What I'm Seeing Now

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Do You Consider This To Be "Custom" Wood Work?

When custom builders advertise their specialties, like custom wood work, I wonder - do you consider this to be "custom" wood work?

One of the stated specialties is the staircase.

Staircase carpentry has to be very specific and defined.  The wood should all line up and match up.

Lines and mitered joints should be straight and true.

The left photo shows a gap present in five or six stairs, between the tread and riser.

This gap is nearly 1/2"!  Sure it could be covered with a piece of quarter round, but that covering would be present randomly and quite ugly.

The right photo is a hole created by a tool about half way up the entry staircase, on the right side.

This is simply unprofessional and unacceptable.  Even filling the hole with putty would be unacceptable.

Moving to the "custom" cabinetry, the left photo is representative of EVERY SINGLE bathroom cabinet.

The edges look to be created by a beaver.  Who cut the side panels and with what?

The right photo shows the kitchen cabinet work.

Trim pieces were attached with brads power shot into the wood.  Various areas show cracks where the brads were driven too forcefully.

And not all the brad holes were filled, unbelievably, but where they were, EVEN MORE UNBELIEVABLY, they were filled with white putty!

The wood is mahogany!  White is NOT mahogany!

My recommendation:  when people ask me if this or that is a good builder, even when they are "custom" builders, my answer is that it depends on the supervisor who is one site every day and the sub contractors they use.  All of the builders design and spec good houses.  It's how those plans get translated into a physical structure that really counts.  Look carefully!  Especially when something is advertised as "custom!"

 

 

 

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 42 commentsJay Markanich • April 15 2013 02:47AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay. Yes! Down here we call it "Cussed-Em". You get my drift...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 5 years ago

Its all in the eyes of the beholder.  I am not a carpenter electrician plummer and the list goes on.  So no not the best job I've seen but I've seen worse.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) about 5 years ago
Jay, until consumers refuse to buy sub-par building materials and accept shoddy construction, nothing will change. You know the saying, 'penny wise and pound foolish'.
Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (Realty National) about 5 years ago

I do Michael!  That's pretty much what my clients were saying!

James - when it's "custom" carpentry it should so appear!

Norman - and these clients will not accept this, for sure.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

I think I could do better custom woodwork with a chainsaw. That is not custom, not acceptable, and whoever did it shouldn't be paid for it.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) about 5 years ago

C'mon Jeff, beavers need to be employed too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago
Yeah Jay. That's sure "custom work." By a wood butcher.
Posted by Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker, Selling Northwest Houston to good people like you! (Janisch & Co.) about 5 years ago

Jay,

It looks like the carpenter made those cuts with a drywall saw.

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) about 5 years ago

With his cleaver in hand J&R!

Rich - you might be right!  And here I thought it was a beaver.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

It is custom. I can say I rarely see that kind of work on a new house. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 5 years ago

Yes, that doesn't look good at all, even for a regular builder.  And, who uses white putty w/ mahogany.  Quite sad.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 5 years ago

That it is Jim.  And beeeeerrrtiful!

Debbie - I have five or six colors of putty in my house!  Just in case!  A "custom" carpenter should have at least that many in his kit.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, I can not decide who is the dumbest the seller or the buyer. The seller for thinking anyone would accept this as custom work, or they buyer who believed them.

Posted by Tom Bailey (Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc.) about 5 years ago

I'm afraid those boys would not get paid if it were me. If this is a new home, shame on the contractor accepting this lack of craftsmanship or checking their work before releasing them. That is ridiculous. Good job Jay!

Wearing your PF FLyers today?

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 5 years ago

Jay -- I still remember going to a "Street of Dreams" set of homes a few decades ago -- and being amazed at the shoddy workmanship in places in each of the homes.  I don't remember any being quite this bad though.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 5 years ago

Jay - VERY well said!  I worked on-site sales for builders in my former life, and it DID entirely depend on the field manager, and how much he/she supervised his/her subcontractors...!

Posted by Sharon Lord, New Home Advisor (Maracay Homes) about 5 years ago

Jay, "custom" is a euphamism for cuss-dumb---don't you think?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 5 years ago

This is not the way I am accustom to seeing custom work that was done.  Won't be staying in business.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) about 5 years ago

Jay - Just think how nice it would have looked with the proper tools, eye glasses, and some common sense; would that still be considered "custom"?

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) about 5 years ago

Jay, I think your "constructed by a beaver" is pretty priceless.  I might use it in the next edition of my book.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) about 5 years ago

That is some incredible work--and not in a positive way! Someone definitely dropped the ball and just wanted to be done quickly.

Posted by Trisha Bush-LeFore, Providing Realtor Services in the Walla Walla Area (Preferred Properties Land & Homes) about 5 years ago

Tom - the buyer did not know about this until our inspection!  They are not accepting it, for sure.

Fred - this supervisor leaves much to be desired.  And yes to the PFs!

Steven - professionalism is the big problem in today's construction field.

Yes, Sharon, this is a supervisor which has a lot to learn apparently.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Sure is in this case Charlie!  Your comment sounds a bit like Michael above!

William - this is far, far from custom work.  And should not be billed as such.

Tom - when staircases are your "specialty," you should at least do them well.  This is some more custom work to the right.

Pat - well, isn't that what it looks like?  Chomp, chomp.

Trisha - they will be spending some time with it now, for sure!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay:  What they are trying to say is that it is their "custom" to build crappy houses.  LOL.  Looks like they are true to their word.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 5 years ago

Jay - the installation on those cabinets are really bad, and how could anyone even boast that it's custom? This shows that inspectors are also on the look out for quality workmanship.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) about 5 years ago
Hi Jay, I Think Charles said it best, it is more cuss dumb than custom. Why would anyone want a micro thin veneer over pressed wood on anything custom.
Posted by William Johnson, San Diego Real Estate Voice, GRI CRS e-Pro CDPE (RE/MAX Associates) about 5 years ago

Seems to be Karen Anne.  My clients were very disappointed.  They had not been in the house for a couple of weeks prior to our inspection.

Here's more custom staircase work Eric.  It was fabulous, just fabulous.

William - those side panels were as cheaply made as they can be.  And they used something too forceful to cut them.  Hence the beaver look!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay:  Much of this wood looks more like a "skin" than actual wood cabinetry... and it looks like it has been cut by a power saw with a very dull blade... thus the "ripped" look. 

You mentioned that the buyers had not been in the home for several weeks prior to the inspection.  Well, usually they are... but, it's really not up to them. 

Question:  Did these buyers have an agent?  If so... I lay the blame at the feet of the agent.  ANY agent who sells a "to be built" new home should be in that home at least several times each week.  I am sure that might make them a pain in the butt to the builder... but, too bad.

By the time the home would get to this stage, the individual builder superintendent would know that part of my job, as the buyer's agent, would be to keep the buyers informed, and the only way I could do that would be through personal twice-weekly walk-thru's.

This is one of those times when it is very important for me to have a "relationship" with the builder, and their on-site person.  Once they get to know me... and I don't mean I am riding on them, or being unrealistic, but once they learn that there is another set of eyes on the job... usually things improve.  And I don't mean this in a nasty, confrontational way, either.  Just a little extra smidge of accountability.  At least that's the way I did things.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) about 5 years ago

Great points, as usual, Karen Anne.  You are right!  It is NOT up to them!

This is a new home and they have no realtor, hiring a custom builder to put it together.  The "code" post I had the day before is this same house.  Unfortunately the supervisor, whom I met and wrote about following my pre-drywall inspection, quit in a huff and a new supervisor took over.  This supervisor is, in my opinion, inept and unknowing.  When I asked questions she could not answer them, saying she would "get back to me."  A knowledgeable supervisor would have simply answered me.

And your last point is significant.  That is my definition of a good supervisor - one who is attentive to clients, gets back to them right away and is on top of things.  Such a relationship should never be confrontational, as you say!

My code post before this one will stir you up too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay, finish carpentry is an art. This looks like a handyman with no carpentry experience did the work.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA about 5 years ago

one of my little known talents is cabinet builting (former life) and I just belly laugh sometimes when I see some of that "custom" work locally. 

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) about 5 years ago

But if the word "custom" means it wasn't built like all the "regular" houses were built, doesn't this house qualify? Since the workers were paid that did this, technically they are professionals.

So, just because something is "custom built by professionals" doesn't mean anything good or bad. It's implication, of course, is that it's very good but that isn't necessarily so.

Doctors. Lawyers, and ...(ahem) Realtors are professionals and all the work they do is "custom" so the words custom and professional are virtually meaningless to be seen as what it is, simply advertising promotion.

Posted by Jeffrey Smith, Short Sale Education (Author of 'Realtors Guide To Short Sale Success) about 5 years ago

Mike - do beavers generally have carpentry experience, beyond chewing that is?

Tammy - a true pro, and/or finish carpenter, would cry in addition to belly laughing!

Jeffrey - too true!  I ask people all the time if they think home inspectors all have the same abilities.  Yes, professionals all, technically...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

There is just no excuse for this.  Sad and sorry workmanship.

Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) about 5 years ago

I agree Charita.  No excuse whatever.  If I was the supervisor I would be embarrassed.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Jay- I've seen better work in the Popsicle stick birdhouses I used to build when I was a Girl Scout. 

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) about 5 years ago

Thanks Kathy!  I never built a birdhouse out of popsicle sticks, but I did build a lot of forts!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

I've seen many builders use the phrase "Custom" meaning they didn't buy it at Home Depot or Lowes. Someone actually "crafted" the piece we're talking about.  Be it the cabinets or staircase or "built in" bookshelf.  Sometimes the "custom" wood is only painted MDF.  So I'd say there is no real good definition on what custom really means, though I'd assume most would think it indicates a certain level of quality which I find to be lacking in many cases. 

Posted by Bryan Tobiason (Keller Williams Partners, Inc.) about 5 years ago
Custom is definitely in the eye of the beholder, I would want a higher level of quality finish if they were marketing and asking for a price that reflected true custom finishes.
Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) about 5 years ago

Bryan - I don't know what they mean either, but the say they only build a few homes a year and no home is the same as the last one.  It is truly client oriented as to construction.

Morgan - yes, they should be held to a higher level of quality finish!  This is NOT a cheap house!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

Good grief! But then I've been in kitchens advertised as "gourmet" kitchens with flourscent lights fixtures, third rate appliances, shoddy cabinets. I suppose it's in the eye of the beholder. But in your case, custom work this is not!

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (RE/MAX Executive | Charlotte, NC) about 5 years ago

I have to agree Nina!  This really was trash work, not custom in any way.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 5 years ago

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