Understanding the Different Types of Building Defects
No home or commercial building is immune to the wear and tear of age and use. But left unaddressed, small defects can become major problems and lead to structural damage or deterioration. Cracks, dampness, electrical issues, and foundation movement are just some of the many defects that can occur.
Recognising the different types of building defects is critical for property owners and managers. Catching issues early allows for repairs before the problems escalate or cause safety hazards. Diagnosing the root cause of defects is the only way to rectify them fully.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the most common building defects, their potential causes, their risks, and how to properly inspect, diagnose, and remedy them. Whether you’re a first homeowner noticing some cracks or a building manager dealing with persistent electrical and plumbing faults, this guide will arm you with the knowledge to identify issues and determine the next steps. Spotting defects early and taking appropriate action will save you money, time, and headaches down the road.
What Are the Different Types of Building Defects
Due to ageing and natural deterioration of the building fabric, many common types of defects are found in buildings. Building defects can be categorised into three main types: structural, external, and internal. Each category has its own common issues and potential implications that need to be understood.
A structural defect relates to issues with the foundation, load-bearing elements, and overall structural integrity of the building. Cracks in foundations, walls, and ceilings are common structural elements.
The presence of cracks indicates movement and settlement that require further evaluation. These cracks can expand over time if left unaddressed, leading to larger structural concrete issues.
Roof defects like sagging, damaged rafters, and leaks are another common structural issue. Roof problems compromise the overall strength and soundness of the building frame.
Movement problems such as subsidence, heaving soils, and expansive clays can also critically impact the building's structure. Other major structural defects include timber building and pest inspection, problems with load-bearing beams, columns, and walls, and faulty building structure foundations. These issues put the stability and safety of the building at risk.
External defects relate to the exterior façade, waterproofing, weather sealants, and drainage systems around the building. Common external defects are faulty or inadequate weatherproofing that allows moisture intrusion.
Exterior cracks in brick, stucco, siding, and foundations require sealing and patching. Damaged, outdated, or drafty windows and doors also should be repaired or replaced as they lead to weather and water penetration.
Poor drainage, including gutters overflowing or directing water towards the structure, can cause flooding and water damage over time. Degrading exterior finishes like peeling paint, warped wood, and rusted metals can also compromise the weather-proofing integrity and lead to bigger issues.
Internal building defects pertain to issues within the interior space. Plumbing leaks from pipes, water heaters, sinks, and other fixtures can lead to water damage, mould growth, and deterioration.
Faulty electrical systems and wiring present serious fire and shock hazards. Poor ventilation results in humidity, condensation, and stuffiness. Mould and mildew caused by excessive moisture are unhealthy.
Outdated, damaged materials used on floors, walls, and ceilings both look unsightly and can compromise structural soundness if left unrepaired. Addressing these interior issues improves safety, air quality, and aesthetics.
Diagnosing Building Defects
Cracks in walls and foundations, sticking doors and windows, and uneven floors can indicate settling, expansive soils, or foundation deterioration. The pattern, location, and width of cracks provide clues to the type of movement occurring.
Roof and building inspections locate damaged shingles, loose tiles, sagging rafters, and improperly flashed areas that can allow water ingress. Rotting and poor roofing materials also compromise structural integrity.
Moisture testing is critical for finding excess dampness and locating the source. Infrared thermography uses thermal imaging cameras to detect temperature differences caused by moisture within walls and under surfaces.
Moisture meters take direct readings to pinpoint wet materials. Higher relative humidity levels indicate ventilation issues. Plumbing inspections involve leak tests under pressure, camera scoping, and locating pipe corrosion. Old galvanised steel pipes often corrode and accumulate mineral deposits, limiting flow.
Electrical testing checks for faulty wiring, lack of proper grounding, overloaded circuits, and other hazardous conditions should be updated to meet modern safety codes. HVAC inspections ensure system capacity meets the building's needs and identify airflow problems.
Duct leakage reduces energy efficiency. Geotechnical engineers take soil samples around foundations to test for adequate bearing capacity and signs of shifting, like expansive clays.
Termite and pest inspections are done to check for damage. Certified mould professionals test air quality and take samples of suspect materials. Radon testing monitors gas levels. Assessing all systems thoroughly ensures the root causes of defects are discovered.
Remedying and Repairing Defects
Once the underlying causes of building defects have been properly diagnosed, the appropriate repairs can be made. Structural issues like foundation cracks may require an injection of epoxy resins or steel reinforcements to stabilise and strengthen the structure.
Exterior masonry cracks get sealed with caulking and epoxy fillers to prevent water intrusion. Larger gaps may need brick repointing or stucco patching. Waterproof sealants are applied on windows, door frames, joints, and vents.
Roof repairs involve identifying and sealing all leak sources replacing damaged shingles, deteriorated flashing, and broken tile. Insulation repairs improve energy efficiency. Gutters get cleaned and realigned to proper drainage.
Siding repairs might include power washing, sanding, priming, and repainting. Mould remediation requires physically removing all affected drywall, wood, and other absorbent materials. Ventilation repairs help reduce humidity and moisture condensation.
For plumbing repairs, leaky pipes and corroded valves are replaced. Water heaters, fixtures, and other components get updated as needed. Sewer camera scoping finds damaged or misaligned drain pipes.
Electrical repairs involve replacing worn wiring, upgrading panels, and adding GFCI outlets. Installing fire or smoke alarms improves safety. Radon mitigation systems help remove gas.
In some cases, temporary stabilisation may be prudent, like shoring up beams or installing piers until permanent reinforcement can be done. The goal is to resolve the underlying defect fully, not just cover up symptoms. Preventative maintenance is key to avoiding repeated issues in the future. Comprehensive repairs by qualified building professionals ensure the defects are properly corrected and hazards removed.
What are some signs of foundation issues in a building?
Some common signs of foundation problems include cracks in walls and ceilings, doors and windows that stick or won't close properly sloping or uneven floors, and exterior cracks in brickwork. If you suspect foundation damage, have a professional inspection done.
What causes dampness and mould issues in buildings?
Excess moisture can cause dampness, water damage, and mould in buildings. Common causes include plumbing leaks, roof leaks, flooding, humidity and condensation, and inadequate ventilation. Identifying and repairing the source of moisture is key to fixing dampness issues.
When do building defects require repair by professionals?
It's best to have qualified contractors repair most structural defects like foundation cracks, roof leaks, electrical issues, and any problems affecting load-bearing elements. Cosmetic issues can often be DIY, but an experienced building inspector should evaluate and repair major defects.
Many types of defects can occur in both commercial and residential buildings, ranging from minor cosmetic issues to major structural failures. As we've discussed, some common defects include cracking, water damage, foundation movement, faulty plumbing or electrical systems, and poor workmanship. Left unaddressed, even minor defects can worsen over time and lead to costly repairs.
If you notice any potential defects in your property, don't ignore them. Getting an expert assessment as soon as possible can help prevent further deterioration and more expensive fixes.
Here at Buildrite Sydney, our qualified building inspectors and tradespeople have the experience to accurately identify defects and provide repair solutions to get your building back into top shape. We offer a thorough inspection and all types of repair and remediation services for residential and commercial properties.
Don't let building defects go unchecked. For a professional building defect assessment and repair recommendations tailored to your property, contact the experts at Buildrite today.
We're committed to helping respective building owners understand and properly address any issues so you can have peace of mind knowing your building is safe, stable, and defect-free. Get in touch today to schedule your inspection or discuss repair options.