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The House Detective: Builder didn't install floor insulation

Published: February 15, 2014

DEAR BARRY: Our custom home was built about 10 years ago, and we recently discovered a major construction defect. The architecture is unusual, with the second story being cantilevered past the outer walls of the first story. In the second-floor rooms where the floors extend beyond the lower story, the floors are not insulated, and these rooms become very cold during winter.

The lack of insulation was discovered when we had leaks from frozen pipes in the floor. When we told the builder about the missing insulation, he said, “Just turn your heat up and wear socks.”

How could the builder have gotten away without installing floor insulation, how could the city inspector have missed it, and do I have recourse against the builder after 10 years?

— David

DEAR DAVID: Had the insulation been missed in a few places, this might be regarded as a mistake. That it was omitted at the entire perimeter of the building indicates questionable intent or incompetence.

The fact that it was overlooked by the municipal building inspector reveals professional negligence on the part of the inspector. As for liability, 10 years is usually the cutoff point for statutes of limitations, but this varies from state to state. You should consult an attorney who specializes in construction defect law to see what remedies, if any, are available to you under the law.

While you're at it, have your home professionally inspected to determine a complete list of defects. In all likelihood, there are additional issues that you have not yet discovered.

By the way, the contractor's response that you should turn up the heat and wear socks demonstrates that he is not concerned about the quality of his work. Hopefully, you can hold him responsible for the cost of repairs.

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