Unfortunately, the high costs of construction are not a guarantee of quality workmanship and construction defects are relatively common. Some defects are small, merely detracting from the overall aesthetic of the residence. Others are severe and pose a safety hazard to the residents.
Common residential construction defects
Construction defects generally encompass design, material, construction and subsurface deficiencies. A defect is significant, often resulting in a component failure. Below is a list of common defects found in homes.
- Exterior leaks: Exterior leaks allow water and outside elements into the home. These pose a particular problem when water damage occurs underneath insulation or sheet rock, creating an environment conducive to mold.
- Flooring problems: Often seen with laminate and hardwood floors. Failing to acclimate the flooring material to the building will cause cracks and ripples as the material naturally expands and contracts.
- HAVC issues: Problems arise from blocked or incomplete ventilation systems. Can lead to hot and cold spots in addition to high heating and cooling bills.
- Material problems: Material substitutions are problematic when lesser quality materials are substituted. While most contracts allow for material substitutions, the substituted product must be of equal or better quality.
- Leaking showers: Showers often leak along the edge where the shower base meets the flooring. Improperly connected joints will leak and cause damage to the floor and subflooring, resulting in rot, mildew and mold.
- Unlevel and sagging floors: Often the result of improperly designed structural support systems in open floor plans. The lack of load bearing walls allows the floor to sag overtime.
- Decks and balconies: Problems with decks and balconies can be structural, where the structure is unsafe and cannot bear weight. Additionally, decks and balconies can be a source of exterior leaks where the decking meets the exterior of the home.
Statute of limitations
Construction defects can be readily identifiable, or latent, appearing several years later. In Pennsylvania the statute of limitations for filing an injury to personal property claim is two years. The statute of limitations to file a contract violation claims is four years. However, Pennsylvania also adopts the “discovery rule” for the state of repose. The discovery rule applies when the party realizes a latent defect later on, possible after the statute of limitations has expired. In these cases, the two year clock starts when the party realizes, or should have realized, the defect.
When dealing with construction defects, claims often involve negligence and breach of warranty claims. Damages awarded can include the cost of repair, decline in value, cost of temporary housing and court costs. Navigating the technicalities of construction contracts and defects can be difficult and seeking legal advice is recommended.