay for.... A good inspector is "always" worth the fee...

Posted by Robert Hicks (United Country River City Realty) over 6 years ago

Great post.  This is why I roll my eyes whenever someone tells me the house was "already inspected by the construction company."  Or, better yet, "The City looked at it, and they said it was fine."

The cost of a good, solid, independent home inspection is negligible, compared to the cost of the purchase you're about to make.  

And the cost of NOT having your own home inspection can be catastrophic!

Posted by Tom Jansson, Chicago Area Home Inspector - InterNACHI Certified (Acuity Home Inspections) over 6 years ago

Wika - this is only one of many things!

Richie - which is why so many builders are making it difficult for inspectors to go do inspections!  We find stuff!

Robert - for sure I am looking, but at a glance I knew the door was not plumb.  It was easy to assume the other would be the same.

Tom - glad you can use those two words!  I am willing to bet Plumb is your middle name.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I think that maybe, they had a multi-person team.  You know - one who installes the shims, one who tests for plumb, one who adjusts the shims to ensure they are plumb and finally, one who nails without testing the work of the others.   Notice, my tounge is also stuck (jammed) in my cheek.

Posted by Roger Stensland, Let's Move! (Keller Williams Realty Puget Sound) over 6 years ago

Don - the hinge side is for plumb, the exterior for securing screws.  They should know that!

Thanks Robert.  We would all think that's true, for sure!

Yes Tom, thanks.  And if you can't afford a home inspection, or think it's too much money, you might rethink the idea of owning a house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

It has to be Roger!  Not much of that happened on this installation!  The door is 8 1/2' high and heavy, so for sure two guys installed it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

My opinion...you try and get your clients to move on to another home. You need to start out with as close to a perfect house as you can...it is all downhill from that point.

Posted by Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty, Florida Space Coast Homes (Waves Realty) over 6 years ago

Interesting.

When we (inspector, buyer, agent) see doors and windows that are not fitting, opening and closing smoothly, I often think out of plum, fit, etc.  However, I also have questions about foundation and whether or not there is "movement" in a structure.  Mmmmm.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

If the doors are this way, what else is wrong with the construction? I agree with Jeffrey Comment #28, it's all downhill. Find another home.

Posted by Pamela Seley, Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA (West Coast Realty Division) over 6 years ago

Jeffrey - this is a vrey expensive home already under contract, and I don't know what it says.  I am not involved on that end of things!

All relevant Lenn.  A foundation moving at the outset will continue, likely.

Pamela - there were a few things!  All noted by the home inspector!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay -- good eyes on this issue.  How they expect the door to work properly, when it isn't square to start is beyond most of us.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

Yikes, I would be inclined to not purchase such a property.  That would indicate a lot of other potential problems. 

Posted by Paula McDonald, Granbury, TX 936-203-0279 (Beam & Branch Realty) over 6 years ago

Jay, you are one of the most informed bloggers at Active Rain, your knowledge every day astounds me!  Your interesting, entertaining and spot on.

Have a level day,

 

Glenn

Posted by Glenn Freezman (Family Abstract, Inc.) over 6 years ago

I am not sure they understand that Steven!  Level?  Plumb?

There were Paula.  But I think all of them are resolvable.

Glenn - thanks, but not as funny as a certain stand-up comic I saw recently.  I should tell him I'm doing a senior too, but "she" (you know who) wouldn't appreciate that moniker.  I am related to her by marriage.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay  We should get CE credits for reading your blogs.  Thanks for all you insight...and education.

Posted by John G. Johnston, An Exclusive Buyer's Agent ~ Westcliffe, CO (John G. Johnston & Associates, LLC) over 6 years ago

I agree John.  See what you can get!

Oh, and thanks very much, those are very kind words.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

When I'm a buyer, I love to see doors that don't close well, when I become a seller of that property, they work perfectly.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) over 6 years ago

You're getting a discount because of that Joe!  This is a new house!

By the way, this crew could use your help!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Funny how many calls I get as a locksmith to fix things like this. Only to advice the customer that problem is not the lock but the door. I sometime have a very hard time explaining that to the customer, they have it in there head that the lock is the problem because it sticking. We can do some minor work but we are not carpenters and should not pretend to be one.

Posted by Chuck Mixon, Cutler Bay Specialist, GRI, CDPE, BPOR (The Keyes Company) over 6 years ago

Chuck - not plumb, not level, not flush - it's the lock's fault!  Over time, for sure, those strikers and plates won't line up!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

As long as the door work's for the buyer and getting into and out of the home.

I'm sure the builder said "So what's the problem". They think that what they do is the right way no matter what. I find the builders don't like to have us inspectors around at all. They don't like being criticized for any thing. Level or not, the builder will say it works.

Some times all we have is to shake our heads and throw our hands up in frustration.

Have a great day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

I hear you Clint.  In this case, I don't know if pointing this out is a criticism or an instructional lesson for the installers.  But something needs to change, for sure!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I like plums, they are yum, yum, yummy.

The foam was obviously the new glue type, should make squaring the door lots of fun. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

If they are using the foam to square the door, as you know Jim, they have already screwed it up.  They certainly didn't use the shims for that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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