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Stone Failures-Why? 14 Reasons

Forensic Tile Consultants

9541 Vervain Street

San Diego, CA 92129-3523

(858) 484-8118, Fax 484-8302


Subject:            Stone Installation Failures-Why?

Presented By Gregory Mowat

The Construction Specifications Institute, Inc., Dallas, Texas, June 23, 2001

Personal History:

I love this opportunity to share with you what we have learned from our personal history and perspectives while performing forensic investigations of brick, tile, and stone, assemblies.

We work for attorneys involved in construction defect litigation.

We perform independent investigations where no lawsuits have been filed. 

We perform independent investigations for insurance carriers to examine floor failures potentially caused by water damage.

We assist in quality management to do the assembly right the first time and/or for reconstruction failures following the settling of claims of construction defect lawsuits.

We worked for attorney’s involved in personal injury lawsuits until 1999.

Forensic Tile Consultants office is in San Diego, California.


Forensic is defined as the application of science technology to law.

There are some differences between the commercial and institutional construction that differ from the residential construction. 

I define a general contractor as a contractor that may competitively bid, or negotiate for, and contract to perform construction, based on documents provided by others that are warranted as a complete set of documents.

I define builder as a contractor that hires the architect to prepare drawings for construction and obtaining a building permit, and constructs the project based on how the portions of the project are assigned to subcontractors for installation. 

A builder set of drawings means the architect was no longer involved in the project after the builder receives the building permit by the governing jurisdiction in which the project is built. In this role, the builder assumes all liability as owner, architect and builder.

Defect is defined as a lack of something essential, imperfections and shortcomings, failing.

Failure is defined as something that is not performing for its intended usage.

Patent defect is defined as a defect observable or discoverable by the average person.

Latent defect is defined as a defect that takes an expert to discover the defect.

An expert is one who knows more than the majority of persons in the same field of work.

California History:

Attorneys from San Diego took a lawsuit on appeal regarding a residential tract to the Supreme Court in California and obtained the ruling that construction is a product, and therefore a latent defect may be discovered up to 10 years after completion of the project. 

A patent defect may be discovered within 4 years after completion of the project.

Once the defect is discovered, you have up to four years to have the defect corrected or file suit.  Once the suit is filed, you have up to four years to enforce the lawsuit.

The California Supreme Court ruling occurred in the early 1980’s.

Plaintiff attorney’s in California assist owners of properties where damages have occurred due to poor design, construction, or performance to obtain monies to correct the damages and the defects causing the damages.

The attorneys are paid hourly or share in a percentage of the award of damages awarded in court, through arbitration, or mediation. 

Of the lawsuits we are involved in, less than 2.3% go to court. 

We go to trial when the parties disagree on the scope of the defects and failures and/or the repair required to correct the defects and failures.

Government agencies have affected our industry by making rules related to omissions in the environment.

In California in 1986, Volatile Organic Compounds, called “VOC’s” changed the manufacturing of many products. 

An example is that solvent based Type I mastics could no longer be used in California.

I will further talk about this change which is affecting the floor covering industry and construction of showers with direct bond to water resistant gypsum board.

Residential Defects And Failures:

When homeowners or property managers call us to perform an independent inspection we ask, “Well, what are the problems?” 

Common responses are:

“The floor is not flat!”

“There is excess lippage and the contractor says this is normal!”

“The stone is stained or discolored!”

“The stone is hollow!”

“The stone is cracked!”

“The stone is fractured!”

“The stone surface is spalling or falling apart!” 

“The polish is not uniform!”

“This is not what we bought or expected to have installed!”

“The stone is different in color or has a larger shade range in color and we bought one color of stone”

Stone Failures-Why?

This article is part of a series of articles on Stone Failures (Dec. 2000) by Greg Mowat

Forensic Tile Consultants
9541 Vervain Street
San Diego, CA 92129-3523
(858) 484-8118, Fax 484-8302

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