Judging by recent enquiries it would seem some people are encountering problems when they start decorating their new-build homes, usually a couple of years after moving in.
The most common issue is with paint bubbling and coming off the wall when they redecorate. This may seem an unusual and unexpected problem but, from what I’ve witnessed in the past, it’s surprising to me that it doesn’t happen more often?
Why is the quality of work on new build homes so poor?
The business model of a typical volume house builder is quite simple and goes a long way to explaining why the standard of work is often so shoddy.
First, they buy a plot of land, then they borrow money to build houses on it. This creates an incentive to get the houses finished and sold as quickly as possible so they can pay the least amount of interest and make a greater profit.
This model doesn’t exactly lend itself to quality, especially as skilled tradesmen who take a pride in their work are so thin on the ground. Works, like painting & decorating, are often carried out by sub-contractors on a price per room or per home basis. They do the work in a hurry and inspection by the site foreman is often casual with a blind-eye turned towards a lot of poor practice
And, unlike with some trades, poor preparation doesn’t always become apparent until years later. By which time, everyone has been paid and has moved on, leaving you, the hapless homebuyer, to sort out the mess.
With traditional plaster finish walls, the biggest issue is decorating before the walls before they have had sufficient time to dry out.
Contract matt emulsion, the most common type of paint used on new-builds, is microporous, which means moisture in the wall can dry without causing the paint to bubble (as would be the case with the vinyl-based paints you’ll be more familiar with.
However, because the surface of the wall was damp when the work was done, the paint hasn’t properly adhered in the first place so it’s not going to take much for the bond to fail.
Although it’s hard to anticipate when you apply new paint to the wall you’re adding extra weight, coupled with the fact that wet paint is naturally sticky. So you’ll see the old paint actually lift off as you go over it with a roller.
It’s possible to mitigate this by using a large brush instead but, for large walls, it’s not really practical and only leads to more problems at a later date.
A more recent problem is when walls are dry-lined and paint is applied directly to the plasterboard which hasn’t been properly sealed. The boards and the fillers used to level the joints are very absorbent and need to sealed before paint is applied.
Dry-wall sealer is colourless, expensive and takes time to apply, so, obviously, this is a process that’s often by-passed altogether!
As a result, the resins in the paint are absorbed beneath the surface of the board and this means the paint loses a lot of its adhesion properties.
Again, everything looks OK at first but, again, when you try and paint over the walls the original coating bubbles and lifts off the surface.
As you can imagine, this can be quite frustrating and makes it very difficult to redecorate to an acceptable standard. At best, you’ll need to do a lot of filling or, in extreme situations, have to use a thick lining paper to provide a decent surface finish.
Obviously, when you bought your new house you never envisaged having to deal with this problem and the cost and time required is likely to be double or triple what you expected.
Do you have a claim against the builders?
Some building defects are easy to diagnose and photographic evidence is usually quite damning. With painted surfaces though, evidence of poor workmanship is more tricky to prove.
However, if you have experienced the problems outlined above it may be worth making a claim regardless. Mainly because there isn’t any other reason why paint should fail in this manner; it is a defect for which there is simply no technical explanation other than poor workmanship.
You could claim for the extra expense involved in making good the defect and finishing to an acceptable standard.
If you do all the work yourself, any extra time you took off work should be included in your calculations.
Also, it’s unlikely the problem will be isolated to just one room – so take this into account too.