The 5 Most Common Issues Detected During Our Post-Project Construction Inspections for Owners

Storm Damage Texas
This post originally appeared in a post on LinkedIn.

Building owners often think that once a construction project is done, all their problems are solved. But sadly, that’s not always true. Sometimes, construction mistakes can show up years later and cost millions of dollars. This is especially true for big projects like schools and hospitals, where problems can lead to more money spent on maintenance.

 To make sure the work meets the contract and building standards, it’s important to do regular check-ups after the construction is finished. These audits can find different problems and stop them from getting worse. They also help owners get the money they need to fix things from the people responsible.

 Now, let’s talk about the top five common issues found in these post-construction audits.

 1. Construction Overcharges

Even if a project was finished without spending more money than planned, there can still be sneaky costs or expenses that the project owner didn’t agree to. Some contractors purposely make the budget higher from the beginning. Others skip necessary work to avoid going over budget or use cheap materials to save money on their side.

 The extra charges can happen because of bad behavior, mistakes in math, not enough communication, or too many changes to the original plan.

 During a post-construction audit, the contractor’s billing is carefully checked to see if it includes costs that shouldn’t be there, like extra charges for things like overhead expenses, unnecessary overtime, or expensive changes to the project that weren’t really needed. These are some things that can cause problems.

 Common Risks: 

  • Unnecessary changes to the project that don’t make it better
  • Charging sales tax even when the project should be tax-exempt
  • Charging too much for changes to the project
  • Charging too much for moving, transportation, or communication costs
  • Charging too much for the time and wages of workers
  • Using the wrong percentage for labor costs
  • Shifting costs in a way that’s not fair
  • Having too many supervisors on the construction site
  • Charging too much for certain fees
  • Charging too much for renting equipment
  • Making duplicate changes to the project
  • Not giving the owner any discounts that should be given
  • Charging fees for work that the contractor did themselves
  • Billing for materials that were actually used on other projects

  Red Flags: 

  • Vague material requirements in contract and plans
  • Specifications subject to change based on pending studies
  • Redundancy: scope overlap between billing items
  • No billable hours cap specified for exempt employees
  • Low bid/vague contract specs
  • Lack of staff budget estimates
  • Lack of credits for returned materials
  • Excessive profit margins
  • Excessive material orders
  • Change orders surpass 10 percent of the initial budget
  • Adjustments for holiday hours not included

 2. Non-Conforming Work

Nonconforming work means that the work done doesn’t match the specifications and agreements laid out in the contract, and it doesn’t meet the standards set by the industry. When we find nonconforming work during a post-construction audit, we provide detailed information about the problem and why it happened. We also figure out how to fix it and what changes need to be made.

 If the building or structure is still working fine, even though it doesn’t match the specifications, the owner can decide to accept the work and ask for a credit for the parts that don’t match. However, in some cases, the deviations can have a really bad impact on how well the building works or how much it’s worth. In those cases, owners can get the money they need to fix the problems. If they’re successful, the contractors or their insurance company have to pay for the repairs that are necessary.

 Common Instances of Non-Conforming Work: 

  • Work that doesn’t match the specifications or required standards of the project
  • Using methods that haven’t been approved for the work
  • Not building the things that were supposed to be built according to the approved plans
  • Test results showing that the work doesn’t meet the standards set in the contract
  • Using different materials that the owner hasn’t agreed to or approved
  • Designs that don’t match the actual terrain conditions
  • Not doing the necessary tests and inspections that were required.

 3. Punch List Failures

 When you inspect the construction site after the work is finished and find issues that need to be fixed, your contractor is responsible for creating a schedule or timeline for those repairs. If they don’t manage to complete the repairs within the agreed-upon timeframe, it is considered a failure related to the punch list.

 Furthermore, a post-construction audit can uncover situations where your contractor didn’t complete the work that was listed in the punch list, which is a record of outstanding tasks to be addressed before the project is considered fully completed.

 Basic Punch List Items: 

  • The appliances are working properly.
  • The paint color used is suitable.
  • The paint used is of good quality.
  • Cabinet doors, drawers, windows, and doors can open and close smoothly.
  • The construction site has been cleared of debris.
  • The floors have not been damaged during construction.
  • The HVAC system is fully functional and works correctly for different zones.
  • The light systems are working.
  • The locks on doors are functioning as expected.
  • The locks, hinges, and latches are working smoothly.
  • The plumbing is fully functional.
  • The surfaces are clean and in good condition.
  • There are no leaks present.

 When construction projects lack proper quality control measures, it often results in long lists of tasks that need to be addressed, known as punch lists. Conducting an efficient post-construction audit is crucial as it can accurately assess the magnitude of these failures and ensure that no detail is missed or overlooked. By carefully examining the completed work, the audit can identify all the necessary corrections and ensure that they are addressed appropriately. This helps in minimizing any potential oversights and ensures that the project meets the required quality standards.

 4. Built Environment Defects

The built environment defects encompass a variety of common issues that are often identified during post-construction audits. These problems can involve various aspects such as the building envelope, HVAC systems, and roof-to-wall connections. Detecting these defects can be challenging as they may not become apparent until months or even years after the construction is completed. Symptoms of these defects might start showing up over time, making their identification and resolution more complex.

 Roofing Design 

Design issues related to roofing can result in expensive repairs. A roof should be properly designed to ensure it is secure and waterproof. When the design is inadequate, water can penetrate the roofing system, leading to various issues. Water ingress can cause significant damage to the building envelope, which includes the walls, insulation, and other components that protect the interior of the building. Repairing such damage can be costly and time-consuming, making it essential to address roofing design issues to prevent water-related problems and maintain the integrity of the building.

 Ventilation Systems 

When there is insufficient ventilation in a system, it can result in a reduced lifespan of that system. Proper ventilation is crucial for many systems, such as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems. Insufficient ventilation can lead to a build-up of heat, moisture, or pollutants, which can negatively impact the components and overall performance of the system.

 Without adequate ventilation, the system may have to work harder to maintain desired temperatures, leading to increased wear and tear on its components. The accumulation of moisture can also promote the growth of mold and mildew, which can further deteriorate the system and pose health risks.

 To ensure the longevity of a system, it is important to have proper ventilation in place. This allows for the efficient exchange of air, removal of excess heat and humidity, and prevention of potential damage caused by inadequate airflow. Regular maintenance and monitoring of ventilation systems can help identify and address any ventilation-related issues early on to prevent system degradation and extend its lifespan.

 Masonry Defects 

Masonry defects are common issues that can occur in buildings. These defects include cracking, bowing walls, excessive moisture penetration, leaning or slipping structures, and weathered finishes. When masonry work is poorly executed, it makes buildings more susceptible to problems caused by rainwater and temperature changes.

 Cracking in masonry can weaken the structural integrity of walls, leading to potential instability. Bowing walls refer to walls that have developed a curved shape, which can indicate structural issues. Excessive moisture penetration can lead to water damage, deterioration of materials, and the growth of mold and mildew. Leaning or slipping structures are a serious concern as they can compromise the stability and safety of the building. Finally, weathered finishes can diminish the aesthetic appeal and protective properties of the masonry.

 It is important to address these masonry defects promptly to prevent further damage and ensure the durability and safety of the building. Proper construction techniques, regular inspections, and maintenance are crucial to mitigate these issues and protect the building from the negative impacts of moisture and temperature fluctuations.

 Heating and Cooling Imbalances 

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems play a vital role in providing comfort and maintaining a safe environment within buildings. However, when these systems are improperly installed or defective, they can cause damage to the building structures and result in unnecessary energy costs.

 Defective installation of HVAC systems can lead to issues such as inefficient cooling or heating, inadequate air circulation, or improper ventilation. These problems can strain the system, increase energy consumption, and result in higher electricity costs for building owners.

 During a post-construction audit, if it is determined that the HVAC contractor is responsible for the defects, building owners may have the opportunity to recover the additional electricity costs incurred due to the faulty installation. This is an important step in holding the responsible party accountable and alleviating the financial burden on the building owner.

 Proper installation, regular maintenance, and professional audits can help ensure that HVAC systems operate efficiently, provide optimal comfort, and minimize energy waste. Addressing any installation defects promptly is essential to protect the building structures and maintain cost-effective operation of the HVAC system.

 Common signs of a failing HVAC system: 

  • Unusually high power bills
  • Stagnant air and odors from restrooms/kitchen areas
  • Random room temperature variations
  • Inadequate temperature control

 Plumbing System Issues 

 Plumbing system defects in construction can be challenging to identify but have the potential to cause substantial damage if left unresolved. Leaks within the plumbing system can lead to damage in building structures, compromising their integrity and functionality.

 As professional post-construction consultants, we employ various methods to pinpoint and address plumbing system defects. One approach involves conducting water leakage tests, utilizing advanced technologies such as infrared imaging. These techniques enable us to detect leaks that may not be easily visible and assess the extent of the damage.

 By accurately locating damaged building components and identifying the sources of leaks, we can determine the liable parties responsible for the plumbing defects. This information is crucial for resolving the issues and ensuring appropriate repairs and corrective measures are undertaken.

 Through our expertise and utilization of modern diagnostic tools, we strive to identify and mitigate plumbing system defects promptly. This helps prevent further damage to building structures and ensures accountability for those responsible, resulting in effective resolution and the restoration of proper functionality to the plumbing system.

 5. Architectural Errors

 When an architect’s mistake leads to delays or building defects, they are generally held accountable for rectifying these issues at their own expense. Efficient post-construction audits play a crucial role in detecting architectural errors and determining whether architects or design professionals are responsible for the problems.

 During the post-construction audit, thorough inspections and assessments are conducted to identify any design flaws or mistakes that may have contributed to the delays or defects. This can include issues such as incorrect specifications, inadequate structural design, or other architectural errors.

 By pinpointing these errors, the audit helps establish the liability of the architects or design professionals involved. They are then expected to take responsibility for rectifying the problems and covering the associated costs. This ensures that the necessary repairs or modifications are carried out to address the architectural mistakes and bring the building up to the required standards.

 Efficient post-construction audits not only help identify architectural errors but also ensure that the responsible parties are held accountable, leading to the appropriate resolution of the problems and the restoration of the building’s intended functionality and quality.

 Common Types of Architectural Errors: 

Not following building codes

Not enough insulation

Roof slopes that are not sufficient

Rooms that are not well-lit

Drawings and plans lacking necessary details

Incorrect calculations of building dimensions or boundaries

Inadequate space planning

 Post-Construction Audits Lead to Recovery of Costs of Repair 

The Law Offices Of Colby Lewis and his team of experts can conduct a Post-Construction Audit of you building to help you recover for your damages.

 Recoverable costs of repairs for defects identified during a post-construction audit may include:

  •  The cost of past and future repairs necessary to address the defects.
  • Excessive heating and cooling costs incurred due to the defects.
  • Loss in property value resulting from the defects.
  • Loss in the use of the property due to the defects.
  • Costs associated with temporary relocation, if required during the repair process.
  • Court costs incurred in pursuing legal action related to the defects.
  • Attorneys’ fees for legal representation during the process.

 In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded as an additional form of compensation if the responsible party’s conduct is found to be particularly negligent or intentional.

These recoverable costs aim to compensate the property owner for the financial losses and inconveniences incurred as a result of the defects discovered during the post-construction audit. The specific recoverable costs will depend on the nature and extent of the defects and the applicable laws and regulations governing such cases.

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