One of the single most critical aspects of any new home is what is referred to as the building envelope or building enclosure. This is the part of any building that physically separates the exterior environment from the interior. Think of it as the “skin” of a building.
The construction defect attorneys at Burg Simpson recently settled a case with a developer and others involving building enclosure defects that affected all of the units in a Denver condominium project. Exhaustive testing by forensic experts discovered significant water intrusion behind the stucco façade that got trapped inside the exterior wall assembly, leading to extensive mold growth and structural deterioration.
The building enclosure, which includes elements both above and below ground, can be broken down separate into elements, such as:
- The roof
- The above-ground walls
- The above-ground wall system(s) including windows (fenestration), doors, finish materials like stucco, stone, brick and siding, sealant joints and weather resistive components largely hidden behind the finishes
- The below ground foundation walls
- Other building components that intersect with or penetrate the exterior finishes
As the list above demonstrates, building envelopes are made up of multiple components, extending from the outermost exterior surfaces, such as siding or stucco, to concealed water management layers, such as building wrap and flashings. When the envelope, or enclosure, is compromised, water that may be expected to get past the finishes is unable to get back out. This can not only threaten the integrity of the building, but can even put the health of the occupants at risk.
Frequent Enclosure Defects
Enclosure defects are typically a result of improper assembly of the envelope components, a bad design, or a combination of the two. Often times all the right components are installed, but they’re installed in the wrong order. This improper “sequencing” can lead to the concealed weather resistive components being “reverse lapped,” meaning they actually trap water or direct it into the wall assembly instead of pushing it back out to the surface through proper drainage. Once trapped, under the right conditions water that comes into contact with cellulose materials like wood sheathing, studs joists and rafters and the paper surfaces on drywall can cause mold and structural deterioration. In many instances water comes all the way through the wall and shows up as leaks around windows and doors or staining on the drywall or trim at the top, sides and/or bottom.
Subpar building materials may also be to blame, in which case a product defect claim may exist.
Stucco, despite its lingering popularity as an exterior veneer, is trickier to work with than most builders appreciate. If the stucco is installed too thin, it can cause cracking. If flashings are improperly installed or drainage mechanisms are blocked or not installed, water will find its way inside the wall. Finally, stucco is relatively heavy so it requires a certain amount of structural support; cracking in the stucco surface may be an indication that the stucco isn’t properly attached to the building.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to mold can cause nasal congestion, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye or even skin irritation. For those suffering from compromised immune systems or lung problems, mold exposure can lead to a serious infection. Worse still, mold can quickly eat through a building’s wood support structures as well as gypsum board.
If you suspect building envelope problems or that water and mold have managed to get a foothold in the walls of your new home – whether it is a townhouse or a single-family home – do not try to resolve the situation on your own. Reach out to the Denver construction defect lawyers at Burg Simpson Colorado now by calling us at 303-792-5595 or you can fill out our Free Case Evaluation form.