I may not be David Letterman but I have a Top 10 list of my own. Top Ten you ask? After 13 years of site inspections for building owners, architects and contractors, I kept seeing the same mistakes again and again. 

I may not be David Letterman but I have a Top 10 list of my own. Top Ten you ask? After 13 years of site inspections for building owners, architects and contractors, I kept seeing the same mistakes again and again. I would comment, try to solve disputes, submit written reports-and in extreme cases-testify on the witness stand for some of these mistakes. Plaintiff attorneys call them defects. Not that I would always go that far but this is the world of construction litigation. One you should want to avoid at all costs. Below are some common mistakes in interior and exterior conditions. 


Stucco:Using wire or metal nose corner aids with an acrylic finish coat. Acrylic finishes are great and vapor permeable but not using a plastic nose corner aid can lead to rusting in environments with moisture. Wire nose is recommended to be used for cement finish; plastic nose for acrylics.

Lathing: Cutting the lath behind an un-backed vertical control joint or reveal. When a wall is sheathed and there is not the adequate framing to support the cut lath (both sides), it can lead to the panels lifting and pulling away from the sheathing.

Failure to hard float the brown coat: Sponge floating the cement brown coat does not adequately densify or compact the cement plaster and results in more cracks and less water resistance.

Reverse laps in the integration of the weather resistive barrier and flashings due to over-complicated flashing methods and the invention of the self-adhered flashing. The reverse lap is alive and well. This is a killer in litigation. Put up a large banner in your warehouse if you have to that reads, “NO REVERSE LAPS, EVER.”

Lathing: Failure to account for the head of deflection at floor lines. Lathers put up paper and lath over solid sheathing and have no idea they are screwing into the deep leg track or proprietary head-of-wall slip joint, effectively binding the designed deflection, resulting in cracking of the plaster.


Finishing: Failure to use a product or method that delivers what a Level 5 is intended to accomplish. If a Level 5 is specified, the designer expects not to see joint banding along the wall or ceiling. Using products or methods that “kinda work” will “kinda get you in trouble.”

Pre-inspection:Failure to walk framing/substrates and inform (notify in writing) the architect that he has specified a Level 4 where the industry states a Level 5 finish would be more appropriate and then follow his directions. So simple, but rarely done. Maybe another shop banner should read, “SHOULD THAT WALL BE LEVEL 5? TELL SOMEONE BEFORE YOU START.”

Paint:Failure to wipe down the wall surface prior to applying primer paint. Drywall sanding leaves dust. That dust is akin to cooks dusting a pan with flour, making a non-stick pan (ask your wife if you don’t believe me). One-hundred percent removal of dust is not possible or required but an effort to wipe or prep the wall must be done to ensure a good bond. Prep work is the painter’s responsibility as he is the only one who knows when he is about to paint and it must be done immediately prior to painting.

Sound control:
Drywall hangers using screws that are too long when installing gypsum panels over resilient channels. The screw reaches and touches the framing members. This is deemed a “short circuit” and can negate an sound transmission class rating of a tested assembly.

Plastering:Skimming a veneer plaster with joint compound. Designers specify a veneer plaster for a durable surface and then often specify a robust, oil-based enamel primer and paint designed for plaster walls. Skimming or heavy patching with joint compound can be a disaster, as the paint designed for plaster peels from the walls. (This can also be related to No. 3 on the list.)

Will following this advice and avoiding these 10 items guarantee that you do not end up with issues or in litigation? No, but it will give you a viable defense and a leg to stand on if it goes to court.

If you want to be assured not to get into litigation, stay home and watch television reruns-only then I can guarantee you won’t ever have to go to court. It is well worth it when you sit with your attorney and have more ammunition than saying, “That’s the way I have always done it and never a problem in thirty years.”

My suggestion is never use that sentence. If your attorney is not rolling his eyes outwardly, he is thinking, “We are so in trouble.” W&C