Understanding “Construction Defect”

There has been a vast amount of controversy within the construction industry with respect to the question, “What is a Construction Defect?” This controversy exists due to the different viewpoints held by the builder, developer, contractor, subcontractor, material supplier, product manufacturer, homeowner, homeowners’ association, etc.

Unfortunately there is no short and/or precise answer to this question, as the answer is multi-faceted and complex to a certain degree. Accordingly, there is a big difference between a construction defect and nuisance-value claim. A nuisance-value claim can pertain to conditions resulting from normal wear and tear or lack of proper maintenance. On the other hand, a construction defect claim can range from conditions resulting from aesthetic issues, such as improper surface painting to more intricate and complex issues, such as soil expansion or structural issues, like improper/poor framing and foundation.

Construction defects can occur within new or used residential homes, townhomes, condominiums, commercial buildings, developments, and/or subdivisions.

A few examples of some Construction Defect issues include but are not limited to:

  • Leaky windows/doors/pipes
  • Mold damage via water intrusion
  • Drywall/stucco cracking
  • Soil expansion/movement
  • Material/product failure
  • Geological hazards

According to the trial courts, Construction Defects and/or Deficiencies can be grouped into four major categories, which include:

  • Design deficiencies
  • Materials deficiencies
  • Subsurface/geotechnical deficiencies
  • Construction deficiencies (substandard workmanship and/or poor quality)

Design Deficiencies — These issues typically involve design professionals, such as engineers or architects. Design deficiencies are considered more complex and the resulting damages can be very costly to repair. The problems one could encounter with design defects include, but are not limited to: improper/poor roof installation, improper drainage design and installation, improper specification of building materials, inadequacy of structural members, etc. These issues can result in a plethora of damages such as cracking and/or deterioration of components and materials, resulting in water penetration or intrusion, which can cause hazardous conditions like mold contamination.

Materials Deficiencies — These issues typically involve manufacturers or manufacturing problems, such as leaky windows and doors, defective waterproofing membrane, flashing, asphalt roofing shingles, particle board, inferior drywall and other wall products used in wet and/or damp areas, such as bathrooms and laundry rooms.

Construction Deficiencies (Substandard Workmanship and/or Poor Quality) — These issues usually involve problems associated with work performed by general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, etc. Typically substandard workmanship or poor quality can pertain to cracks in the foundation, concrete slabs, drywall, stucco, etc., and/or problems in connection with electrical or mechanical systems, plumbing, insulation, HVAC, etc.

Subsurface/Geotechnical Deficiencies — It should be noted that certain areas like California and Colorado, or properties built on a hillside or slope, have a significant amount of expansive soil conditions, due to the difficulty in obtaining a solid and/or stable foundation.