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Unread 03-01-2021, 08:20 PM   #1
bob-dog
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Evaluating new house tile

I'm buying a new house. The house will have concrete slab, 18" square Emser Havana basic glazed ceramic tile in every room, 2" square tile on the shower floor, and similar 12" tile plus some decorative 1" mosaic tile on shower walls. The house is >1000 miles from my present location, so it's impossible for me to watch it being built.

I will have one chance to see it before drywall is installed and another chance to see it after certificate-of-occupancy final walk-thru. So far, the builder doesn't seem willing to give out technical specifications, such as what they will use for backer board, how they will seal, etc. I don't know if they even check the contractor's materials or work.

I've read about doing drain seal testing before putting up tile and using approved shower wall water barriers, but don't know what they will do.

What, if anything, can I do to inspect the appropriateness of materials and workmanship after it is all done? I welcome any and all advice.

Thank you.
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Unread 03-01-2021, 09:03 PM   #2
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Welcome, Bob.

That scenario would scare me to death and I'd be the builder!

My recommendation would be to either hire a trusted representative in the area of construction, prepare yourself to buy whatever you find when you get there, or tell the builder you're not buying the house. Of the three, the third would most likely get my vote.

Far too many questions come up during a new home construction for me not to be able to discuss things with my client. And a lot of those questions would require some show-and-tell. I realize that modern communication methods might make that a lot more feasible in a long-distance relationship, but it certainly doesn't sound like your builder is very willing to do something like that.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 03-01-2021, 09:30 PM   #3
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It's your house. Go to the job site. When my house was built I went there every day after work to inspect. Even take some time off while certain jobs are being done. See what they are doing and just ask the actual person doing the work.

Remember, the builder is working FOR YOU. You are the boss.
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Unread 03-01-2021, 10:01 PM   #4
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Welcome, Bob.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cx
That scenario would scare me to death and I'd be the builder!
Yeah, that.

This is equivalent to sending an unknown eBay seller who doesn't gurantee anything or offer refunds $500,000 and telling them to send you something good in a year.

These days, there is no reason whatsoever for difficult communications when building a house. No reason for not telling you what standards and codes will be adhered to. None at all. I would make a change to correct what I consider a massive deficiency.
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Unread 03-01-2021, 10:08 PM   #5
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Do you know anyone in the area that you could pay to go there and take pictures and send them to you?

I have to be honest, I couldn't buy a home under those circumstances. There are hundreds of things that could be hidden that you will never have a chance to address until something goes wrong. And how many of those will be after the warranty expires?
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Unread 03-01-2021, 10:46 PM   #6
cx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob, Post #1
The house is >1000 miles from my present location, so it's impossible for me to watch it being built.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike, Post #3
Go to the job site. When my house was built I went there every day after work to inspect. Even take some time off while certain jobs are being done. See what they are doing and just ask the actual person doing the work.
Don't think that's gonna work out well for him, Mike.
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Unread 03-02-2021, 08:45 AM   #7
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Thank you for the excellent advice. Unfortunately, cancelling is not an option.

Yes, this is a very scary situation. I understand that there are so many things that could go wrong. I would love to be there through construction, but can't.

In a few weeks, I will have a zoom call with the construction supervisor to review plans and ask questions.

1) What can I ask the supervisor at this time that will help? There are so many different materials and processes involved in construction. I want to get the right information but also want to be reasonable.

2) Is there one phase or two phases of construction where I could ask them to send me cell-phone photos to give me confidence in them doing it right?

3) What would you advise me to inspect at the mid-construction walk-through, when framing is up but walls are open?

4) What would you advise me to inspect at final walk-through?

I started this post with questions about tile showers, because those seemed the most likely place where errors could be hidden. But I welcome advice in other areas as well.

In case it matters, I am a details person. I read specifications and instructions compulsively, and try to do as much as I can myself. But I am not a trained building professional. My professional expertise is electronics.

Thank you again for offering advice and for any more advice you can share.

Bob
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Unread 03-02-2021, 08:49 AM   #8
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I skimmed through that. Maybe set up webcams in each room and stream them so you can watch. Add in 2 way audio!

Even with that, I would want to know exactly how it will be performed, in writing. I would also need some way to verify.
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Unread 03-14-2021, 06:44 PM   #9
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This is a thread about me buying a 1-story house on a slab, from a builder in Florida, but not being able to see it being built and being worried about shower construction.

I just got plans and specs on the house. There are three footnotes that specify shower construction (attached with text below):

"FIBERGLASS BOARD OR DUR-O-ROCK to 8'-0" A.F.F. OR SOFFIT AROUND TUBS/SHOWERS"

"TOP OF KNEEWALL W/ PT 2X TOP PLATE & 1/2" PLYWD & 1/2" NON ASBESTOS FIBER CEMENT BACKER BOARD"

"KNEEWALL W/ NON ASBESTOS FIBER CEMENT BACKER BOARD ON SHOWER/TUB SIDE & TILE FINISH"

There is no mention of an additional moisture barrier on either side of the backer. I looked at specs from a few different backer board makers and they all say that no extra moisture barrier is needed unless required by code.

I read online discussion saying that moisture barrier is not required but highly recommended. I also read someone saying that the weakest link is holes for shower heads and controls.

==> To get a long-lasting job, do I need to insist on a moisture barrier over the backer board?
==> To get a long-lasting job, do I need to insist on special sealing for the holes?

Thank you for your thoughts.
Attached Images
  
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Unread 03-14-2021, 09:30 PM   #10
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I would want a specification for exactly what they mean by "FIBERGLASS BOARD" and "DUR-O-ROCK." I could hazard a couple guesses, but this would not be a good time for guessing.

I would ask why they wanted to use Pressure Treated lumber on the top of the "knee wall" (it is not a knee wall, it's a pony wall or short wall, or similar description, but knee wall is a specific term for something else). Do they anticipate that framing getting wet? If they are using wood framing on top of their metal framed wall where ceramic tile is to be installed I'd want them to use kiln dried lumber.

I would want to know specifically what the "1/2" non-asbestos fiber cement backer board" is. The most commonly used Fiber/Cement backer board is not 1/2" thick. Maybe they've got somethin' special.

I would want to know what they're calling a "ROMAN SHWR." Lot of definitions of a Roman shower and the variations are spread pretty wide.

You're buying a house in Florida. In many areas down there even the shower receptor is not required to be waterproofed if it is recessed into the SOG foundation as yours appears to be. The ceramic tile industry requires specific waterproofing for the shower receptor (as do most plumbing codes) and water containment methods for the shower walls. The wall can have a moisture barrier behind the shower wallboard of specific types or a direct bonded waterproofing membrane on the inside surface of the wallboard. Tell them you want one or the other and that you want to know how the shower receptor is to be waterproofed. Those items should not be negotiable from your end. Good luck with that.

The holes in the shower walls for the controls are an issue of discussion, but there is, to my knowledge, no specific requirement in the ceramic tile industry standards, nor in the plumbing code, that addresses those. If the appropriate escutcheon plate with it's integral seal is properly installed it is not an issue to my thinking. The operative word there is properly. But I generally caulk around the top 3/4ths of such trim pieces anyway.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 03-15-2021, 09:01 AM   #11
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CX: This is REALLY helpful. Thank you very much.

Yes, it's funny that the print calls out three different materials (1/2" non-asbestos fiber cement backer board, etc.), but none are good technical terms.

I'd been worried about the wall, but never thought about the shower receptor. {insert dope slap here}

Your comment about the strange sandwich on top of the pony wall is also very enlightening.

I'll follow up here with what I learn from the construction supervisor.

Again, thank you!
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Unread 03-15-2021, 09:10 AM   #12
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It's entirely possible they actually mean a non-asbestos fiber-mat reinforced cementitious backer unit (ASTM C1325) there, Bob, but that is not the same as a Fiber/Cement backer unit (ASTM C1288). And there are some differences in suitable applications of the two species of CBU. 'specially where they are showing it potentially going down into the recessed receptor.

I have no trouble with the sandwich atop the pony wall except for the pressure treated wood and the fact that they don't specify that it be sloped to the shower drain. The rest of it is fine.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 03-20-2021, 02:10 PM   #13
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Thank you for all of the help.

I spoke with the builder last week. He said that they use DensGlass over the studs and no vapor barrier. He didn't know what they used for the shower receptor.

I hadn't done enough research to challenge him whether he really meant DensShield or DensGlass. But it doesn't matter. He said that their work is good, that I won't have any problems, and that they won't change their approach no matter what I ask. He also said that they don't warranty against mold.

I would list the builder's name here and tell people to stay away, but perhaps all tract home builders are similarly cheap, rigid, and well protected by lawyers. This is my only data point.

What amazes me most is that they appear to completely ignore the print and build as they find most economical. Again, this is my first time dealing with a tract builder, so perhaps this sort of thing is more common than I expected.

Sigh.
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Unread 03-20-2021, 07:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
I would list the builder's name here and tell people to stay away, but perhaps all tract home builders are similarly cheap, rigid, and well protected by lawyers. This is my only data point.
I get the impression from your posts that this is a home in a development of new homes that is ownwd by either a large builder or a real estate developer. I have heard of difficulties getting on site as the home is NOT yours until you close escrow - a much different scenario than buying a lot and contracting a builder to build your home.

That said, you should look into what is being offered by the developer in the way of a "builder's warranty." I have a new development near me that we visited to look at the model homes and they were very proud of their "Builder's Warranty" that covered things like faulty construction, etc. for a specified time frame after the sale of the home.

I have no idea what is commonly offered in FL, but I would be asking and reading the fine print.

Best of luck!
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Unread 03-20-2021, 11:52 PM   #15
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Oh, boy. Denssheild in a shower. In all likelihood, it won't be installed to minimal manufacturer's or industry standards.

Bob, I would insist on obtaining from your builder, the tiling method they are installing to. This can be as simple as them sending you a text telling you what TCNA method number they are using. Asking for this isn't anything difficult or out of the ordinary. But having such listed methods gives you concrete things to compare what was done vs. what was agreed to. I can't overstress how outrageously important this is. I wouldn't dismiss my advice as unobtainable...just get it. Say to them, "I'm sure you do a great job and I won't have a problem. Please just list what method of tile installation you're building to" so that I understand.

Having this documentation in writing may very well give you leverage you need in the future...perhaps at the closing.
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