Tradie's simple act reveals hidden defect in new Aussie houses: 'Unbelievable'

A reported rise in 'unethical' practices in the building industry is starting to show up in Australia's urban sprawl.

The suspect workmanship of newly built homes in Australia is once again in the spotlight as now-famous site inspector, Zeher Khalil, lifts the lid on his latest job.

As Australia's urban sprawl marches on, Khalil, best known as the face of the Victorian company Site Inspections, has made a name for himself on social media by assessing the quality of completed homes after the official handover. But he says he's constantly finding jobs that are poorly finished causing havoc for everyday Aussies – many of whom have purchased their first home.

One of the biggest problems Khalil and his team see is non-compliant roofing which isn't finished in adherence to strict regulations, as well as dodgy waterproofing which can cause leaks throughout the property.

"It's unbelievable", he says.

Zeher Khalil from Site Inspections at property in Melbourne.
Zeher Khalil has become well known for calling out shonky newly built homes. Source: Site Inspections

'Hundreds' of new homes share same issue

Visiting an estate in Melbourne's Cranbourne West recently, Khalil saw "hundreds" of new-build homes that shared the same issue. Stains on the roof or the walls indicated that something was amiss – and a thermal camera was able to prove it.

Using the handy device, which detects surface elevations of temperature, Khalil assessed several houses in the estate. "You can see that there's water underneath the ceiling for most, maybe 90 per cent of the jobs there," he told Yahoo News Australia.

The reason, he explains, is because the "balcony hasn't been installed as per the Australian standards" and is without proper waterproofing or drainage, so the water is travelling downstairs and collecting inside the roof.

Thermal machine at new build home to detect leaks
Khalil used a thermal machine to detect moisture in the ceiling. An indication there are leaks throughout the property. Source: Site Inspections

Detailing the inspection in a video on Facebook, Khalil pointed out there was "no moisture management system anywhere" on the balcony.

A strip drain designed to drain the water has been incorrectly installed as there's no place for the water underneath the tiles to escape. Small mistakes, such as incorrect installation when it comes to sealing or the waterproofing membrane, are having deleterious effects on the home. "Many of the homeowners have moved in with water leaks and there's mould already forming on the ceiling. And the builders know that," he told Yahoo.

Private inspections 'not allowed' until handover

The problem is, when Aussies buy off-the-plan, in many cases they aren't allowed to get their homes inspected privately before taking possession of the keys. And when they're finally able to, most of the time parts of the house have to be pulled down.

"Under the Builders Contracts Act in Victoria, if there's a building contract between the homeowner and the builder, it's [the builder's] right to have reasonable access, and they don't allow private inspections," Khalil explained.

"So after the homeowners get us in, they're often ripping up carpet. They don't even know where the water is coming from. And at this point, the builders have been paid, so they're taking their time in rectification".

'Limited' inspections during build to blame

Explaining how so many dodgy builds are getting across the line, Khalil's business partner Ed Waldman said that while there are "statutory inspection stages", they're "very limited".

"They're limited to the base stage, frame stage, and then there's a massive gap, and then it's at the final completion stage. So that work in between framing, completion, and sign-off right to the very end goes unchecked and uninspected," he told Yahoo.

Zeher Khalil from Site Inspections at job in Melbourne
Site inspectors claimed there was no drainage management system on the balcony which was cause water to build up throughout the home. Source: Site Inspections.

"They also don't look for everything like waterproofing or non-compliant roofing of balcony works. They just do a general walk-through, and that's about it".

In Victoria, these regulations are enforced by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and are set by the Department of Transport and Planning. "The VBA must be made to step up and do all the inspections," Khalil argued.

Nationwide problem: 'It's everywhere across Australia'

But it's not just in Victoria these poor builds are slipping through the cracks. Site Inspections covers jobs in NSW and Queensland too and, according to Khalil, "NSW is probably the worst".

"We've been there and we just can't believe how bad it is. So bad in terms of finishes and even worse workmanship. So it's everywhere across Australia".

Previously, Wollongong tradesman Jimmy Pallone told Yahoo there are several factors contributing to current problems with new apartments and houses, and most of it comes down to cost and getting a job done quickly.

Alireza Fin from the Construction Project Management program at the University of Technology Sydney agreed, recently telling Yahoo that "people are under pressure to finish the project faster and so it would potentially put extra pressure on workers to cut corners and sacrifice quality".

As a result, there has been an increase in "unethical" practices in recent years, he warned.

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