What is defective work | Queensland Building and Construction Commission
Tape measuring crack in wall

Defective building work is building work that is faulty or unsatisfactory.

It includes, for example, work that:

  • does not comply with the Building Act 1975, Building Code of Australia, or an applicable Australian Standard
  • involves use of a manufactured product, and that product has been used, constructed or installed in a way that does not comply with the product manufacturer's instructions.

Types of defective work

Timeframes in which we can assist you will depend on whether the defect is structural or non-structural.

Defects usually fall into 1 of 2 categories:

Structural defects

Structural defective building work means defective building work (other than residential construction work causing subsidence) that is faulty or unsatisfactory because it does one or more of the following:

  • adversely affects the structural performance of a building
  • adversely affects the health or safety of persons residing in or occupying a building
  • adversely affects the functional use of a building
  • allows water penetration into a building.

Non-structural defects

Non-structural defective building work means building work (other than structural defective building work or residential construction work causing subsidence) that is faulty or unsatisfactory because:

  • it does not meet a reasonable standard of construction or finish expected of a competent holder of a contractor's licence of the relevant class; or
  • it has caused a settling in period defect in a new building.

How to identify if work is defective

The QBCC has developed a Standards and tolerances guide (PDF, 4MB) which aims to provide an impartial, quick and easy first reference for homeowners and contractors in relation to applicable standards and tolerances in Queensland, thereby reducing the likelihood of disputation in relation to such standards and tolerances.

How to use the guide

  1. Ensure you know the date of completion of the work as you will need this to use the guide.

  2. Use the list of 'Contents' on page 5 to find the category for each disputed item (e.g. roofing, plumbing, painting, floors etc.) Navigate to that section of the booklet.

  3. Look through the section for the relevant category of work and find the topic relating to your item of building work (e.g. nail and screw fixings, solid timber floors).


Example 1When are nail fixings in painting considered defective?

Go to:

  • Category 13.00 – Painting
  • Section 13.3 – Nail and screw fixings
  • Fixings or unfilled depressions caused by fixings are defects in painted surfaces if they can be seen from a normal viewing position and if the complaint is made within the first 12 months after completion of the work.

Example 2When are nails popping in solid timber floors considered defective?

Go to:

  • Category 15:00 – Floors
  • Section 15.5 – Nail popping in solid timber, ply
  • Within the first 12 months after completion, nail heads that can be detected through floor coverings or nail popping that is clearly visible in exposed flooring are defects. Nail heads are defects for 6 years and 6 months from completion of the work if they compromise the health and safety of occupants or visitors to the residence.

Defective work versus contractual issues

It is important to understand the difference between defective work and contractual issues. QBCC can assist with defective work complaints, but has limited power when it comes to contractual disputes.

Defective work

Leaking roof

Contractual issue

Roof tiles wrong colour

Defective work

Sticking door

Contractual issue

Type of door installed is different to what was agreed

Defective work

Loose handrail

Contractual issue

Disagreement about cost to change handrail from timber to steel

Defective work

Cracked floor tiles

Contractual issue

Dispute about delays in finishing laying floor tiles

What to do if work is defective?

If you believe the work is defective, the first step is to raise it with your contractor.  

We provide some tips on how to prevent and handle disputes. Calm, respectful communication is the key to continuing to have a productive relationship with your contractor.

In most cases a contractor will readily come and resolve any items which are not performing to a satisfactory standard. If, however, your contractor does not want to fix work which you believe is defective, we may be able to help.

Timeframes to claim home warranty insurance

There are strict eligibility requirements for claiming home warranty insurance. Make sure you lodge a complaint with the QBCC within 3 months of noticing structural defects and 7 months for non-structural defects to prevent voiding your options.

Statutory timeframes for complaints 

Last reviewed: 24 Jan 2024 Last published: 24 Jan 2024
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