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  • Writer's pictureEngineer Mike

General Categories of Construction Defects

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

There are eight general categories of construction defects related to residential construction. Some of these categories overlap, and any damage to a home can be classified into one or more of these categories.


 

1. Drainage


Grass swale with flowing water and rainfall on surface.


Water will always find the easiest path to flow. If it takes water less energy to soak into the soil than flow down a slope, it will. As a result, grading and drainage defects manifest in visible damage in the form of flooding, erosion, sediment accumulation, mold/algae growth, dead landscaping, pumping seepage, intrusion, and infiltration.


 


 

2. Soil


Slope of ground where soil has been previously excavated.

Soil mechanics falls under the "geotechnical" engineering discipline. Soil problems, from a geotechnical perspective, manifest in visible structural damage. Soils can displace, swell, consolidate, erode, and develop tension cracks.


Soil problems can directly cause plumbing damage.


 

3. Foundations


Diagonal crack in basement foundation wall.

The topic of foundation defects is complex because it involves factors such as an engineer's technical experience, loads, soil strength, grading, drainage, the strength of materials, and construction means and methods.


Foundation defects can manifest in the form of basement moisture problems, foundation cracks, drywall cracks, floor cracks, the separation between trim pieces and millwork, out-of-square doorways, and vertical movement of the basement slab-on-grade floor.


It is important to understand that foundation problems can directly cause plumbing damage.


 


 

4. Pavement


Asphalt, concrete, and masonry types of pavement.


  • Asphalt pavement defects manifest in visible damage such as cracks, rutting, depressions, and potholes.

  • Concrete pavement defects manifest in visible damage in the form of cracks, spalling, flaking, vertical movement, and separations.

  • Masonry paver surface defects manifest in visible damage such as heaving, separation, horizontal displacement, and vertical displacement.


 

5. Flatwork


Cracked, spalled, and damaged concrete pavement (flatwork) and sidewalk.

Flatwork includes structures constructed from concrete such as sidewalks, curb & gutter, drainage pans, handicap ramps, stairs, and patios. Flatwork defects manifest in visible damage in the form of cracks, spalling, flaking, vertical movement, and separations.


 


 

6. Retaining Walls


Crack in stone retaining wall.

Common retaining wall types include segmental (block), concrete, and stone. Retaining wall defects manifest in visible damage in the form of cracks, water seepage, staining, displacement, vegetation growth, mold/algae growth, erosion, and crumbling.


 

7. Building Envelope


Gap and separation between sections of siding due to foundation movement.


A building envelope is the physical structure around the controlled environment of a building (the conditioned and unconditioned spaces). It includes the roof, exterior walls, doors and windows, insulation, and weatherproofing, including supporting structural elements. The foundation is not part of the building envelope. Building envelope defects manifest in damage to facade components, broken structural members, roof leaks, low energy efficiency, and moisture problems.


 

8. Plumbing, HVAC, and Electrical


Racked sewer pipe through basement slab-on-grade floor measured by a measuring tape.


Plumbing defects manifest in breaks and leaks and can be caused by problems with construction means and methods and non-compliance with applicable building codes. However, many problems with plumbing and HVAC can be the result of foundation or soil problems.


It is important to understand that foundation problems can directly cause plumbing damage.


 

I hope this information helps you to better understand the different types of construction defects. Visit my Photo Collections page for additional examples of damage.


Visit my photo collections page, which has examples of damage that can be due to construction defects.  





Mike

Engineer Mike





 

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