Dear Barry,

We purchased a newly built home and are nearing the end of our one-year warranty. We’ve got some concerns about the condition of the property, but the builder always downplays the conditions we point out. Our main concern is a crack in the concrete porch. The builder says he will seal the crack when it gets bigger. Our concern is that an enlarged crack–even one that is patched–is not an attractive or acceptable aspect of a new home. Is it fair to demand replacement of the porch? –Daniel

Dear Daniel

The answer to this question depends largely upon the nature of the crack. Hairline cracks in concrete pavement are normal. In fact, they are so common they are to be expected to some degree in nearly all cases. This is due to normal shrinkage when the concrete hardens and to common expansion and contraction of the soil beneath the pavement. Whether cracks can be expected to enlarge significantly depends upon whether steel reinforcement was installed when the concrete was poured, whether the soil was adequately compacted, and whether rock and gravel base material was installed, rather than pouring the concrete directly on the soil.

If you disagree with the builder, as to the need for major or minor repairs, it would be advisable to have the porch evaluated by a licensed paving contractor, other than the one who actually performed the existing installation. It is also recommended that you have the entire property thoroughly inspected by a qualified home inspector. An experienced inspector will discover defects that are not readily apparent and that the builder will be required to repair before the one-year warranty expires.

Dear Barry,

How do I check thermal pane windows to make sure the seals are still intact? I’ve noticed moisture condensation between some of the dual panes and plan to have them replaced under the manufacturer’s warranty. The manufacturer, however, has asked me to list all the windows that are defective. The condensation is obvious at three windows, but I suspect problems at others. I’ve heard that holding an ice cube against the glass can test window seals. Does this sound plausible? –Mike

Dear Mike,

Applying an ice cube to a dual pane window will cause visible moisture condensation only if there is moisture present between the panes. If a dual pane seal has leaked in the past and all the moisture has since evaporated, then applying the ice will do no good. However, dual pane windows that have leaked and then become dry always have residual water stains on the inside surfaces of the panes. Sometimes, these stains are very faint and difficult to see. But, when light hits the glass at just the right angle, it is usually possible to discern the stains, although you may have to look very closely. Fortunately, some window manufacturers have lifetime warranties, enabling you to make future claims if other window seals should leak. Check with the maker of your windows to determine the duration of its warranty.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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