How to reduce defects in construction projects: 7 practical tips

Dealing with customer complaints about defects in buildings is time-consuming, frustrating and, if it comes to litigation, very expensive. Having a plan for how to reduce defects in construction will mean you avoid the worst of these issues.

A site inspection in progress to find construction defects

Defects in buildings are a common problem that all construction firms must deal with. Understanding the issue, and taking some simple steps to prevent defects from arising in the first place, will result in a much smoother experience for all.

What are defects in buildings?

Construction defects are any type of problem with the design, workmanship or materials used in the build. The consequences of a defect can vary greatly – from small aesthetic problems, right through to dangerous structural issues that would put inhabitants at risk of injury. If a defect is discovered after the building has been completed, the owner normally has a set period of time in which they can get the defect resolved by the contractor.

Defects can be classified as either latent or patent:

  • Patent defects: These are normally visible and should be resolved during the build or the snagging phase. For example, a patent defect could be a poorly fitted window.
  • Latent defects: These problems are normally invisible, and it may take months or even years before residents become aware of the problem. For example, a latent defect with the foundations may only come to light years after you complete the structure.

Defect management can be very complex from a legal standpoint. It can also be challenging to decide who is responsible for a defect and who should pay for remedial work. If it is not clear, all parties may find themselves involved in expensive litigation. So, avoiding defects in the first place is the best option!

Learn more: What is a snagging app?

Common defects in buildings

Some of the most common defects in buildings include:

  • Poorly fitted windows
  • Problems in the roof, including tiles overextending and leaks
  • Cracks in plastering
  • Cracks in concrete
  • Balconies not correctly attached to the building
  • Poor bathroom plumbing

How to reduce defects in construction: 7 tips

According to a study in Australia, the average bill for resolving defects in a single apartment was AUD $6,434 (£3,515). Besides the cost that the contractor or architect may end up having to bear, there is also reputational damage to think about. And of course, conducting remedial work prevents you from starting new projects.

Here are seven tips for how to reduce defects in construction:

  1. Ensure everyone has the latest drawings

One common reason that defects occur in construction is that sub-contractors may be working from outdated building drawings. These old drawings may include design errors that have been rectified on the latest building models. Ensuring all stakeholders have a view of the most up to date information will significantly minimise these sorts of problems.

  1. Select the right materials

Sourcing materials that have been specified in the building plan and only using these is an important way of minimising the number of defects in buildings. While it can be tempting to substitute one material for a cheaper alternative, this could come back to haunt you if it is later identified as the cause of a defect.

  1. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions

It is equally important to ensure that subcontractors follow all the instructions on how to use a building material – especially if they are not yet familiar with how to use it. If there are any doubts it is better to get clarification from the architect or the lead contractor first.

  1. Foster a culture of good communication

Defect management is much more efficient if there is a good culture of communication on the construction site and with the owner and architect. All subcontractors should know who they need to ask if they have any doubts about the building plan, and they should be able to reach that person quickly and easily. At the same time, the site manager should be able to reach the architect to get clarification about any issues that have arisen during the build.

  1. Conduct daily or weekly quality inspections

The site manager is ultimately responsible for the quality of works conducted on their site. Right from the beginning of the project, they should be conducting frequent site walks to monitor the quality of work and identify any problems as early as possible. Above all, conducting regular quality inspections can nip problems in the bud and avoid later remedial work.

  1. Fully document all decisions

If you must make changes to the structure that are not described in the building model, it is vital to create a written record explaining who made the decision and why. By producing documents that contain this information, it is much easier for the contractor or subcontractor to later explain their decisions and provide their rationale.

  1. Conduct a thorough subcontractor evaluation

Whenever you hire subcontractors for a job it is important to conduct a thorough evaluation of the company and a background check, especially if you have not worked with them before. It is also useful to collect references, find out about any internal quality assessment procedures they have, and verify that they have the correct licences and certifications.

Learn more: How to conduct defect management risk analysis

How to reduce defects in construction with technology

One of the key challenges with defect management is that it has traditionally been a very manual and time-intensive process. But this is improving thanks to digital technologies that speed up the process of identifying and resolving defects in buildings.

With an app like PlanRadar, everyone on the site gets access to a mobile app where they can view the most up to date building models, assign tickets, gather evidence, communicate about any issues and document their decisions.

From right within the app, all stakeholders and sub-contractors have access to:

 

Knowing how to reduce defects in construction projects can also save your business thousands of pounds and countless hours of labour. And with digital tools like PlanRadar, defect management is even easier.

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