“Gravely is the Best of the Best –
another Texas Legend”
– Joe. K. Longley, Past President, State Bar of Texas
Texas Construction Defect Lawyers
Leaking roofs, upside-down windows, faulty HVAC systems — Gravely has seen every construction problem imaginable in every type of private- and public-sector building. We bring decades of deep construction experience to bear for each of our clients, and we’re so confident in our abilities that we do it all on a contingency basis.
Construction defects are not always obvious, so it’s important to be vigilant once a construction project is complete. Budget-weary owners, managers, boards and others with oversight responsibilities are often reluctant to raise questions after the punch list is complete. The Gravely PC contingency-fee model means the firm assumes all costs to inspect and investigate any potential problems and — if problems are uncovered — reach resolutions that make business sense.
Faulty HVAC design and installation can lead to high heating and cooling bills. Water leaks, foundation cracks, mold and drainage problems are often the result of improper grading or basic construction processes. An improperly designed and constructed building envelope — the critically important barrier between a structure’s interior and exterior — can manifest in a wide range of moisture, heating and cooling, and structural problems.
General contractors rarely own up to these mistakes and agree to fix them properly. They avoid responsibility by wrongfully denying claims, performing biased “investigations” and stringing owners along in the hope they’ll eventually give up. Gravely lawyers have secured multimillion-dollar recoveries by knowing how and when to push back.
By law, building owners can file a claim against contractors, engineers, architects or other construction professionals up to 10 years after construction is completed.
Construction problems we commonly see include:
- Roofing Systems: An improperly installed roof can cause water and air leakage that leads to higher energy costs and an uncomfortable environment for occupants. It may even cause extensive property damage throughout a building (e.g., a destroyed computer system from a leaky roof).
- Window Systems: It’s not uncommon to find windows installed backward, upside down or without flashing to prevent air and water leakage. This is more than just an aesthetic issue; they’re also a crucial part of the “building envelope” — the barrier between indoors and outdoors. Like roofing systems, window systems must be expertly installed to prevent leaks and keep heating and cooling costs in check.
- Wall Systems: Walls are carefully engineered systems that support a building and allow it to “breathe.” When general contractors fail to install walls properly, a variety of problems may arise, including:
- Uneven walls, delamination (when bricks separate and fall off in layers) or efflorescence (the white, chalky substance that’s a telltale sign of moisture behind the wall).
- Traditional stucco and exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS) stucco are designed to carry water away from the building, and they come with specific installation instructions from manufacturers. When general contractors don’t follow these instructions, stucco walls can trap water in the wall cavity, causing rot and decay of building materials.
- Grading and Drainage: When engineers fail to properly sample and test soil at a site prior to construction, it can lead to large foundation cracks that allow unwanted moisture into the building. More often, the general contractor simply does not follow the engineer’s plan. When land is not graded, sifted or leveled appropriately, it allows water to drain toward a building rather than away from it. Water often pools in parking lots and at the backs of buildings, where expensive damage may go unnoticed for years.
- HVAC and Other Systems: Many HVAC systems are not tested and balanced correctly after installation, because contractors are in a rush. Without balancing, an HVAC system will never work properly. Design flaws and gaps in duct work increase energy costs and prevent systems from functioning properly. General contractors also have a responsibility to teach clients how to use HVAC systems after installation. Even if the system was properly balanced, it will never operate at its peak if personnel are not properly trained, as required.
- Independent School Districts: General contractors frequently unload old or refurbished HVAC equipment onto schools, taking advantage of their limited budgets and expertise. General contractors or subcontractors often install roofs incorrectly, causing air and water leaks and reducing the life of the building. Superintendents and school boards may be able to recover damages from general contractors for this poor workmanship, as well as recover the higher bills it created.
- Charter Schools: With the boom in Texas charter schools, demand for new school buildings has gone through the roof. That means already-busy general contractors are incentivized to cut corners. Charter schools are particularly vulnerable to shoddy construction and must act quickly to pursue legal claims against general contractors within the legal time limit.
- Universities: Unfortunately, many universities make the mistake of hiring an inexperienced construction defect lawyer or waiting too long to file a lawsuit against a negligent general contractor. Although public universities have a 10-year window to file a claim, in some cases, private universities may only have four years.
- County Jails: County jails must be built to specific standards, but some general contractors cut corners to save time and money. Failing smoke evacuation systems are the number-one problem caused by negligent general contractors, followed by problems with air conditioning, roofs, windows, and grading and drainage systems.
- Municipal, County and State Buildings: Public-sector buildings, courthouses and offices are susceptible to problems caused by contractor negligence — chief among them faulty air conditioning systems. Windows that leak air and water, as well as land grading and drainage issues, also contribute to higher bills and increased maintenance expenses — costs that states and counties don’t have the budget for.
- Public Hospitals: Public hospitals can’t afford to pay any more than necessary for building maintenance. Leaks in complex HVAC systems can cause heating and cooling costs to skyrocket. Improperly installed walls, windows and roofs only exacerbate this problem. Public hospitals have 10 years to file a claim against a negligent contractor, but the sooner a lawsuit is filed, the sooner the hospital can recover damages.
- Other Government Facilities: Municipal, county and state governments have a duty to spend taxpayer money wisely. That’s impossible to achieve when a government is hemorrhaging money to pay for exorbitant energy costs, water damage, falling bricks or other building issues. The good news is that general contractors can be held accountable not only for shoddy workmanship but for all the unnecessary costs that shoddy workmanship creates, including outrageously high utility bills — retroactively.
- Retirement Communities: HVAC system imbalances and leaks are common at retirement communities, adding unnecessary heating and cooling costs to already tight budgets. Improperly sealed and flashed balconies and windows lead to water damage and unwanted moisture. More so than other construction projects, retirement communities are frequently overcharged by general contractors with guaranteed maximum price contracts.
- HOAs (Homeowners’ Associations): Incorrectly designed and installed windows, roofs, HVAC systems and drainage systems plague newly built planned communities, causing inflated heating and cooling bills, water damage and shortened building life spans.
- Condominium Boards: New condo construction has skyrocketed in the past decade as Texas’ population has grown. The push to build more condos faster and cheaper means that, statistically, some buildings simply aren’t designed and built properly. This can manifest as drafty windows, leaking roofs, pooling water, and wonky cooling and heating systems, all of which put a financial burden on condo boards and residents.
- Hospitals and Medical Buildings: Due to their critically important purpose, it is all the more important to take quick action when defects require structural, site or systems repairs.
- Apartments: Few Texas contractors are experienced in building apartments, which means it’s shockingly common for residential buildings to have windows that are poorly flashed and installed, balconies that allow water to pool near door thresholds, roofs that leak air and water, and poorly graded land that drains water toward the building. All of these problems contribute to higher energy and maintenance costs.
- Mid- and High-Rise Condo and Office Buildings: Defective roofs, faulty windows, cracking walls, and failing balconies and parking garages are common in mid- and high-rise buildings, whether residential or used for office space. Many of these problems lead to water leakage and pooling, contributing to deterioration and a shortened building life.
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Veteran Trial Lawyer Dan Barrett Joins Gravely PC’s Construction Defect, Insurance Dispute Team
Barrett brings courtroom, municipal law experience to innovative public entity