Construction Defects

Construction Defects

Construction defects are common, although most defects are minor and fairly inconsequential. However, the most dangerous defects can cause damage to people or property itself.
Regardless of whether a defect is major or minor in nature, a problem remains: defects are generally not discovered until long after work is completed, and defending against defect claims is a tall (and expensive) task.

What is a construction defect?

In general, construction defects refer to a deficiency in the construction process, whether in design, materials or workmanship, that leads to a failure in some aspect of the structure being built, and that causes damage to a person or property (financial or otherwise). To put it another way, a construction defect must include all 3 of the following:

  1. A deficiency in the construction process itself (resulting from poor design, materials, or workmanship);
  2. The deficiency must lead to a failure in the structure (which is being built during the project);
  3. That failure must cause damage to a person or property (financial damage or otherwise).

Sometimes a defect can be as simple as failing to meet an owner’s expectations. Other times, it could be as serious as a structural defect in the property. Obviously, construction defects and the resulting consequences will vary greatly depending on the source and severity of the problem in question.

What are the main types of construction defects?

After distinguishing the type of construction defect , they are generally classified as patent or latent. Patent defects are those that are known or readily apparent upon inspection. They are what a contractor, subcommittee or other business must find during normal inspections. Latent defects, on the other hand, are those that are hidden or not easily observable. Latent defects probably won’t be found even by someone who inspects the job thoroughly.

Visible, patent flaws are obvious, and often, that means there is an easy solution. These defects are at the surface level and often purely cosmetic, so accessing and repairing the problem is usually not as invasive. On the other hand, since latent defects are not obvious, that usually means they are below the surface or even a faulty system in the guts of a project. As a result, latent defects tend to be a bit more troublesome. Let’s break down a little more the three main types of construction defects :

Design flaws

These defects are the result of a design professional’s inability to produce accurate and well-organized construction documents. Design defects are caused by error or omission. Errors generally require some form of redesign and replacement of a component part, while the omission can be remedied by adding to the contractor’s scope of work through change orders.

Material defects

Defects that arise due to damaged or unsuitable materials of construction are called “material defects”. When these defects come from the manufacturer, the parties using these materials will generally not realize the defect until after they have already been incorporated into the project. This makes material defects particularly costly because they can require additional labor and new materials.

Workmanship defects

When people think of construction defects, it is usually workmanship defects that come to mind. These defects occur when a contractor cannot build a structure or part of a component in accordance with construction documents. Manufacturing defects can range from simple aesthetic problems to structural integrity problems. Assigning responsibilities and determining how (and even who) failed to meet the standard of care for the property can be extremely complex.


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