ORLANDO, Fla. - Two Central Florida mainstream news sources,The Orlando Sentineland WESH-NewsChannel 2, have been examining flaws in new homes for a year. They have now started reporting the results, and plan to do so for a 10-day period that started with an evening news broadcast Oct. 30.

According to Sentinel staff writer Dan Tracey, "The new homes of greater Orlando are riddled with problems large and small - everything from major cracks in the exterior walls to leaky windows and roofs; rooms that are too hot; and toilets that aren't even anchored to the floor."

An overview of the report published Oct. 31 cited the following problems in the 406 new homes examined:

  • Cracks and weather-stripping flaws around windows and doors - 64 percent of the houses.

  • Wall, floor, and deck cracking - 61 percent.

  • "Significant" HVAC system problems (ductwork leaks or creases, corrosion of vents and air handlers) - 50 percent.

  • Mold - 20 percent.

  • Poor drainage - 18 percent.

    Home inspectors and representatives of government agencies blamed the shoddy construction on slapdash work in a booming new home construction market, as well as on an unskilled labor force. Builders blamed the problems on poor homeowner maintenance practices. According to the report, one builder "dismissed leaky air handlers in five homes as ‘acceptable.'"

    While it would be easy to dismiss the report as a ratings-grabber, its statistical legitimacy is hard to discount. According to Tracey, engineering students trained by a professional home inspector with nearly 40 years of experience in the field "inspected 406 homes built in 2001, randomly selected from the nearly 18,000 new homes sold in six Central Florida counties that year."

    According to the report, the problems have showed up in homes constructed by both tract and custom homebuilders. However, "there were not enough custom homes in the survey to draw statistically valid conclusions about the quality of the work."

    The News will follow this report as it develops. If you live and/or work in the Central Florida area and would like to weigh in on this topic, please contact Barb Checket-Hanks; barbarachecket-hanks@achrnews.com; 248-244-6467.

    Publication date: 11/10/2003