This post draws inspiration from an actual encounter with a prominent national builder in Northern Virginia. Stick around until the end for a firsthand account of the experience.

Buying a new construction home involves making choices and decisions based largely on samples and renderings, a process that involves abstract thinking and imagination. Building a home that reflects your personal taste and lifestyle can be exhilarating.

However, the initial excitement can quickly fade if the craftsmanship and quality of work do not meet your expectations. For those considering a new construction home, it's important to know how to ensure that the construction meets high standards. What should you do when the builder's work falls short of your expectations? How do you address issues when the finishings don't seem right, when there's a lack of attention to detail, or when you notice imperfections?

It's not unusual for builders to resist making corrections for aesthetic concerns that a buyer might have, particularly when the issues are subtle rather than overt and significant. However, here are some strategies to use when challenging a builder. 

Understanding the Importance of Craftsmanship:

Craftsmanship in home construction signifies the level of quality, skill, and meticulous attention to detail demonstrated by builders and contractors. Far from being an abstract concept, craftsmanship embodies concrete standards governing installation, construction, and application processes. Often detailed in sales contracts, these standards explicitly outline the expectations for what builders must deliver. This distinction is what separates superior homes from the average, ensuring that from foundation to final touches, every element of your home is crafted with precision and diligence. 

Strategy 1: Leverage Installation Instructions

Begin with the basics. For any specific material used in your home, such as bathroom tiles or hardwood flooring, there are manufacturer-provided installation instructions. These documents are meticulously detailed, offering a blueprint for how materials should be correctly installed.

Why It Matters: Most installers tend to rely on their experience rather than following these detailed guides. By obtaining and understanding these instructions, you have a concrete standard to measure the work against. Securing the installation instructions for the specific materials in question is a crucial step. Request model numbers or product serial numbers from builders. 

Strategy 2: Benchmark Against Industry Standards

Industry standards serve as a universal measure of quality and craftsmanship. These standards define what constitutes a “craftsmanlike manner,” offering clear benchmarks for various aspects of construction work.

Strategy 3: Utilize Your Sales Contract

Your sales contract is more than just a financial agreement; it’s a legally binding document that outlines the expected quality of work. The phrase “workmanlike manner” frequently encapsulates these quality expectations. Should a builder stray from the manufacturer's installation guidelines, no matter how trivial the deviation, or fail to adhere to the pinnacle of industry standards and craftsmanship, a compelling case can be made that such deviations constitute a breach of contract. This argument hinges on the premise that the work delivered does not align with the stipulated standard of a workmanlike manner.

Holding Builders Accountable:

If the work performed does not meet the agreed-upon standards, your contract is your first line of defense. It provides a basis to demand corrections or even compensation for subpar work. 

The truth is, many buyers tend to accept the builder's assurances regarding quality at face value. Builders often deflect concerns with statements like, "It passed multiple county inspections," or "This is the standard across all our homes." A common dismissal I've heard is, "The samples at the design center are merely indicative; the actual installation may vary." It's unusual for buyers and agents to challenge these assertions with such diligence. My experience has shown that adopting this assertive approach, albeit rare, can lead to meaningful discussions with upper management. In my numerous encounters, I've found success in pushing for resolutions, demonstrating that while many buyers might accept the status quo without question, this acceptance does not justify substandard work.

Real-World Application

In a recent construction project for clients in Northern Virginia, the buyers chose a porcelain tile with a vein pattern resembling natural stone for their spacious primary shower. Unfortunately, the builder installed the tiles in a random sequence, resulting in an overall appearance that fell short of expectations. Although it was challenging to pinpoint a single, specific flaw, the collective effect of the installation was visually displeasing. Our dissatisfaction was clear; we believed the work did not meet the desired standards and advocated for the tiles to be replaced.

Initially, the builder dismissed our request for replacement, reasoning that similar tile installations had been accepted by other buyers in the community without objection. They further argued that variations in the appearance of the tiles are natural and to be expected, given the nature of the material.

By referencing specific installation instructions and industry standards, the homeowner was able to articulate a clear and objective critique of the workmanship. The sales contract further bolstered their position, enabling them to demand and ultimately ensure corrective action was taken. See the screenshot below.

Screenshot 2024-02-04 at 10.40.08 PM


As a future homeowner investing in a new construction, your vigilance and knowledge can make a significant difference in the outcome of your home. By understanding and applying these strategies, you can ensure that your home not only meets but exceeds your expectations for quality and craftsmanship. Remember, your home is not just a financial investment but a personal one, deserving of the highest standards of construction and care.

Khalil El-Ghoul

Discover our 2.25% Full Service Listings and alternative commission models for home buyers. Khalil is dedicated to guiding home buyers and sellers with expert advice and objective information. For professional real estate assistance, text Khalil at 571-235-4821 or email today.