Builder unwilling to repair defects

Posted9/13/2020 6:00 AM

Q: Our home is about a year old, and our builder has been unwilling to repair defects we've reported to him. The first thing we noted were cracks in the porcelain floor tiles in our kitchen. There has also been a drainage problem in the front yard. Whenever it rains, the lawn becomes a soggy swamp.

The builder says these issues are normal and are not covered under the warranty. We spoke with a local building contractor who says the cracks are due to faulty workmanship. According to the contractor, a slip sheet should have been applied to the concrete slab before the floor tiles were installed. He also says the lot was not graded for drainage. Who is right, the builder or the contractor?


A: The contractor's opinions definitely sound more reasonable. Hairline stress cracks in a concrete slab may be normal, but when floor tiles are applied directly to a slab, the cracks can be transmitted through the tiles. Installing a membrane (commonly known as a slip sheet) under the tiles can prevent tile cracks from occurring. Lack of a membrane under the tiles indicates substandard workmanship, and that is the responsibility of the builder.

Insufficient groundwater drainage is definitely a substandard condition. The builder should have graded the property accordingly, to prevent this from occurring.

Unfortunately, it appears you have a builder who prefers to deny responsibility for apparent defects. In such cases, it is necessary to find an expert who can stand up to the denials. One way to approach this is to hire an experienced home inspector to evaluate the entire condition of the property. A good inspector will most likely find additional construction defects you have not yet discovered, and that should be a wake-up call for the builder.

Q: The copper water lines in my home are only 15 years old, but already they are developing green spots, and some of these spots have begun to leak. I thought copper pipe was supposed to be corrosion proof. What could be causing this problem?

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A: Copper pipe is known for its general resistance to corrosion, but it is definitely not corrosion proof. However, the problem you describe does sound unusual, and immediate evaluation by a licensed plumber is advised.

Green discoloration can occur at the joints in copper plumbing when excess flux has been used during installation. This is why plumbers routinely wipe the joints clean after soldering. Yet, even when flux has been left on pipe surfaces, leaking does not commonly occur.

One common cause of corrosion in copper piping is electrolysis. This typically occurs where copper pipes and galvanized steel pipes are directly attached. If your plumbing has such connections, dielectric unions should be installed by a licensed plumber to prevent further corrosion.

Another possibility is sulfur content in the water, a condition that sometimes occurs with well water. If sulfur is present in your water supply, you will know simply by the smell. If you are unsure, have the water analyzed for significant mineral content.

• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.

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