Warning Signs of a Construction Defect
Every home has what is called a building envelope. This envelope consists of building paper and flashing at all openings. Stucco or siding is then installed on top of the paper, which, if not installed properly can puncture or damage the building envelope. When the building envelope is installed improperly, it causes water to pass through into the interior of the home. This may result in water stains in the interior, but very often water intrudes only into the wall cavity causing mold and damage. Many times, homeowners are unaware of what lurks in their walls.
Water intrusion through the roof is also a common complaint. Roofs are complex systems that need to be sloped properly, and sheet metal plays an important role in transitioning the roof materials to other components such as plumbing vents and stucco.
Water intrusion through concrete slabs can be an indication of ground water or the absence of a vapor barrier under the slab. Plumbing leaks are also a sign of improperly installed components.
Stucco and drywall cracks can be an ominous sign. Many different issues can cause the cracks. Settlement of the home is a possibility, which could mean that either the soil was not compacted properly, or the soils could be expansive, meaning when the soil is exposed to moisture it expands. Structural issues can cause cracking as well. Framing a home is not as easy as one would think. Structural engineers call for special types of straps, nails and hold-downs all of which must be installed in specific locations. Also, shear walls (plywood) must be installed properly to avoid a house from deflecting or shifting. Cracks can also be caused by the improper installation of the stucco or drywall.
Door and Windows That Don't Sit Well
In the case of windows, many times a window is "racked" before it is installed, meaning it is twisted, causing it to be hard to operate once it is installed. Settlement and poor framing can also cause the doors and windows to not sit properly. Either way, it can be a problem that will only get worse over time.
Any water intrusion no matter how small can cause mold to appear in as little as 24 hours. The problem is that many leaks will not manifest in the interior of the home, but rather mold will grow and thrive in the wall cavity. See Toxic Mold for more information.
Tub and Shower Leaks
Constant plumbing leaks can be a sign of a plumber who didn't follow the rules. There are literally hundreds of plumbing connections in a home and very often a plumber will fit the connection together, but will forget to solder them. These connections can hold for years before leaking. Bathtubs and shower leaks are almost par for the course these days, being primarily caused by penetrations leaking into wall cavities.
Excessive Heating and Cooling Bills
Undersized heating and air-conditioning is a sign of a builder who cut corners. Demand has sometimes outstripped the supply of qualified laborers and quality materials, meaning your 5-ton air-conditioning unit became a 4-ton due to supply issues.
Breakers tripping and lights dimming is a sign that the breaker panel may be undersized or there are too many fixtures per breaker.
Musty Sub-grade Areas
Water intrusion through sub-grade areas is a sign that waterproofing was installed improperly, which can mean a very costly repair. Also, penetrations through sub-grade walls can let water pass through.
A Builder Who Refuses to Make Repairs
A Builder who refuses to make repairs may be a builder who has made enough repairs to homes in a particular project to know that repairing another home is opening another can of worms. This is why builders will always caulk everything rather than actually take it apart to see what the real problem is. It's the caulk and walk routine.
Ponding of Water
The ponding of water, whether it be on decks, roofs or in backyards, can be problematic. Not only will the water eventually make its way into the home in the case of roofs and decks, ponding of water on any material will eventually cause the premature deterioration of that product.