Deciphering the VA Lender’s Handbook Chapter 14 Part 3
The VA loan construction inspection process consists of three stages of inspections. In this article we’ll cover the first stage, and we’ll cover the second and third in subsequent articles. The three stages consist of a total of four inspections, but the last two are usually done at the same time, so in practice there are only three inspections. In the first stage, not very much is inspected because it is supposed to take place at the very beginning stages of construction on the home. The first and second-stage inspection requirements can be satisfied by inspections conducted by the local building authority in some, but not all, cases. If the VA is going to be performing the first and second-stage inspections, then there are two times the first inspection might take place at, and it depends on the conditions in the area.
The VA will notify the builder, lender, and inspector which time the first inspection should take place, so if you want or need to know which is the case for your home, you can ask your lender. The two times are “excavation complete and ready for footings and foundations”, and “foundation walls complete and ready for back fill”. They apply in two different situations, as explained in the Handbook:
- Excavation complete and ready for footings and foundations usually applies in localities where it is advisable to have the bearing soil examined before construction proceeds, or
- Foundation walls complete and ready for back fill usually applies where soil conditions are generally uniform and free of faults likely to cause foundation problems.
Let’s talk about the differences between the two possibilities. Obviously, the second possibility takes place at a later point in the construction process than the first, so logically, the second possibility will encompass more items to be inspected than the first. For the first possibility, where the excavation is complete but the foundation has not been put in yet, there are only so many things the VA can inspect. The inspector makes sure that VA Poster 26-83-1, Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law, is posted somewhere conspicuous, he checks the nature of the bearing soil that the foundation will be mounted on, and he checks the form work for the footings or the condition and quality of the footing trench if forms are not required. He will also make sure that up to this point the builders are complying with the construction exhibits and the VA Minimum Property Requirements that cover the location of the structures on the plot, and the depth of the excavation and its relation to street and proposed finish grades and to grades of adjoining improved properties.
So if the inspection takes place before the foundation has been laid, essentially only 5 things are checked to make sure all is well. The second possibility for the first inspection to take place is also fairly simple, and takes place when the foundation is completed. In this second possibility, all of the things that would be checked before the foundation was laid are also checked at this time. So the VA Poster, the bearing soil, the form work for footings or the footing trench, and compliance with the VA MPRs concerning the excavations. In addition, however, the second possibility will also take into account the size, location, and condition of all footings, foundation walls, piers, and other supporting members, and the quality of materials and workmanship of masonry, damp proofing, and foundation drainage. These things aren’t checked in the first possibility because they aren’t there yet.
As mentioned above, the first or second possibility will be decided upon by the VA, and it depends on the soil conditions in the area the home is being built. In places where the soil is mostly uniform and doesn’t have any problems, the VA can wait until after the foundation is poured before inspecting it. In places where the bearing soil has a chance of being shifty or faulty in some way, however, the VA needs to inspect everything before the point-of-no-return. In the next article we’ll jump into talking about the 2nd-stage inspection.