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How the cyclical nature of construction work contributes to defects

Construction defects - poor workmanship, deviations from building plans, subpar material substitutions and other types of poor-quality work - often involve a common thread: inexperience. While perhaps not the sole cause of construction defects, lack of experience is certainly a major contributing factor.

Why experience matters

Construction work takes skill. It takes planning and industry knowledge. It takes solid working relationships with the right suppliers, subcontractors, designers and other players. And, of course, it takes experience. A contractor who has built hundreds of houses will have far more insight into how to get the building project done - and done well - than a novice with only a handful of completed projects under his belt.

Experience is critical at all levels of the construction labor force, from the general contractors and supervisors to the roofers and equipment operators. Missteps at virtually any level can result in costly defects.

Why experienced workers aren't always available

The volatile nature of the construction industry makes experienced workers a rare commodity. Construction tends to cycle between extreme highs and lows. During the booms - like we're in now - jobs are in high demand, and many people join the industry for the attractive pay. They eventually become highly skilled and efficient. But by the time they gain that valuable experience, the demand for construction is on the verge of plummeting. The construction workforce thins out during the inevitable downturn as workers flock to better-paying jobs elsewhere - many leaving the area, never to return.

During the next upswing, with all the experienced workers having moved on, the industry must start over again with a new crop of inexperienced workers. In many cases, even the supervisors overseeing dozens or hundreds of workers are, themselves, highly inexperienced.

In view of this reality, it's not surprising that construction defects are so prevalent. In fact, it's surprising they're not more prevalent. Developers and general contractors are not dealt a good hand, and placing profit above quality only compounds the problem.

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