Construction defects are one of the most frequent forms of construction disputes between contractors and project owners. Construction defects are described as defects in the construction process – whether in design, materials, or workmanship – that cause a failure in any part of the structure being constructed, resulting in injury or property damage. There is often a disagreement as to the quality and sufficiency of construction, giving rise to a construction dispute.
Construction Defect Claim
Construction defects may be aesthetic (affecting the appearance) or structural (affecting the safety) or anywhere in between. Serious structural defect can cause in serious injuries or death. This could include the components, parts, or design for the finished structure. When the defect is structural, the damage may be severe and affect the whole structure. Sometimes just a few parts are to blame and can be carefully replaced to rectify the problem.
The cause of construction defects can be inferior materials than what are specified – obviously the reason is to reduce costs. This is the easiest problem to prevent by using the specified materials.
Construction defects can be caused by poor craftsmanship. When concrete is placed, often there are air voids. When the concrete hardens, these air voids become known as Spaulding. Where the defect is aesthetic, the remedy is to clean the void, apply an adhesive and apply concrete to fill the void.
Sometimes the design plans are too difficult for a contractor to construction, so the contractor makes a field modification. One of the worst preventable engineering disasters was such a field modification by a contractor. This happened in the Hyatt Regency walkway collapse in 1981 in Kansas City, Missouri – resulting in 114 deaths and 216 non-fatal injuries. Contractors should always construct according to the design plans, unless a change is approved by the designer.
Sometimes construction spans into the fall and winter, bringing significantly lower temperatures in some regions. Weather can cause a construction defect – concrete requires heat to harden. When constructing a concrete building or parking garage, additional time should be allowed for the concrete to properly cure. If the concrete fails to properly cure in “vertical” construction, the failure may be a catastrophic “pancake” failure. One of the floors will collapse into the floor below, the momentum of the first failing floor will cause the next floor to collapse. The failure is a chain reaction with the concrete floors ending up on the ground like a stack of pancakes. Because the floors collapse on themselves with little room, pancake concrete collapses often have few survivors.
Identify problems in the initial stages is often cheaper, than later in the construction. A popular method of minimizing problems is to hire a CEI. CEI stands for Construction, Engineering & Inspection. A CEI serves as the owners representative on the jobsite to act as the eyes and ears of the owner. If the CEI notices the contractor is deviating from the design plans, the CEI can help to rectify the problem while solutions are cheaper. CEI’s usually have industry experience, sufficient to identify problems in the construction.
Expert Witness in Construction Defect
Expert witnesses can be useful for owners and attorneys to understand what went wrong, to prove liability, and to quantify the damages. Expert witnesses will usually have extensive industry experience.
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