In a new report, Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate, 6ABC, puts a spotlight on the construction issue that has grown to “epidemic proportions” throughout Pennsylvania: stucco-related water damage. In development after development, homeowners are coming forward, claiming houses built by the area’s largest residential contractors are marred by serious construction defects.
“Epidemic” Of Faulty Stucco Construction In PA
In her on-going investigation, 6ABC reporter Nydia Han has learned that hundreds of Pennsylvania homeowners are dealing with widespread structural damage, as moisture trapped behind walls eats away at crucial beams. Repair costs have soared for families, with some homes requiring work in the six-figures. “Time and time again,” Han writes, “peeling back the stucco wall reveals rotting wood, mold and horrified homeowners.”
Stucco itself isn’t always the issue, says Gavin Semrow, president and owner of Philadelphia-based Ai Restoration. A litany of seemingly-minor errors, from sub-standard housing wrap to improper flashing installation, can allow water to fester deep inside the walls of a home.
“Construction Mistakes” Ruin Dream Homes
Regardless of the specific mistakes made during construction, the issue comes down to two factors, Han learned in speaking with expert inspectors: “construction mistakes” and the extreme weather fluctuations felt throughout the Northeast. Dr. Frank Hendron, a building science consultant who works to write building codes, identified another major failing:
“We don’t inspect any of this, none of it is being inspected. The portion related to the stucco, the water management, the flashing details, the window installation, none of that is inspected in Pennsylvania.”
Only action from the state legislature, according to Hendron, will be able to turn the problem around. Construction defects aren’t just leaving older homes vulnerable to water damage. “We’re seeing it on brand new construction,” Hendron said, “this epidemic is just going to continue. People are going to continue to fail until it gets stopped.”
Toll Brothers, Cutler Group Blamed For “Defective Stucco”
While numerous Pennsylvania developers have relied on stucco in the past, 6ABC focuses on two specific home builders:
- Toll Brothers
- The David Cutler Group
Reporters spoke with 22 homeowners living in houses built by Toll Brothers, the Fortune 600 company based in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Toll Brothers brands itself as “America’s Luxury Home Builder,” but some owners say their own homes have brought nothing but trouble.
One Toll Brothers owner, Kathy Greer of Chester Springs, said, “we’re all handcuffed to these houses.” Another owner described ripping down “the entire outside” of his home, “down to the studs” for a remediation project. In fact, Toll Brothers has valued its own liability over stucco repairs at over $80 million. But homeowners say the company is “dragging its feet,” forcing them to file lawsuits.
For a full remediation, some families have been left with huge bills, between $100,000 and $200,000. “You’re not getting that money back,” said one homeowner in Glen Mills.
Cutler Group Hit With Civil & State-Filed Lawsuits
The David Cutler Group, a “luxury” home builder in the Delaware Valley, already faces a civil lawsuit filed by 79 separate homeowners. In fact, a couple was recently awarded over $317,000 in damages against the David Cutler Group, after claiming the company had committed “unlawful conduct in order to hide the home’s significant water problems and avoid its promise and obligation to repair.”
Many homeowners told 6ABC that they had alerted the developers to stucco problems years ago – but never received repairs or compensation. That’s one reason why the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has chosen to sue the David Cutler Group, accusing the company of violating building codes in numerous stucco homes. The David Cutler Group denies that allegation, 6ABC reports.
Can We File A Stucco Lawsuit?
“This is very dangerous,” inspector Kevin Thompson warned.
The impact on families is also clear to Dr. Frank Hendron, who has been forced to tell homeowners, “you need to move your family out. You need to keep your children out of those rooms.”
Once a family is safe, the next step may well be to contact a civil attorney. Pennsylvania has strict deadlines for filing a defective construction lawsuit, topping out in most cases at 12 years after a home’s completion. That means time may be severely limited for many homeowners and taking prompt action is crucial.
You can receive a free stucco lawsuit consultation right now. If you believe that defective construction may have led to water damage in your home, contact our experienced construction attorneys today. Learn more about your legal options at no charge and no obligation.