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anyone else find missing insulation?

Discussion in 'Homeowners Corner' started by sonnguyen, Dec 2, 2002.

  1. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    In our seemingly never-ending quest to track down reasons why we have such a huge gas bill, we found 2 wall sections and an exterior floor section that were never insulated. We suspect another floor section, too.

    There were sections that we knew were missing some insulation in the past, but Van Metre assured us that they were fixed before drywall was put up (or else it wouldn't have passed the county inspection). I've learned not to trust anything they tell me, so I used an infrared thermometer and scanned the wall along the suspicous areas and noticed a 5 degree (F) drop in between the studs. I did this for both sections, and when the drywall was cut out, there was nothing but a hole.

    I used the IR thermometer to detect a drop in the carpet temperature, too. I had to drill down under the floor board to find that there was nothing there, either. We have a Dogwood; this was in the master bedroom overhang at the balcony. We suspect the insulation company didn't bother to insulate the jacuzzi bump-out, either.

    They're in the process of fixing the wall areas, but I've lost a lot of vacation time to be home when work is being done. And I'm going to lose a lot more for them to finish up the work (twice the insulation folks never showed up).

    I know a house near us had similar problems with missing insulation. It's important to make sure your house was done right or else you'll have a huge gas bill like ours ($189 for October 1-31!). Has anyone else had similar problems?
     
  2. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    Wow, thats something else. Are you considering a lawsuit? I sure would be!

    ---------------
    Got Broadband?
     
  3. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    Yes, a lawsuit is under consideration right now. We were told numerous times that Loudoun County inspectors would be at the house and that it wouldn't have passed inspection with any missing insulation. I'm trying to determine exactly _who_ did the inspections.

    If you want to see what I'm talking about, you can see my pics at: http://www.geocities.com/broadlandshouse/missing_insul_bedrooms/ (medium and small bedrooms missing insulation) and http://www.geocities.com/broadlandshouse/missing_insul_master_bedroom/ (master bedroom missing insulation).

    Today will be the fifth time I have to take time out to deal with the fix.

    I bet other homes in the neighborhood have major problems like ours...problems that are simply ignored (how can anyone put up drywall over a section that's missing 5 feet of insulation???). And I'm sure they expect us to just ignore them, too.

    Please let me know if you have similar problems or even if you just suspect similar problems. I'll do what I can to help and share what I have.

    Edited by - sonnguyen on 12/23/2002 22:47:42
     
  4. Dwarflord

    Dwarflord New Member

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    I think builders are all the same. They only care about one thing, I guarantee you they could care less about you and your home. Unless you are on them all the time during construction you will have a ton of problems. Even still, you can still have a ton of problems w/builders. I tried to sue my builder because of splits in the wood on my staircase I paid an extra $4500 for and for the severe cracking of the brick on my front fascia, which I paid another $22k for. It took 6 months of lawyers' fees and experts to tell me the cracks, though worse that he has ever seen, were normal moisture cracks in the brick. And all the builder was going to do with the stairs was caulk it. Also, in Virginia you can not recoupe Lawyers fees in court, they wont let you. So be careful how much $$ you start spending on Lawyers fees, you may be better off doing it yourself, though it is a pain, and wrong for the builder to do this to you. Good luck,

    DwArFlOrD
     
  5. SK8R

    SK8R On the Clover Meadow

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    I am very sorry to see those photos. I hope you can get the repairs done with not too much of a headache. Boy, I think you should call Mr. Van Metre himself and have him over for a look.
    Good luck with any legal action. (I don't think they will reimburse you for the attractive furniture though, jk.)
    I am sure there are many of us with some interesting horror stories
    about our new houses. I have a few exciting ones.
    I just bought my second Van Metre home (duh-Oh!), resale this time.
    We have already had the plumber out two times...
    I remember when we bought our first Van Metre. We were reminded by them that "this is not a custom home".
    Where do you get an infrared thermometer?
     
  6. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    Thanks for your reply. I hope you were able to get the plumbing problems worked out...?

    I got my IR thermometer at Radio Shack. I think the nearest store is in the Dulles Mall but they should have stores everywhere. They're on sale right now ($30, normally $50). The 12-volt battery (avail. at the store) is about $3. Follow this link http://www.radioshack.com/product.a...y_name=CTLG_008_007_000_000&product_id=22-325 or if that doesn't work, search for "infrared thermometer" on Radio Shack's site.

    It's easier if you already suspect an uninsulated area so you can narrow down your search. In my case, I had pics of 2 sections (pre-drywall) that weren't insulated. Van Metre folks had assured me that it wouldn't have passed inspection if they hadn't gone back to insulate those areas. I used the thermometer and held it about 1 foot from the wall and scanned across horizontally past that section. Immediately I saw a 5-degree dip in temperature right in between the studs. The temp climbed back as soon as I passed the area (the IR thermometer only needs half a second to grab a temperature reading).

    Regarding the section of our master bedroom that jutted out past the garage...a person with the same home as ours had missing insulation there. So I scanned our carpet and saw a 5-degree dip. At their house (tests done within ~15 minutes of each other) they had only 0.5 or 1 degree separation. Then it was a matter of drilling a 5/8" hole there, dropping a straightened clothes hanger, seeing it drop, and hearing it hit the wood below.

    I suspect our jacuzzi bump-out (which juts out past the garage in the back) also doesn't have insulation in the floor. It's incredibly cold under the tub. I had also pointed this out to the Van Metre guys (that was when they assured me everything must've been insulated to pass inspection). Well, I guess I'll have to do my own investigation since all they try to do is deceive their customers so they don't have to go back and fix things. At least that's the treatment that _we've_ been getting.
     
  7. Cooper

    Cooper New Member

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    I am having the similar issues. I have the Spruce model and our master bedroom is extremely cold, which is above the garage. I am suspecting from the insulations but at the same time the garage is not finished. There could be some temperature drops because of that. I called a contractor during the weekend and asked estimation for the drywall and insulation of my garage. I will probably end up going forward with it, but if I find out this problem caused by the insulation. I will ask VanMetre to reimburse my expenditure for the garage. I already contacted with VanMetre to check my insulation, but nobody showed up yet. Let’s see how it goes.

    Good luck with your legal fight and keep us posted how it goes!
     
  8. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    Please let us know how things go for you (and what Van Metre is going to do about it). When I first told the guys at Van Metre about the other house that had missing insulation and needed it retrofitted, I was actually told that "someone must have gone back and stolen the insulation because it wouldn't have passed inspection otherwise". Not a joke--the guy actually tried to make that out to be a plausible scenario! Yeah, sure, someone must have removed entire floorboards, removed about 10 small pieces of insulation (worth maybe $10 total at most), and went back to replace the flooring they removed so that it was impossible to tell when the personal home inspector pulled back the carpet. Riiiiiight.

    You should have insulation all along the heating envelope of your house. So you should have it inside the wall(s) adjacent to your house and in the ceiling of the garage (since your master bedroom is above it).

    About insulating the garage...from what I've read and heard, it might not be a very good idea. I've heard that warmth speeds up damage to your car (rust?) caused by road salt. I'm not 100% certain, though...but I'll look into it more (I've been thinking of insulating our garage, too).

    I hope they're not trying to pass off any ridiculous reasons or stories to you. If so, it would be funny to hear them :) . This is our first house and I've learned so many things about what _not_ to do when building a house!

    Good luck with everything and keep us posted!
     
  9. vacliff

    vacliff "You shouldn't say that."

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    Good luck with your fight with Van Metre! I got so tired of dealing with them with my house, I sold it and bought an NV house. What a world of difference in how they treat their homebuyers!

    You may want to contact Drew Hiatt, the Dulles District Board of Supervisor. He worked with several homeowners in the "hill " area to get problems corrected. He even threatened to pull Van Metre's business license in Loudoun County due to their refusal to correct problems with homes.
     
  10. Cooper

    Cooper New Member

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    Yes, you are right, it should be very well insulated, I followed your path and yesterday I bought the the infrared thermometer. I checked the walls. So far I found one spot drops down to 58 F. I checked the ceiling, I couldn't find anything. Probably, I will be able to check my garage ceiling in a couple of days since I am coming to home very late.

    Yesterday I received a big gas bill ($248 for November), maybe it is normal, but I don't have anything to compare to. In my previous home, it was heated with a dual stage heat pump and my bill for the bad winters was $150. It was a very small house (1500 sqft), but I was keeping it around 74F. Here, I am keeping the thermostat during the day around 70-72F and during the night it drops down to 62-64 F.

    For the garage, right now, a contractor is working to finish it. I hope this helps!

    I will let you know, how they (VM) approach to the problem.
     
  11. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    The gas company misread our meter (they got the hundred's place wrong so it their reading was 100 CCF less than the actual amount). If they had gotten the correct number, our bill for November (11/01/02 - 12/03/02) would be around $200 - $210. And we have the smallest style home Van Metre builds! We usually keep the temp at 68F during the day and 63F at night and when we're at work. I asked a bunch of my coworkers who live in Loudoun County to bring in their gas bills. For the equivalent square footage and home style (# of 2-story rooms, etc.), almost everyone had a bill between 1/3 and 1/2 of our bill.

    I keep a spreadsheet and track the gas meter almost every day. I graph our gas consumption along with the heating degree days to watch out for unusual swings in gas usage. We've been averaging a little over 11 CCF per day since 12/03/02. That comes out to an expected bill of around $340 for December. Of course, the temp has been about 7F colder than the 30-year average for this area, so we're hoping for warmer days (and a lighter gas bill, but who knows).

    When they were tearing up our master bedroom floor to retrofit insulation, I stuck my hand in each hole after it was insulated. There was one that had so much air coming in, it was making the [blown] insulation move. I videotaped it for my records. The Van Metre guy tried to pass off the air infiltration as something normal (because it was where two exterior walls met to make a corner...and the wind would be pressured into that section, he said). Once again distrustful of anything that comes out of their mouths, I went down to the garage and noticed that no one bothered to plug up some holes where electrical wires ran from the garage to the master bedroom. There were oversized holes to run 1 or 2 electrical wires between floors. So I used some spray foam insulation to take care of it. There were a bunch of places in the garage that were like that.

    Also check your fireplace for drafts. Check underneath it--there's a 3/4" gas pipe going in through a 2" hole in all the ones I've looked at. They should have covered these up because a lot of air makes it in through there. Make sure you use something that's fire-rated to cover it (like metal tape)--better yet, make Van Metre fix it (that's what I did).

    I've also noticed that for some reason they didn't caulk the top section of the fireplace (the top of the metal section). There was caulking along the left and right sides, but not the top. We could feel a draft in ours and made Van Metre come back and finish up their work.

    And check your crawl space. We had a piece of ceiling insulation that kept falling out. The wonderful folks at Van Metre used duct tape to re-fasten it. Guess what? It didn't hold. So the insulation crew had to go back and put in a new piece and put in metal bars between the joists to hold everything up.

    I've installed wireless thermometers around the house, the garage, crawl space, and outside. I use them to gauge min/max temperatures and judge thermostat operation. Plus it's interesting to check what the temperatures are everywhere :) .

    We're having the insulation folks out again. Last time they didn't send the right people and equipment even though I called and reminded them of the list of things that needed to be done. We're getting uneven heating around the house and I also suspect some of the vents in the 2nd floor aren't sealed properly. To check, go out on a frosty morning and check for evenness of the frost on your roof. Except for the furnace area and the stacks for the basement/crawl space furnace & water heater, there shouldn't be any areas that are unfrosty (is that even a word?); unfrosty areas would show heat leakage.

    Digital cameras are great things for this stuff. I've taken literally over 2,200 pictures (2 CDs' worth) of our house from the time it was a hole in the ground until now.
     
  12. Cooper

    Cooper New Member

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    Today, a guy showed up from the insulation company. He has no idea of using modern tools to investigate the problem. I asked him if he has a thermo-scan equipment, of course, his response was "What is that?". He put some holes to my garage ceiling (with my approval) and checked the insulation. He couldn't find anything missing, but he did this in a random manner. I am so frustarted that we are living in the 21st century and our homes getting inspected manually.

    I was looking for the companies do the thermo scan nad I found out an organization certifies the technicians. From their web site, I found a couple of certified technicians/companies can investigate the problem. I will check them out. Below are their URLs, please feel free to give me your feedbacks.

    www.natex.org
    www.nemionline.org
     
  13. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    Thanks for the links; I'll check 'em out.

    Do you have any floor sections that stick out past the house (like a bump-out)? The insulation people and whoever inspected the insulation were extremely negligent in these areas.

    Now that it's all dry, I went back and looked at the job that Van Metre did on the walls that they never insulated. The walls look terrible. They stick out, the paint's not matched, and they damaged other parts of the wall. Now I want _professionals_ to come back and do the job--not Van Metre's punch-out guys.

    This is the other lesson I learned: Don't let their punch-out guys do any of the work. Demand that the right professionals do the work. Our carpet wasn't put back properly after our master bedroom floor was chopped up and reassembled; they had to send in the right people. But they never offered to do so...I had to complain about the fact that the carpet wasn't even attached to the floor. We paid a lot of money for these houses, and it's not acceptable for them to go back and make things look worse after fixing something that should have been done right and inspected in the first place!

    Also, thanks to the poster for the info about the Dulles Board. So far, Van Metre has agreed to fix _most_ of the things wrong with the house. It's just been terrible for me because I've lost tons of vacation time to come home early for them to do the work (and sometimes the contractors didn't even bother to show up or they'd wait until the last minute to show up and couldn't get anything done on time). So I have a strong feeling that I'll be contacting Mr. Hiatt soon (if only to air my grievances--and it's not just about the insulation).
     
  14. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    We just had our 60-day walkthrough and it was the worst treatment we've ever gotten before. The Van Metre guy (Dave Wagner) threatened to leave 3 times because he "wasn't gonna put up with this crap" and started walking back to his van on one occasion. My wife and I had a horrible time dealing with him and arguing over things that he said Van Metre wasn't going to fix.

    Some of the major things our home inspector found:
    - Our jacuzzi was leaking down into our garage
    - There was more missing insulation (along almost all the edges of the crawl space "ceiling")
    - Our dining room bay window is missing insulation in the floor
    - Lots of other things (mostly minor but still things that are missing or need fixed)

    We're glad we hired a home inspector who did an incredible job picking out things. We cheaped out and didn't do it before settlement (expecting to find things on our own). Well, we were definitely wrong! I take it as a lesson learned.

    There were so much many more hassles we had to deal with at the walkthrough. It was a terribly unpleasant experience that I hope to never have to go through again. My wife is completely upset over the whole issue.

    This is the last time we will ever buy a Van Metre home again.

    Two more things I learned in the past that I put to use today:
    1. Get everything documented--even things they say they won't fix. I've been told that they won't fix things when in fact they have to or they did it for others. By at least making them write it down, they can't go back and say, "Well, you never pointed that out before!" like they did to us in the past.
    2. Videotape everything you can. It keeps them honest and prevents them from going against their word later. There were some things (like locks getting stuck) that the walkthrough person flatly refused to write down. Having that on videotape assures that I at least told them about it. It's also good for use as evidence. And it provides some good feedback to your home inspector (I expect to mail a copy to mine). And some things are probably pretty funny to hear later on (though it's not funny right now for us).

    If anyone had similar bad experiences during their walkthrough's, please let us know and/or email me directly at sonnguyen@alumni.psu.edu. I appreciate all the responses I've gotten so far.

    From conversations/emails with others, I don't think any of us have gotten a fair deal with our houses. I think Van Metre dumps way too much work on too few people and that leads to shoddy workmanship and overlooked problems; I'm not sure where all their extra profit goes, but I'm sure it's not going to their employees and it certainly didn't go into our house. I urge you to speak out if you have problems (or if VM turns their head and ignores your concerns) because we _can_ get problems resolved by working together.
     
  15. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    Sonnguyen,

    Thanks for sharing all this, it sure is an eye opener.

    I would like to make a suggestion. Would you consider writing up a short article for the community newsletter on your experience? This forum only reaches such a small audience - perhaps less than 1 percent of the residents so far. The newsletter reaches every household in the Broadlands. I think it would really help those who may be having the same problems and could very well get the builders to paya little more attention in the future. They will know we are serious about quality construction! Plus you have found out a lot of information that a lot of us didn't even know about, like the IR thermometer.

    You can find the current newsletter here:

    http://hoa.broadlands.org/hoa/newsletter/index.html

    Contact information is within. You should put a couple (just one or 2) of your pictures in also. You could title it something like 'Does your gas bill seem too high'?

    John

    Edited by - hornerjo on 12/15/2002 10:53:53
     
  16. sonnguyen

    sonnguyen New Member

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    Thank you for your suggestion. It makes a lot of sense to present this information to a larger audience.

    I have contacted the people in charge of the newsletter and, with their permission, I will try to write an article for the next newsletter. Right now I'm still busy dealing with the builder, work, and wrapping up another semester of school...but I hope to get the word out and I hope builders will take home construction and their customers more seriously!
     
  17. Twriter

    Twriter Get a Mac!

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    Your problems with Van Metre are similar to the problems I had with Washington Homes. Because so many Washington Homes customers had problems, Drew Hiatt got involved. That helped some, but we still have unfinished items that Washington Homes won't resolve.

    The major lessons I learned from my experience are:
    * Get a home inspector involved at the earliest time, such as pre-drywall inspection. We waited until our 6 month walkthrough.

    * Specify in the contract that your house will be built using the same construction materials and methods as used in the model home. I found out too late that model homes are made much better than the production homes. They state that the model is just to illustrate their floorplan, not to be an example of the workmanship you'll get. Model homes have insulation in every wall (including sound proofing in the interior walls and floors), the floors are glued and screwed, and high-quality fixtures (light switches, lamps, plumbing) are used throughout.

    * Have the builder finish the bathroom in the basement. We did that and our bathroom is fine, however neighbors that have roughed-in plumbing have problems with the placement of the supply lines and drains. One neighbor's drain was so close to the wall it was not possible to position a toilet on it!
     
  18. vacliff

    vacliff "You shouldn't say that."

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    To Hornerjo and Sonnguyen:
    I don't think that an article of this nature will be included in the newsletter. There are a few reasons why:

    1) Some people (including other Van Metre owners) do not want to see
    negative articles in a public manner due to the fact that it could have a negative impact on their home if they try to sell it and prospective clients see that Van Metre has a quality problem in Broadlands.

    2) The newsletter is a function of the Homeowners Association, which has 7 members on its Board of Directors (I am one of them). 4 members are from the Developer, which is Terrabrook. Broadlands is owned 50/50 by Terrabrook and Van Metre. The remaining 3 Board members are homeowners. The newsletter is still used as an advertising tool for the Developer, so I don't think they would be comfortable with an article that is damaging to their partner.

    But then, I might be wrong. Good luck!

    My suggestion: Gather up all your information, document it all in writing, and send copies to Van Metre, Terrabrook, Drew Hiatt, and Scott York (Chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors).
    If you have other neighbors experiencing similar problems, I suggest you coordinate an effort together.

    As I posted previously, Drew Hiatt has been instrumental in helping residents resolve quality issues with Van Metre and Washington Homes.

    Feel free to contact me if you'd like more information or would like to discuss thus issue further.
    Cliff Keirce
    shevcoo@yahoo.com
     
  19. hornerjo

    hornerjo Senior Member

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    vacliff,

    I think you misunderstood what this would be, I would hope it would be a benefit for everyone - especially the builder. But if the HOA doesn't allow residents opinions in the newsletter, that's fine I suppose. It is their newsletter.

    John

    ---------------
    Got Broadband?
     
  20. jtarnow

    jtarnow New Member

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    I was both relieved and dismayed to discover this discussion. We moved from Arlington into our Dogwood (Longleaf) this fall, and we were shocked at our first full-month gas bill... $243 !!!

    We did have a pre-drywall inspection, and did not notice any probems with the insulation at that point. But we also could not see all areas under the floors, if I remember correctly. Nonetheless, I find this home to be FAR more drafty than our prior 60-year old home in Arlington. I therefore worry that our insulation and caulking is insufficient. (On a related note.. do other Dogwood owners have any probems heating their front bedrooms on the second floor? Ours are always so cold!)

    We are scheduled for our 60-day walkthrough on December 31. Any advice for how to raise this issue with Van Metre, given their apparent reluctance to admit problems? Any suggestions at all (besides buying a infrared thermometer to document some problems)?

    Thanks!!!
     

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