So much of building a house comes down to the details – things that a good builder knows and does, but maybe a less experienced person doesn’t know.  And sometimes of course even a builder who knows the details is just in too much of a hurry to do things right.

So if you’re out looking at houses to buy, what are some of the details you can look for to try to determine if this builder (or renovator, or flipper, or carpenter) did a top-quality job or maybe cut some corners?

Here’s one thing to look for: the escutcheon plate at the toilet water supply pipe.  This pipe usually comes through the wall down low and it often comes right through the baseboard, or maybe just above the baseboard.  But the baseboard usually isn’t flat and so the escutcheon plate can’t sit flat against it.  Like this:

The escutcheon plate doesn’t sit flat against the baseboard.

Or like this:

This isn’t a functional problem.  It isn’t going to cause a leak.  It isn’t going to make the toilet overflow.

But it looks bad.

In a situation like this a good carpenter will interrupt the baseboard with a flat block that the pipe will go through and allow the escutcheon plate to sit flat against it.  Something like this:

Now the escutcheon plate can sit flat against the block.

This is a nice detail that shows the carpenter was knowledgeable and paying attention to the details.  Sometimes I see the baseboard just cut away like this:

I don’t think this solution is quite as good as the flat block, but it’s a lot better than doing nothing and still shows the carpenter is attentive to the details.

So the next time you’re out looking for a house to buy pay attention to this detail to learn a little bit more about the care and attention to detail that went into building the house.

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