HOMEOWNERSHIP AND CONSTRUCTION DEFECTS
Construction defects are one of those issues that no one ever wants to think about. Builders like to pretend there either is no such thing; it’s just a pesky misunderstanding; or it is always something another Builder does. Municipal inspectors don’t have the manpower to catch all the possible defects during construction. Home inspectors worry about getting a call from an attorney asserting they ‘missed’ a defect they couldn’t possibly have seen.
Homeowners, for the most part, have only in recent years become relatively familiar with the term. When homeowners do hear ‘construction defect’, its usually too late and life is about to get complicated. It should be understood that not all construction defects are necessarily costly or dangerous. Some defects can be relatively minor and easy to repair. Others can be cheap enough to repair but can be a serious health or safety hazard if not repaired. We’ve all probably heard news stories that show how some defects can be quite serious.
There is no definitive definition of ‘construction defect’. The lawyers and State legislatures are still fighting over that one. If you do an internet search, you will find a multitude of answers. The definitions all vary but tend to be similar in interpretation.
In simple terms ‘a construction defect is a construction method or component that has not or will not perform as intended and should have never been installed as it was’. This can be for a multitude of reasons such as:
- The product will not perform as designed or specified
- Was never meant for the intended use
- Was altered or damaged during the construction process
- Is no longer UL listed due to alterations
- Is hazardous by its’ very nature of installation
There are several reasons why construction defects have become more of an issue in recent years. Some of these reasons include:
- Attempts at increasing profit margins by builders or contractors
- Lack of knowledge in understanding new products and methods
- Unskilled labor that is not familiar with proper procedures
- Use of inferior materials
- Construction being performed during improper weather conditions
Construction defects tend to differ greatly depending on whether it involves new construction or rehab of vintage buildings. The results however are often similar but differ in severity.
Some homebuyers assume that if a building is new, ‘it must be OK’. This is often not the case. It is not uncommon for contractors and subcontractors who are running behind to make poor decisions. Based on experience new construction defects tend to be inherent to the building as a whole. The defects are often built into the building during construction. This can make remediation much costlier, time consuming and sometimes barely feasible.
In vintage buildings, construction defects tend to be more ‘component’ oriented. Vintage buildings tend to have less original construction defects. Normal age deterioration and deferred maintenance should not be considered construction defects. Viewing such concerns as opportunities to improve upon the past may be helpful. Repair costs can often be more feasible.
Getting a construction phase inspection while new home construction is in progress can often identify non-compliance issues. Early identification during the build can allow time to have conditions properly corrected and allow the build to continue with fewer future problems.
On a vintage building remodeling project, having an inspector assess conditions can help provide a higher quality and compliant finished job. Contractors have a tendency to make better decisions when they know someone is watching.
AIC can provide one time or ongoing inspections and consulting services for your project. Please give us a call for a free consultation.