By Gerhard Linse

You might recall, in my last article, in the Spring, 2019 edition of Ottawa Renovates, I talked about putting together the right team to execute your dream project.

In this final article in the series, I want to briefly touch on the warranties and documentation you should have on hand to facilitate the ongoing operation and maintenance of your new home (outside of Tarion, the provincially-mandated new home warranty).

Long before you accept the keys for your newly-built custom home, there should be a clear understanding of what warranties and documentation you will or should receive before handing over that last cheque. In many cases your custom builder agreement will outline which warranties and documents these will be.

Most builders will or should provide a binder containing, at a minimum, the following:

  • The builder’s own written overall warranty for all materials and labour. A minimum of one year, but often two, will be offered.
  • Copies of all manufacturers’ warranties for all HVAC, built-in appliances and electrical equipment installed in the house – including vacuum, sound/intercom systems, pools and hot tubs, etc., along with copies of installation instructions.
  • A list of key trades contacts and their phone numbers – in particular, the plumber, HVAC contractor and electrician. I would ask for the list to include all trades and subcontractors involved on the project. (Some clients have been known to show appreciation for a job well done by hosting a barbecue for all involved in their new custom home construction).
  • A clean set of “as-built” drawings that will show all changes and deviations from the original plan as well as changes in materials from what was specified. Ideally the designer or architect should be contracted to provide this in collaboration with the builder.
  • Copies of all building, plumbing, and electrical inspection reports.
  • Copies of well records and septic permits, designs and final inspections, if applicable.

In addition, I would recommend:

  • A complete top-to-bottom video or photographic record of key aspects of the construction – in particular, the framing after the roughing-in of all mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. This can be an invaluable time- and money-saver in locating or diagnosing a problem should something come up in the future. Whether the builder or the client will provide this should be discussed and agreed to at the contract stage. (There are independent services that will provide this kind of service at a reasonable cost.)
  • Clear labelling of all water shut off valves and key switches. I highly recommend having shut off valves to all plumbing fixtures and appliances using water.
  • A request that the builder provide a detailed maintenance schedule and checklist. This might include how often to change furnace filters, checking the caulking on chimney flashings, blowing out the irrigation system in the fall or changing the oil in a standby generator. If you are not handy, I would recommend hiring the builder or a competent handyman to do a top-to-bottom inspection at least once a year, but ideally once in the fall and again in the spring.

Last, a word about Tarion, the Ontario new home warranty. All builders in Ontario engaged in building a home for someone else must register that home with Tarion for a fee. It is basically an insurance program that will help to correct major deficiencies if the builder is unable or unwilling for whatever reason to do so. Tarion will not generally deal with cosmetic deficiencies, such as nail pops, minor shrinkage and settlement cracks.

Most reputable builders will be happy to come back after a year and repair these items and touch up the paint.

Gerhard Linse is the owner of Gerhard Linse Design, Inc. — a creative and idea-rich design, building and consulting company in Ottawa. His company provides services to both the new construction and renovation markets.

His well-known knowledge and experience in design and construction has won him a superb reputation and many awards, including the prestigious Enbridge Hall of Fame Award for design, given to a person or company with more than 20 years in the association.