It can happen to the best of builders and the most consumer savvy homeowners. Buyers of defective homes are out of luck, usually because by the time they find the flaw, the statute of limitations has expired.
It happened to homeowner Paul Rippeth. Lawyers who would not take his case, told him to call 12 for help.
What you don't know can hurt, if the floor you're walking on has little support and might collapse.
Paul Rippeth didn't see unstable flooring when he bought his modular home about five years ago.
But, the hidden defect worsened with time, revealing itself last Christmas by making Paul's refrigerator lean and its door slap the counter.
"The door came open and hit this (slaps counter) and I looked over there and 'oh my gosh'. The floor was squishy," said Paul.
Paul removed the drop ceiling downstairs and found a construction horror. He installed an emergency floor jack until he could reach the builder, Clayton Homes.
"Look at those joist boards. There's nothing holding them up. There should be a hanger there," said Paul.
No hangers, despite a Virginia Building Code requirement. Just popped out nails that caused the joist boards to separate from the center girder.
"The nails have pulled away... just broke loose from the weight."
The nation's largest builder, Clayton Homes has an 'A+' Better Business Bureau rating and the C.E.O's response reflects it.
"We don't want to leave a customer hanging," said Kevin Clayton, and "this is the first we've learned of it."
A new complaint, maybe, for Tennessee execs - but not Clayton Homes Ashland.
A letter dated February 2012 tells the homeowner he has no warranty, no legal challenge, he's the second owner and out of courtesy a factory rep visited the home and found no construction issues.
"I've got this jacked up to hold this side of the floor where the water bed is," said Paul. "It has the potential of things falling through the floor."
It's not safe. It's not by code.
The Louisa County building inspector stayed off camera but said the modular home came flawed from the factory and the substandard support went undetected because, in 2003 when the home was put together, the load bearing wall was not a required inspection. It is now.
"I need help. I need something to convince these guys that... you can't let this exist. This is sub construction and you're wrong," said Paul.
Paul Rippeth's complaint went unresolved for nearly a year.
I started investigating his complaint in May and recently arranged a big meeting with Clayton Homes, construction engineers, and the county inspector. I'll show you how the problem was fixed Thursday.