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Construction Defects

A construction defect may include any problem that reduces the value of a home, condominium, or building. Construction defects can be the result of design error by the architect, a manufacturing flaw, defective materials, improper use or installation of materials, lack of adherence to the blueprint by the contractor, or any combination thereof.

Common types of construction defects include: structural defects resulting in cracks or collapse; defective or faulty electrical wiring and/or lighting; defective or faulty plumbing; inadequate or faulty drainage systems; inadequate or faulty ventilation, cooling or heating systems; inadequate insulation or sound proofing; and inadequate fire protection/suppression systems. Additionally, dry rot, wood rot, mold, fungus, or termite or vermin infestation may also be the result of a construction defect. A construction defect may also include damage caused by land movement or earth settlement.

Determination of whether a problem constitutes a construction defect involves various factors, including: 1) the buyer’s "reasonable expectation", 2) the builders compliance or noncompliance with applicable building codes and construction standards, 3) whether the construction was performed in a workmanlike manner, 4) whether building materials and products used were suitable for their intended purposes, 5) whether or not the plans of architect and/or engineers were followed.

Proving a construction defect almost always requires the hiring and testimony of an highly trained and experienced expert. An expert, such as an engineer or architect will be able to determine whether a construction problem is the result of improper design, material, or workmanship.

Common Types of Construction Defects

Asphalt or Concrete Defects: Incorrectly or improperly installed asphalt or concrete can lead to a number of serious problems including cracking, alligatoring, water intrusion, displacement and subsidence. Asphalt problems may occur when the asphalt or concrete mixture does not meet proper specifications, or the asphalt is either too cold or hot, or too wet or dry, before installation. Failure to provide sufficient steel reinforcement may also lead to asphalt defects such as cracking, structural failure or even collapse.

Electrical Defects: Electrical defects include faulty wiring and outlet installation, improper grounding of electrical fixtures, and faulty or defective circuit breakers and ground fault interrupts. Electrical defects can result in hazardous voltage or fire risk.

Plumbing and Drainage Defects: Plumbing defects may include water piping corrosion and leaks, inadequate water pressure, and improperly installed or defective water heaters, valves, and drains. Defective plumbing and piping can result in leaks, water damage, flooding, mold, rot, and structural damage.

Defective Ventilation, Heating, or Cooling Systems: Such defects can include failure to install proper and adequate ventilation and/or failure to provide adequate heating or air conditioning. More specific examples may include improperly installed air ducts, cooling coil leaks, and defective thermostats. Such defects can results in a variety of problems including the trapping and build-up carbon dioxide and other harmful or unhealthy gases. Additionally, improper ventilation can result in mold build up, rot, and increased fire hazard.

Defective Floors or Ceilings: Floor defects may be the result of improper design or construction that does not account for all load the floor must support, resulting in cracks or sagging. Improperly constructed or designed floors and ceilings may also be prone to water intrusion and wood rot.

Defective Roofs: A roofing system usually combines several elements such as the framing, wood decking, felt underlay, and exterior roofing material (e.g. tiles, shingles, wood shake). Roofing defects include broken or loose roof tiles or shingles, improperly lapped or misaligned tiles or shingles, inadequate felt underlay coverage, torn or deteriorated felt underlay, or improper or inadequate nails/fasteners. The most common result of a defective roof is water intrusion which can result in water damage in other areas of the building as well as create unhealthy fungus and mold.

Defective Windows and Doors: Defective doors and windows include those that stick or jamb or those that are improperly installed or sealed allowing water intrusion. Such water intrusion may allow the growth of mold and wood rot.

Defective Stucco and Siding: Stucco defects include stucco that is too thin, stucco that allows water intrusion, and stucco that is prone to cracking or staining. Wood siding defects may occur as the result of failure to properly prime and seal the wood and failure to use corrosion resistant nails.

Structural and Foundation Defects: Among the most serious construction defects are those affecting the foundation and basic structural components of a building. The components designed and constructed to withstand tremendous forces that a building may be subjected to, such as earthquakes or high winds. Defects may include missing, improperly designed or constructed shear walls, inadequate nailing of shear walls, and shear walls that exceed height and width specifications.

Soil Subsidence: Soil movement can cause massive damage to a structure, including cracking of slabs and concrete, and separations of drywall and stucco. Prior to construction, most developments must be graded - during this phase soil can either be added or removed. Failure to achieve the proper soil compaction may result in land subsidence.

Toxic Mold and Wood Rot: Wood rot is a fungal growth in the wood's structure. It occurs when wood is exposed to moisture for long periods of time. It usually occurs in poorly ventilated, enclosed spaces. If left unchecked the rot can completely deteriorate the wood, affecting the structural integrity of the structure.

Toxic mold is the term used to describe a variety of fungal growths that are harmful to people. Toxic mold may affect people in a variety of ways, depending in the type of mold and amount of exposure. Symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, wheezing, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, fever, headaches, dizziness, watery eyes and runny nose. Small children, elderly persons, people suffering from asthma, and persons with weakened immune systems, may suffer serious adverse effects. Like wood rot, toxic molds thrive in damp, enclosed areas. Wood rot and toxic mold growth may be the result of construction defects that cause water leakage into the building.


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