Legal Question in Construction Law in New Jersey

My contractor installed stairs and railings and the rail and the volute (round piece at bottom of rail) separated from the hand rail. The 1 year warranty expired 4 months ago.

It is obvious that the volute was not properly fastened to the hand rail. There was only a plastic dowel that snapped.

This issue revealed a bigger problem. The volute and hand rail separate because the contractor installed the main post in the wrong position. This caused the stress on the volute which caused the dowel to break and the wood to separate. The post is off by about 1 inch. It may not seem like a lot but the rail is a very hard wood so when the rail and volute are aligned in the original position you can see that the 13' rail has to be pulled or bent to fit back together.

The correct solution would be to replace the bottom step and reinstall the post and four ballasts. That is not an easy task and is a lot more expensive for the contractor than just forcing the pieces back together and driving a couple metal fasteners in to secure it.

This solution would work but I am concerned that the stress on the wood would eventually cause the wood rail to bend or warp over time to relieve this stress.

I know 1 inch seems insignificant for a 13' stairs and railing project but it was a very expensive wood and the entire project cost $10k. If I spend that much on the project I want it done right even if it is only an inch.

Is this reasonable? Note I assume that the wood would warp over time. The stress could cause another unexpected repair in the future.

Asked on 5/15/12, 5:14 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Robert Davies The Davies Law Firm, P.A.

find a lawyer who goes to court often in your county, and be ready for a fight. these are difficult because you will need to pursue aggressively without bankrupting yourself with attorneys fees. you will also need a construction expert to explain to the judge that he screwed it up.

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Answered on 5/15/12, 5:43 am

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