March 2001 Edition

New Construction Problems

We have just put a contract on a new house and had it inspected before the final walk-through. The inspector found twenty-two code items that needed correcting. The builder refused to correct them and we canceled the contract. Do you have a list of the most common problems with new home construction?
It is not uncommon to find a long list of items needing finishing on a new home. Most municipal inspectors are overworked in the Atlanta area. The inspection departments bring in millions of dollars in permit fees each year. Unfortunately, the inspection departments are not allowed to keep the money in order to hire the adequate number of inspectors needed to do a complete job inspecting each phase of construction. Some of the municipal inspectors are required to inspect over twenty homes a day spending only minutes at each job site. Most private inspectors spend between two and three hours inspecting the same house.
We do have a list of the "50 Most Common Problems With New Home Construction". Just go to our website at and click on " New Home Construction Problems". If you are not internet savvy, send us a stamped, self-addressed envelope and we will send you a copy.
What we recommend is to give your builder a copy of the list. Tell them to figure the additional cost of meeting every requirement of the list and add that cost into the overall cost of the home. The builder will increase their profit by adding overhead and profit onto the additional cost and the home buyer will end up with a better built home. When a private inspector finishes an inspection, there will not be anything on his list. This will make a "Win-Win" combination where all parties win.

How Does A GFCI Work?

I have been a Realtor for a very long time and know quite a bit about home inspecting by following the inspectors around. One item I have never mastered is "how does a ground fault circuit interrupter work?"
First of all, a ground fault circuit interrupter does not need a ground to work. A ground fault circuit interrupter compares the amount of supply current running through the black circuit wire with the amount of return current running through the white circuit wire.


As long as the amount of current is the same, the electrical outlet will not trip. If a ground fault occurs and part of the current goes through your body instead of the white circuit wire, the "do-hickey" inside the outlet will trip the outlet in 1/40th of a second. A ground fault occurs when the current running through the black wire goes into the ground or earth instead of back to the electrical panel box through the white wire.
For example: If you are washing dishes in the kitchen sink with your hands in the water and someone knocks an electric can opener into the sink, a ground fault will develop through the water, through the water piping finally into the ground. This will be detected by the GFCI and the outlet will trip.

Removing Hardened Brick Mortar

I had brick installed at my home and the bricklayer neglected to clean the mortar off the brick. I tried muriatic acid, but it doesn’t seem to work. What should I use to remove hardened mortar from brick?
Vladimir Popovan, a mason from Sonora, CA, replies: Mortar achieves around 90% of its hardness and bonding power within the first three days of application. After 30 days, mortar’s hardness reaches closer to 99%. So needless to say, it’s easiest to clean the mortar from the brick in those crucial first few hours after it has set up.


I try to clean mortar from brick or stone as soon as I can brush the mortar without smearing it in the joints. At that point, a dry brush and a sponge damp with water are all that is needed. However, cleaning mortar off brick even years after application is still possible, and muriatic acid is still the agent to use.
Muriatic acid is a form of hydrochloric acid that dissolves mortar. Be sure to follow the instructions on the container closely. Typically, those instructions say to begin by mixing a 9:1 (10%) solution of water to acid. The acid should always be added to the water and not vice versa.
Next the brick is wet down with water and the acid solution is applied with an acid-resistant brush. The solution should sizzle and fizz as it dissolves the mortar. Leave the solution on for a few minutes and then rinse the brick with water. It’s important to rinse between applications because the acid solution will begin to dissolve the mortar in the joints as well as the brick itself.
If the mortar you’re removing doesn’t come off the first try, repeat the process until it does. As the mortar bond weakens, use mechanical and abrasive force in the form of a chisel, a scraper or an abrasive pad. If you need to speed up the process, gradually increase the amount of acid in the mix. When the clumps of mortar are removed, you usually will be left with a stain that looks like a faint shadow after the brick dries. At this point, apply a coat of masonry sealer, and that shadow should disappear. There are many sealers on the market, but one I’ve had good luck with is Glaze ‘N Seal (800-486-1414). As a word of caution, be sure to wear eye protection, acid resistant gloves and old clothes when cleaning with muriatic acid. Fabric and flesh don’t offer nearly the resistance to the acid that the mortar does.

Source: Fine Homebuilding Magazine

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."

- Albert Schweitzer

A Tip Of The Hat To:

John Crayton

America’s Realty. Inc.

4002 Highway 78

Snellville, Georgia 30039

**** Thank You****