When you buy a new build house, whether off-plan or as a finished development, you’ll want to make sure that everything is as it should be before you sign off on the sale. Even the most diligent of designers, construction workers, and engineers are still human and capable of making a mistake.
Unfortunately, if you don’t do a thorough inspection of the property before closing, you could end up dealing with any defects or damage by yourself. If there isn’t a building warranty in place to protect you, it can be difficult to get the builders to come back and fix things once you’ve moved in.
So, what can you do to avoid getting stuck with repair bills for someone else’s shoddy work? The answer is to create a snag list. Also known as a snagging list, this is essentially a record of every issue you can find with the almost-finished building. You should provide a copy of this list to the developer with the understanding that you can’t complete the purchase until they’ve corrected the problems.
To make sure you receive the quality you deserve from your new build home, here is a checklist of things you should look out for when carrying out your own snagging survey, both inside and outside.
Walls and Ceilings
- Is the plasterwork even and smooth, without rough patches or blemishes?
- Is paint and plasterwork neatly finished around corners, sockets, switches, pipes, etc?
- Are there any cracks in the surface, or are joints and popped screws showing through?
- Are tiles adhered securely and fully grouted with a tidy finish and sealed edges?
- When it comes to external brickwork, is the finish flat and even with matching colours?
- Is the brickwork consistently spaced, with filled joints and cleanly finished mortar?
- Are there any chips, mortar splashes, salt deposits, or loose mortar between bricks?
Windows and Doors
- Do windows and doors open and close fully, with smoothly operating handles and hinges?
- Does every window and door frame have an even gap all around, with neat weather seals?
- Is each window or door lock supplied with a key, and do bolts and latches engage properly?
- Does the glazing and framework have any damage (e.g. scratches, cracks, splashes of paint)?
- Do windows and doors in bedrooms and on lower levels comply with fire safety regulations?
- Is the paintwork around frames completely finished, including the underside of windowsills?
- If there are door stops or self-closing devices, do these features function as they should?
Floors and Stairs
- Are floorboards level with sealed edges, and secure enough to not creak underfoot?
- Is sheet flooring flat, smooth, and completed neatly around fittings without bubbling?
- Is floor tiling properly adhered (making the same sound if you tap them) with tidy grout?
- Are floors clean and free of defects, with well-fitted skirting boards and finished paintwork?
- Are staircases properly secured, with level treads that don’t creak when you climb them?
- Is there enough headroom, and are handrails at the correct height per building regulations?
- Are banisters and balustrades secure and stable, with spindles evenly spaced 100mm apart?
Lighting and Electrics
- Do all electrical outlets and light fittings work, including phone line and TV sockets?
- Are sockets fitted at an appropriate and level height, with a uniform appearance?
- Is there adequate lighting throughout, including safety-compliant lights in wet areas?
- Is there a fully labelled fuse box and working smoke alarms with a safety certificate?
- Are any appliances in working order with the necessary manuals and guarantees?
- Do kitchens and bathrooms have properly fitted and working extractor fans?
- Are all electrical fittings free from marks, chips, paint splashes, or other damage?
Fixtures and Fittings
- Are all cabinets, cupboards, drawers, and units installed correctly and level with each other?
- Are worktops, sinks, taps, and hobs fixed and sealed with clean joins and no damage?
- Do all fixtures and fittings work as they should (e.g. taps running, cupboard doors opening)?
- If extra fittings are included (e.g. carpets, curtains, lampshades) are they in good condition?
- Are the bathroom and kitchen completed, with clean and fully functioning sanitaryware?
- If there are shiny or reflective surfaces, are they undamaged when viewed from every angle?
- Does the contract specify which fittings are included with the purchase (e.g. furniture)?
Plumbing and Heating
- Do all faucets, showerheads, and toilet flushes work properly, with satisfactory water flow?
- Are water tanks and pipes adequately insulated and ventilated, and safely accessible?
- Is the mains water valve/stop tap/stopcock installed correctly and easy to access?
- Does the central heating work, with radiators securely fixed to walls throughout?
- Are there any leaks apparent beneath sinks and sanitaryware or around any pipes?
- Is the washing machine plumbed in correctly (and the dishwasher, if there is one)?
- Is the boiler situated in an accessible place, with an easily controllable thermostat?
Pipework and Drainage
- Is all pipework throughout the property secure and free of leaks, both inside and outside?
- Are walls made good around pipe entry and exit points, with neatly cut fixtures?
- Do all water pipes have adequate lagging, with exterior points sealed against water ingress?
- Has any exposed pipework been painted or finished to an acceptable standard?
- Do external downpipes and guttering seem secure, with all components in the right places?
- Is there satisfactory drainage, with fixtures like grating and manhole covers screwed down?
- Is all pipework, guttering, and drainage free of blockages (e.g. leaves or other debris)?
Roofs and Chimneys
- Is the roof tiling straight and even, or do any tiles or slates appear damaged or displaced?
- Are lead flashings all secure and complete, with cleanly finished trims and pointing?
- Is the roof properly and evenly insulated and ventilated, with no gaps in the insulation?
- If there is a chimney, is it stable and straight, with the correct height and lead trays?
- If there are skylights or other roof windows, are they properly installed with flashing?
- Are there any places where birds or other animals might be able to access the roof space?
- Are ridges, eaves, soffits, gutters etc all finished to an acceptable level of workmanship?
Gardens and Driveways
- Has all leftover debris and building waste been removed from the property and garden?
- For gardens, has at least 150mm of topsoil been spread and levelled out on an even surface?
- Where planting is specified, has landscaping been completed to a sufficient standard?
- Are pathways and driveways laid completely with level surfaces and an even finish?
- Does the gradient allow for water to run off while still allowing safe access to the property?
- Is paving undamaged and stable (e.g. no cracks, slabs that don’t rock when stepped on)?
- Are drainage channels correctly set up and free of debris such as leaves and gravel?
Fences and Gates
- Do the building plans specify fencing or walls and gates that haven’t been provided?
- If the property has boundary walls, are they straight and perpendicular with no gaps?
- Where there is fencing, are fences secured at the base, with no damaged panels or posts?
- When outside gates are fitted, are they in full working order with functional bolts/catches?
- Have all timber and/or steel components been adequately protected (e.g. weatherproofed)?
- Do long stretches of wall incorporate movement joints, which are sealed on both sides?
- Does boundary brickwork match the main building’s brickwork in colour and consistency?
Do you need a professional snagging survey?
While this new build snag checklist covers a lot of ground, it’s not all-inclusive – and it takes a trained eye and experience to spot smaller and less obvious errors. If you aren’t confident in your knowledge of building regulations and your ability to recognise both significant and minor faults, then you might prefer to assign this responsibility to a qualified surveyor who has the relevant skills.
Whether you take the risk and DIY it, spend a little extra on the reassurance of a hired surveyor, or rely on the key stage surveys that are part of your building warranty package, it’s always better to have a snag list than not. Armed with evidence of all the defects you’re unhappy with, you should be able to pressure those at fault into fixing their mistakes so you can settle into your dream home.