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Types of Construction Defects

Property owners, especially homeowners, must be wary of construction defect cases. Construction defects include improperly manufactured materials and poor workmanship. They also include a failure to follow real estate construction codes. Any deficiency in a building project can be considered a construction defect, including:

  • Defective architectural designs
  • Lack of planning or supervision
  • Lack of a proper inspection
  • Improper construction

Most common types of construction defects occur when:

  1. There is a failure to construct a building in a reasonably workmanlike manner; or
  2. The structure fails to perform in the buyer's intended manner

Common Construction Defects

Some of the most common and high-cost construction defects occur in the following areas:

  • Structural integrity —​ concrete, stucco, masonry & division, carpentry, unstable foundations
  • Mechanical problems
  • Electrical issues
  • Water intrusion (which can result in property damage and toxic mold exposure)
  • Thermal and moisture protection
  • Doors, windows, and glass seals
  • Finishing defects, especially in new homes

These kinds of defects generally arise in one of four different ways described below.

Categories of Construction Defects

Generally, courts categorize construction defects in one of four categories:

  • Design deficiencies
  • Material deficiencies
  • Construction deficiencies
  • Subsurface deficiencies

Each category of defect is caused by a different general kind of problem. Below is a description of each.

Design Deficiencies

Design professionals include architects and engineers. These professionals design buildings and systems. But even professionals don’t always work as specified, which can result in a defect. Typical design deficiencies relate to building outside of the specified building codes. Improperly designed roofs are an example of a design defect. They can result in water penetration, intrusion, poor drainage, or inadequate structural support.

Material Deficiencies

Using inferior building materials can cause significant problems. Material defects include windows that leak or inferior concrete that cracks under pressure. Inferior products can fail to perform and function adequately, even when properly installed.

Common manufacturer problems with building materials can include:

  • Deteriorating flashing
  • Building paper or waterproofing membranes that are not up to code
  • Inferior asphalt roofing shingles
  • Inferior drywall that is not approved for use in wet or damp areas (this is especially true in bathrooms and laundry rooms)

A material deficiency may be a patent defect if it is easily discovered. Unlike a latent defect, it’s easy to discover by the naked eye.

Construction Deficiencies

Poor quality workmanship can result in many defects. Many construction defects are not up to code. They may also be covered up by a contractor during the construction process. A common example is water intrusion through some parts of the building structure. A construction project may have vulnerable windows, doors, or roof openings. Any water intrusion can create an environment for mold growth. Other construction defects include:

  • Cracks in the foundation
  • Dry rot in lumber
  • Electrical and mechanical problems
  • Plumbing leaks

Disclaimer: In these situations, construction companies and their subcontractors may be liable. You may be able to sue them for breach of contract or warranty. Other causes of action (claims) may be available depending on your specific circumstances.

Subsurface Deficiencies

Expansive soil conditions are typical in many parts of the country. Some houses are built on hills. Others are built on shifting soil or areas where providing a stable foundation is difficult. A lack of a solid foundation may result in cracked foundations and other damage to the building.

Suppose subsurface conditions are not properly compacted and prepared for adequate drainage. Here, a property may experience:

  • Improper settling to the ground (subsidence)
  • Structure moving or shifting
  • Flooding

Subsurface deficiencies can be latent in nature. That means they won’t be obvious to the naked eye unless a thorough inspection or a long amount of time has passed. Eventually, when a home starts sinking, the problem becomes obvious.

Have Questions About the Different Types of Construction Defects? Ask a Lawyer

Construction defects can result in serious financial complications. They can pose difficulties and property damage under real estate law. Construction defects can also go unnoticed for a long period of time. Delayed discovery of the problem can make construction defect disputes complicated to manage.

Avoid facing construction litigation without a real estate attorney. It's a good idea to consult with a local construction defects attorney who can give you legal advice. They are experienced in real estate litigation and construction defect law. Their law offices can help you with an effective construction defect claim.

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