What are Construction Defects?

Defining common construction defects is not as straightforward as one would assume. Different states have varying definitions of “what are construction defects” while others have recently legislated that it is only possible to claim compensation for construction defects when the defect is attributable to a specific “occurrence.

Possibly the most comprehensive definition of “what are construction defects” appears in Nevada´s 1995 Revised Statute §40.615, which states:

“Constructional defect” means a defect in the design, construction, manufacture, repair or landscaping of a new residence, of an alteration of or addition to an existing residence, or of an appurtenance and includes, without limitation, the design, construction, manufacture, repair or landscaping of a new residence, of an alteration of or addition to an existing residence, or of an appurtenance:

1. Which is done in violation of law, including, without limitation, in violation of local codes or ordinances;
2. Which proximately causes physical damage to the residence, an appurtenance or the real property to which the residence or appurtenance is affixed;
3. Which is not completed in a good and workmanlike manner in accordance with the generally accepted standard of care in the industry for that type of design, construction, manufacture, repair or landscaping; or
4. Which presents an unreasonable risk of injury to a person or property

According to a report compiled for the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the number of compensation claims for construction defects per new home in Nevada is thirty-eight times the national average. Consequently, you will not find such comprehensive definitions of “what are construction defects” elsewhere in the US.

Why are Common Construction Defects More Common than Before?

Plenty of theories exist as to why common construction defects are more common than before. One of the most frequently cited theories – that builders are racing to complete properties and therefore their workmanship is not up to the same standard – was debunked when the US Census Bureau revealed that properties on average are taking almost two months longer to complete than they were a decade ago.

Cost issues appear to be the more plausible factors influencing the quality of a construction and more accurately explain why common construction defects are more common than before:

The Cost of Building Land

The cost of building land has increased substantially over the past decade and, in many states (noticeably, California, Connecticut and Delaware), the cost of purchasing the land can be more than the cost of constructing of a property upon it.

Energy Conservation

Energy conservation programs – such as ENERGY STAR and NAHBGreen – have also increased the costs of construction, as building becomes more complex to integrate energy saving designs and technologies – resulting in contractors having to cut costs elsewhere to remain competitive.

Unskilled Labor

One frequently-used cost-cutting measure is the employment of unskilled labor. The Bureau of Labor Statistics database shows that “Helpers” in the construction trade earn an average hourly rate of $13.50, while skilled laborers are paid an industry average of $21.40 per hour.

Building Inspectors

The lack of trained and qualified building inspectors is also a significant factor in determining why common construction defects are more common than before. Due to issues with resources, habitation licenses may be issued on a sample of a property development, rather than on each individual property – resulting in many construction defects going unnoticed and unattended.

Insurance Premiums

Insurance Premiums have increased significantly throughout the construction industry as insurance carriers seek to protect themselves against the increasing volume of construction defect compensation claims. These increases lead to builders having to implement further cost-cutting measures, which result in a lower standard of building, which has the consequence of more construction defect compensation claims and so on.

Common Defects in Construction, Renovation and Refurbishment

Irrespective of a state´s building code or legislation, the most common defects in construction, renovation and refurbishment are recognized by the courts in four categories – design deficiencies, material deficiencies, workmanship deficiencies and specification problems.

In order to successfully claim compensation for construction defects, it has to be proven that the defect(s) has caused injury or damage to the property or its inhabitants, or (in selected states) that the property has reduced in value due to the defect(s).

Further conditions apply to the successful recovery of compensation for construction defects – such as the state´s limitation period, comparative negligence and an insurance carrier´s reservation of rights, and it is possible to read about these conditions on our dedicated “Construction Defects Claims” page.

The most common construction defect claims for compensation we have encountered include those in which a property has suffered from:

Landslide and Earth Settlement Problems

  • Earth Movement and Subsidence
  • Earth Settlement and Soil Consolidation
  • Expansive Soil
  • Faulty Drainage
  • Improper compaction
  • Landslides

Faults in Design, Materials and Workmanship

  • Failure of Structural Integrity
  • Faulty Electrical Wiring
  • Faulty Siding
  • Flashing and Waterproofing
  • Inadequate Building Insulation
  • Inadequate Firewall Protection
  • Improper Installation of Doors or Windows (or Replacements)
  • Incorrect Framing
  • Lack of Appropriate Security Devices
  • Leaks and Cracks in Concrete Slabs
  • Mildew and Mold
  • Poor Indoor Air Quality
  • Poor Standard of Plumbing
  • Stucco Deficiencies (either in mixture or application)
  • Timber Damage from Termites
  • Water Intrusion

Other Causes of Common Construction Defects:

  • Breach of Warranty of Habitability
  • Building Code Violations
  • Errors in Design
  • Inadequate Site Preparation
  • Lack of Slope Stability
  • Negligent balcony and/or deck construction
  • Omitted fire stopping

How to Spot Common Defects in Construction

Provided it can be shown that one or more of the common construction defects listed above have caused injury or damage to the property or its inhabitants – or reduced the value of the property – the law regarding common defects in construction usually allows you to recover compensation for construction defects if “there is a defect in construction which the owner did not know about and would not be expected to discover through the exercise of reasonable care”.

“Reasonable care” is a key element of the condition for claiming compensation for construction defects for, as soon as common defects in construction are identified, they should be acted upon immediately to prevent the defect deteriorating. Consequently, it is important to know what are construction defects and advisable that if you identify any symptoms of construction defects, you contact a lawyer as soon as practically possible.

The symptoms of common defects in construction include:

  • Colds or allergy symptoms you never experienced before moving into new building
  • Cracks appearing in external patios and walls separated from the property
  • Cracks in drywalls, tiles, or concrete foundation
  • Decks and balconies that do not drain properly
  • Dry rot, mold, mildew, excessive condensation
  • External stucco cracking, flaking or staining
  • Irrigation systems cause flooding
  • Lack of gutters or downspouts
  • Loose, chipped, or slipping roof tiles
  • Loose, rusty, or rotting balcony railings
  • Moisture or water leakage inside home
  • Openings in attic crawl spaces
  • Pest infestations through cracks
  • Poor Air Quality
  • Power breaker switches trip often
  • Roof leaks
  • Settled water or flooding outside home
  • Sidewalk, driveway, or garage slabs crack or begin to disintegrate
  • Stains around windows, skylights, or sliding glass doors
  • Stains in ceilings or walls
  • Wet slabs or moisture in crawl spaces
  • Windows or doors that do not properly close

Speak with a Lawyer about Compensation for Construction Defects

A typical claim for compensation for construction defects is often very complex and it is often in your best interests to speak with a lawyer about common defects in construction before you speak to a builder to repair the faults in your property. In some cases, the repair cost of a minor issue may be a little as $1,500, and the original builder/sub-contractor may be willing to repair the defect to avoid the potential cost of defending a construction defects claim.

Litigation is only ever used as a last resort, and many common construction defects claims are resolved through negotiation or medication. Understandably, you may be apprehensive about engaging the services of a lawyer when you only just noticed an increase in the amount of mold in your house, and to allay any fears you may have about claiming compensation for construction defects, we have prepared a “Construction Defects Q&A” which you are invited to read if you are nervous of speaking with a lawyer straight away.

Alternatively, you can phone us now or our toll-free claims advice service or contact us via the “Submit Your Claim Information” box at the foot of this page to discuss what are construction defects and your eligibility to claim compensation. Please note that there is no charge for this service, and you are under no obligation to use our services or act on the advice we provide. We understand how upsetting the discovery of a construction defect in your home can be, and we intend to resolve your property problems as calmly and as quickly as we can.