Roofs on new homes raise concern for Tucson inspectors

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — New home developments are springing up across Tucson and Southern Arizona.

But local inspectors tell KGUN 9 that those new homes almost always have a list of issues—especially on the roof.

“The biggest misconception for new construction is it’s a perfect house because it’s new. But that’s hardly the case, in my opinion,” said home inspector Jack Randall, owner of Arizona Home Inspections in Tucson.

Randall says he has seen roofs leak even before home-buyers move in to a brand new home.

“I was on a home maybe a month ago that had four roof leaks the day before they were supposed to get their keys,” he recalled. “It was literally dripping in four spots in the attic. So I just got lucky being there the day it rained.”

Situations like that lead to a surprising flow of business for a local roofing repair company. The owner spoke with KGUN 9 anonymously.

“These new home developments, they’re leaking even before the tile gets set,” he said. “We make good money off of these mistakes. We really do. Our business is fueled off of this builder negligence. Because these homes that we think we’re not gonna get to touch for 20 years, we’re getting to touch in five, 10.”

Both Randall and the roofing company owner say the roof’s underlayment, or vapor barrier, is often the main issue.

Inspectors and roof repair companies say they often find issues with a roof's vapor barrier, or underlayment.


Inspectors and roof repair companies say they often find issues with a roof’s vapor barrier, or underlayment.

“I’ll tell ya, the last half a dozen homes I’ve been on, every roof has had problems with the underlayment: cracked, damaged, poor construction,” Randall said.

The roofing company owner says builders sometimes use cheap material to cut costs, but often the problem is the underlayment being exposed to the elements for long stretches as roofs sit unfinished for weeks or months.

The high demand for housing and a shortage of contractors to finish the construction may be making matters worse.

“I don’t think they’re purposely trying to deliver an inferior product,” the roofing company owner said of the builders. “However, with the national labor shortage already, you can imagine that it could be nearly impossible to really meet the demand and deliver a quality product.”

“There’s definitely a fight for labor shortage across town,” Randall said. “Some neighborhoods I see sitting, and just waiting for the lath crew to come in. And they may have, not necessarily been a strike but moved to a better company for different wages or something like that.

Randall believes that the home-building business can naturally lead to problems for home-buyers.

“I think there’s just rooms for things to slip through the cracks,” he said. “Everybody’s in a hurry to close. Dates get moved. They get extended. And the builder’s under pressure to get things done.”

Inspectors tell KGUN 9 there is also tension between them and some builders.

“Builders actually prevent us from getting on the roof. They make us sign contracts to say we will not get on the roof to cause any damage,” Randall said, estimating that scenario happens about 90 percent of the time. “I don’t foresee most inspectors causing any damage. We’re not there to cause damage. We’re there to find problems.”

Randall believes the cost of a third party inspection is worth it, even for just the peace of mind.

“We can’t really give a quality inspection without getting on the roof,” he said. “We want to get up there and get close and see what’s going on. And every time we do, we find problems.”

Home-buyers who find issues with their home can also file a complaint with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, which assigns a third party construction investigator to cases. Those investigators then side with either the builder or the homeowner.

Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing [email protected] or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.