What Is Remedial Construction? 6 Things to Know

“How worried should I be about that crack above the window?”

“It’s growing, isn’t it?”

Hopefully, you haven’t had to ask yourself these questions. But countless homeowners have. 

The classic “expanding crack above the window” is just one outward sign of a possible deficiency in a home’s load-bearing design. Which, in turn, is just one flavour of defective construction.

There’s a lot that can go wrong during and after the construction process. A lot of hazards lurking in the built environment. 

That makes plenty of work for remedial construction professionals.

What is remedial construction, though? And when is it necessary? Read on to find out.

1. It’s Often Done By Specialized Construction & Engineering Firms or Teams

Don’t try this at home: Building remediation work is not a DIY-friendly weekend project. It’s best left to remedial construction experts like Karim Allana, founder and CEO of Allana Buick & Bers (ABB). Like some other remedial construction firms, ABB works on a mix of new-build and remedial projects, but the latter is a key value-add for clients who need construction deficiencies fixed yesterday. 

2. But It’s Technically the Original Contractor’s Responsibility

Construction contracts often include remediation clauses that make clear it’s the original contractor’s (or subcontractor’s) responsibility to fix workmanship defects. Failing that, the original contractor may be obligated to cover any remediation costs. 

3. The Solution Depends on the Problem

Construction defects come in many shapes and forms. So do the solutions.

One high-level distinction that’s important for regular folks to understand is the difference between remediation and abatement.

“Abatement is a process that involves getting rid of a problem at the construction site in a manner that ensures it doesn’t return…remediation is necessary to make sure that the underlying cause of the problem is properly addressed,” says Jason Somers, building expert at Crest Real Estate.

To take an oversimplified example, mould removal is abatement. Correcting the moisture and airflow issues that promote mould growth is remediation.

4. Remediation Is Sometimes (But Not Always) a Response to Acute Safety Risks

Remediation projects are sometimes urgent responses to immediate safety hazards, like bearing issues that could cause part or all of a building to collapse. In other cases, they’re necessary but less urgent, such as asbestos removal or contaminated soil cleanup ahead of a renovation or reconstruction project.

5. Remediation May Also Be Necessary to Address Preexisting Environmental Hazards

Some of the biggest remediation projects happen in response to longstanding environmental hazards for which cleanup has either been deferred or which are only understood to be hazards in retrospect. These mega-projects are often ordered and/or overseen by federal agencies like the EPA, which handles everything from soil remediation work to asbestos abatement in government-owned buildings. 

6. Normal Wear & Tear (Or Defects Not Related to Construction) May Be Cause for Remediation, Eventually

Given enough time, even the most solidly built structure shows its age. Water intrusion, wood-eating insects, concrete and metal corrosion — if left unchecked, these and other perils eventually need to be addressed by remediation professionals. (Property owners, take note.)

Nothing Lasts Forever?

There’s a reason the U.S. tax code has a very generous allowance for building depreciation. Given enough time, every manmade structure requires some amount of remediation.

Often, it makes more sense to knock the thing down and build anew. That’s the point of depreciation, of course, even if most buildings stand for longer than 27.5 or 39.5 years. 

But when something’s not built right the first time, or new techniques or technologies emerge to make inferior buildings superior without starting from scratch, remediation is the way.