You would think that most home builders who be proud of their handiwork and be happy to show it off.  Unfortunately, a Minneapolis home inspector who writes for the StarTribune has reported recently on an alarming trend he's noticed - builders who refuse to allow inspectors access to the attic to inspect the insulation.  As most homes are inspected by municipal inspectors prior to the insulation being blown in, that means that NO ONE has inspected the attic other than the builder and the insulation contractor, so as a buyer you're forced to rely on the builder's word for what's up there.  The city inspectors go by what the builder puts on the insulation card, not a visual inspection.  Apparently it is now "standard practice" to seal up the attic access panel to maintain "building envelope integrity," whatever that means.

Read more in this article to see some things this inspector found when checking some new homes.  There is a possibility that open attic access may become part of new changes to Minnesota's building code, but at present the builder is within his rights to deny an inspector or buyer access to the attic until after purchase.

So as a buyer of a new home, what does this mean to you?  It could mean nothing, or it might mean that the insulation up there is insufficient, not as represented, or defectively applied.  Attic insulation and ventilation play a crucial role in preventing ice dams as well as maintaining the energy-efficiency of the home.  Heat and cooling loss through the attic can be a major cause of high energy bills.

If you're buying a new home, try to insist on access to the attic by your inspector prior to purchase.  If that fails, you may want to talk to a real estate attorney to see if you have any after-purchase recourse if there are defects found later.