6 most common construction defects

It’s not unusual for small errors to happen on any construction site, but in some cases, even just one mistake can end up being very costly for the developer and the property buyer.

Patent defects are typically caught early by inspections during the building process, so they can be fixed before they cause any problems. Latent defects, however, aren’t always visible if all elements haven’t been inspected properly before completion.

Whether it’s minor or major, patent or latent, nobody wants to be responsible for repairing defects in poor quality work – and no buyer wants the hassle of trying to get defects repaired.

This blog looks at 6 of the most common defects that occur in construction of new build homes, so housebuilders know what to avoid and homebuyers know what to be wary of.

Problem areas for new builds

The main causes of construction defects are typically poor workmanship and faulty materials. Construction workers can make mistakes when completing building tasks, use poor-quality or inappropriate materials, or both – and if these errors go unnoticed during the build, it can result in big problems later.

The most serious are structural defects, which can affect the foundations, load-bearing walls, floors, and lintels. However, problems with new builds can vary from relatively quick cosmetic fixes to complex repairs, which could involve more extensive and costly construction work to rebuild.

Here are six of the most common types of defects found during construction site inspections and reported via dispute resolution services, from unfinished glazing to substandard roofing.

1) Windows and doors

Insufficient support or sealing around window and door frames can cause issues such as heat loss, lack of functionality, and eventually weakened masonry due to uneven stresses.

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Common complaints include cold draughts, rattling noises, and inability to open or close the units correctly due to misalignment. This could even cause cracks in the surrounding walls.

2) Tolerances

There are different standards of variation available – for dimensions, strength, techniques, etc. – that still allow a component or system to function as intended without being considered defective.

However, in cases such as doors and windows, ceilings and internal walls, and fixtures, these tolerances can be very small, and exceeding them can make a whole section of the build defunct.

3) External masonry and walls

Traditional masonry cavity walls, timber frames manufactured off-site, and concrete frames are common victims of faults caused by poor materials and workmanship.

Insufficient reinforcement in the walls could lead to an overloaded section cracking, weakening, and potentially collapsing, while insufficient weatherproofing can lead to water ingress and erosion.

4) Second/third fixes

In construction, the ‘first fix’ stage comprises the work from laying the foundations to completing the internal wall plastering, plumbing, and electrical supply. The ‘second fix’ then covers the remainder of the work finishing the connections and installing the fittings.

If the finishes are defective or not neat enough at the second fix, a third and final fix may be required. The most common issues found at the second and third fixes involve bathroom fittings – particularly ceramic tiles, grout, and unfinished lipping or excessive gaps.

5) Traditional slate/tile roof coverings

Roof problems occur most often with pitched roofs with pre-formed trusses and flat roofs, but they can happen with any type of roof. Poorly installed roofing materials and systems, such as ridge tiles, can cause countless issues – especially when combined with defective roof membranes.

Gaps and tears in roofing and damp-proofing materials can allow both moisture and animal infestations to get inside. This can then result in damp, rotted, or eroded components, until the roof begins to sag. If left unchecked, the roof could partially or totally cave in.

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6) Above-ground drainage

Above-ground drainage systems include guttering and downpipes for directing rainwater and waste management systems for directing wastewater from a property to the below-ground sewage system. The most common issues tend to occur with faulty rainwater systems.

If guttering and downspouts aren’t laid the full length of the roof or to the correct fall, or sections are incomplete and not joined properly, this can cause leaks or overflowing build-ups. Over time, this misdirected rainwater can damage the roof and external walls, and in some cases lead to damp and mould developing inside the property.

Cover your build with latent defects insurance

Failure to follow building plans and material specifications, or to comply with building regulations and safety legislation, can cause more trouble than it’s worth for construction projects and property buyers alike.

Ensuring there is a latent defects insurance policy set up from the beginning can reduce the risks of structural defects and their consequences for the builder and homeowner. This is because the warranty provider sends Building Control-approved inspectors to survey the site and the building at important stages.

If something hasn’t been installed or finished correctly, the highly trained inspectors are likely to identify the issue and produce reports explaining what needs to be fixed. This helps to improve workmanship and site practices.

When the build is completed to satisfactory standards, it can be signed off, and the cover will be transferred to the new owner. In the event that a concealed problem later presents as a latent defect, the building owner can make a claim through the insurance policy.

This means the owner can receive financial support to cover repair costs for structural problems with elements such as the foundations, roofing system, walls and floors, and lintels.

A latent defects insurance policy can provide protection against structural defects caused by poor materials or workmanship for 15 years or more after completion of the building – so don’t take the risk of starting a construction project or purchasing a new build home without one.

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Shankar is a tech blogger who occasionally enjoys penning historical fiction. With over a thousand articles written on tech, business, finance, marketing, mobile, social media, cloud storage, software, and general topics, he has been creating material for the past eight years.