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Construction Defects

"Standard of Care"

 

The Linchpin of Construction Defects

 

The construction “industry standard” requires that developers, builders, engineers, architects, general contractors, and other trade professionals must comply with generally accepted building codes, criteria, standards, and regulations in the development of a site.  Whether or not the construction Standard of Care has been met depends on whether the professional individual or entity has acted with watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that are reasonable and standard in the industry.  The Standard-of-Care ensures that a minimum level of due diligence is applied to a project to ensure that a quality product, compliant with applicable laws, building codes, and jurisdictional standards/specifications, is delivered to the end user.  Forensic engineers provide opinions regarding Standard-of-Care and how the actions of the involved parties could have resulted in construction defects.

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Drainage structures require maintenance such as repair, removal of sediment, re-establishment of eroded slopes, mowing, and removal of vegetation.  However, visible damage or failure of a grading and drainage infrastructure does not necessarily mean a construction defect exists. 

 

Climate and regional soil conditions affect the stability of grading and drainage.  Grading and drainage are affected in varying ways in different climates.  Early-onset of damage or excessive damage indicates that the condition may be due to a construction defect. 

 

Water affects the physical properties of soil.  It also erodes soil by moving particles, dissolves minerals, seeps into concrete and wood, and can cause algae and or mold growth under certain conditions.  All these processes can cause damage to structures and site elements.

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Foundations are designed to accommodate climate, soil conditions, and structural loads; and require maintenance of grading and drainage on an ongoing basis.  Homeowners must comply with standards for positive grading (ground sloped away from the foundation) throughout the life of the home. 

 

If grading and drainage are not maintained, water can infiltrate the backfill, resulting in structural damage.  The failure of a foundation does not necessarily mean that a construction defect exists.  However, early-onset of damage or excessive damage is an indicator that the condition may be due to a construction defect. 

 

Water affects the physical properties of soil, and if wetted, certain types of soils can become unstable through swelling or shrinkage.  Soil engineering, technically referred to as geotechnical engineering, is a complex discipline.

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Pavement, which includes concrete, asphalt, and masonry pavers, requires regular maintenance such as cleaning, weeding, sealing of cracks, replacement of damaged sections, and ensuring proper drainage.  Visible failure does not necessarily mean that a construction defect exists.

 

Climate, soil conditions, and construction means and methods are important factors in the life of any pavement.  Early-onset or excessive damage is an indicator that the condition may be due to a construction defect. 

The subsurface and surface drainage systems around pavements should be carefully designed to ensure the removal of the water from paved areas and subgrade soils.  Allowing surface waters to pond on pavements will cause premature pavement deterioration. 

 

Where topography, site constraints, or other factors limit or preclude adequate surface drainage, pavements should be provided with edge drains to reduce the loss of subgrade support.  The long-term performance of the pavement also can be improved greatly by proper backfilling and compaction behind curbs, gutters, and sidewalks so that ponding is not permitted and water infiltration is reduced.

 

A primary cause of early pavement deterioration is water infiltration into the pavement system.  The addition of moisture usually results in softening of the base course and subgrade and the eventual failure of the pavement.  The drainage should be designed for the rapid removal of surface runoff.

Flatwork is defined as concrete constructed on any type of flat ground surface.  Roadway pavement is not considered flatwork.

 

Concrete requires regular maintenance such as cleaning, weeding, sealing of cracks, replacement of damaged sections, and ensuring proper drainage.  Visible failure does not necessarily mean that a construction defect exists.

 

Climate, soil conditions, and construction means and methods are important factors in the life of any flatwork section.  Early-onset or excessive damage is an indicator that the condition may be due to a construction defect.

 

The collection and diversion of surface drainage away from flatwork are extremely important to the satisfactory performance of the concrete.  The subsurface and surface drainage systems should be carefully designed to ensure the removal of water from the concrete and subgrade soils.  Allowing surface waters to pond on concrete will cause premature pavement deterioration.

 

A primary cause of early deterioration of flatwork is water infiltration into the soils.  The addition of moisture usually results in softening of the subgrade and the eventual failure of the pavement.  The drainage should be designed for the rapid removal of surface runoff.

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Retaining walls require regular maintenance such as structural inspections, removal of vegetation, and ensuring proper drainage.  Visible damage or failure of a retaining wall does not necessarily mean a construction defect exists.

 

Climate and regional soil conditions are factors in the life of a retaining wall.  Retaining walls are affected in varying ways in different climates.  Early-onset or excessive damage is a key indicator that the condition may be due to a construction defect.

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Structures such as pavements, retaining walls, and buildings are supported by soil.  Soils have qualities and characteristics that give them strength, which can be affected by the amount of moisture in the soil.  Climate and regional soil conditions are essential factors in the engineering design related to soils

 

Damage to a structure due to soils does not necessarily mean a construction defect exists.  However, early-onset or excessive damage to pavements, retaining walls, and buildings indicate that the condition may be due to a construction defect.

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It is not uncommon for concrete basement floors to crack, settle, and heave.  The issue is the timing, extent, and magnitude of the damage.

 

Some damage and movement of a basement floor do not necessarily mean a construction defect exists.  However, early-onset of damage or excessive damage is an indicator that the condition may be due to a construction defect. 

Access the extensive collection of photographs showing conditions related to maintenance and construction defects.

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