Preventing & Dealing with Construction Defects An Expensive Do-Over!

Many people believe in the ethos of 'reduce, reuse, and recycle'—they buy vintage clothing, pre-owned cars, or refurbished electronic equipment. But most of us also like brand new things, including homes. And with markets across the country rebounding from the economic meltdown of the recession, new homes are becoming an option for more people and the lure of Wi-Fi, designer name appliances and other state-of- the-art finishes can’t be ignored.

Living in shiny, fresh-out-of-the-box construction sometimes comes with problems, however; leaks in condo units, mechanical problems, insufficient noiseproofing, and other issues, may crop up. While it might be better if every buyer could purchase a 2-year-old, already lived-in condo with the creaks worked out, real estate is often about timing as much as it is about location—so you buy when you can and when the market is right. If you’re buying new, it pays to take what steps you can to insure that the unit you're purchasing is as close to perfect as it can be. Caveat emptor isn’t just an adage to remind buyers to be careful. When the thing you’re buying is also where you’ll be living and likely represents your single biggest investment, naturally you want to protect that investment by every possible means. Ensuring your new home is in top shape before you move in is a good place to start.

Finding Trouble-Spots

When it comes to construction defects in new buildings, it’s not usually the building designer’s fault, says David Colston, PE, owner of Structural Engineering Associates Inc., in West Palm Beach. “Most of it is improper installation,” he says.

One of the most common examples of this is stucco problems. Cracked and crumbling stucco on the exterior of your building—particularly if the structure is relatively new—is more than just an annoyance and an aesthetic problem; it also may be an indication that the stucco was incorrectly applied, or that improper materials were used in the job. Both can be a major problem, because aside from contributing to the look of a property, stucco forms part of a building's waterproofing system.

When badly executed, that causes major problems with water infiltration, as it did for a condo that filed a sizable claim for improperly applied stucco on its building, says Ryan Owen, a partner with the law firm of Adams & Reese, LLP in Sarasota. In that case, the subcontractor didn’t use the right materials to ensure that the stucco adhered. A few years after the work was done the stucco was falling off of the building and had to be completely repaired.

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