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EIFS / STUCCO INSPECTIONS
EIFS: Exterior Insulation and Finish System. A non-load bearing exterior wall cladding system consisting of a thermal insulation board, adhesively and/ or mechanically attached to the substrate, base coat with reinforced fiberglass mesh and a textured finish coat.
Strip the EIFS or repair it; that is the question. The answer is quite simple, and applies to virtually all types of cladding. To begin, one must go beyond the symptoms of water intrusion problems, and find the actual sources of the leaks. As a professional building envelope consultant, I have seen the best and the worst of EIFS. Most EIFS problems, but not all, occur in residential construction. I can tolerate a leak in my office building, because I can always go home, but if my home leaks, it becomes an emotional issue, mostly because there is no where I can escape, and somehow have to deal with the problem. EIFS is not a cladding the average homeowner can repair, and many EIFS repair contractors have not been trained in the forensics and repair. This leads to confusion, and the frustration builds, and the homeowner feels more and more victimized. Who can you go to for competent advice? Maybe it is time for you to become a bit more knowledgeable on the subject of moisture intrusion, so you can protect your most valuable asset, your home. Then you will be able to ask pertinent questions and judge the quality of professional advice, along with the qualifications of cladding contractors.
Let's start with the basic facts about cladding, many of which contradict popular opinion. I suggest you follow a rule that Exterior Design Institute (EDI) instructors use when instructing student EIFS inspectors: "Do not form preconceived opinions. The building will tell you what the source of the problem is, if you pay attention."
CLADDING AND THE BUILDING ENVELOPE
EIFS and other forms of cladding do not normally fail. That is to say, water does not penetrate directly through the surface of the cladding. It penetrates the building envelope. The envelope includes secondary moisture barriers such as felt paper and Tyvek, flashing, and the primary moisture barrier which includes windows, doors, cladding and sealants. The points of water intrusion are identical in virtually every condo or residential project I inspect. The windows were not flashed, and leaked at the lower corners, kick out or diverter flashing was not installed at roof/wall intersections, allowing roof run off to get behind the cladding, and decks were not properly flashed. If those conditions did not exist, there would be no water intrusion.
CAUSE AND AFFECT OF BAD ADVICE
Most EIFS clad structures do not have to be stripped, at least from a technical perspective. I seldom hear of a residential building being stripped, if the cost is borne by the owners.
HOMEOWNER GUIDE TO INSPECTING EIFS
A brief inspection can alert you to potential trouble spots.
1. Check roof / wall intersections to see if an angled piece of flashing has been installed to divert the flow a of water away from the vertical wall
2. Check the lower corners of windows for any gaps in the corner miters, and probe the sealant to determine if is still flexible.
3. Look for any bulges at the second floor line.
4. Carefully check your deck, if it is wood frame and attached to the house. There should be visible flashing and no sign of wood rot.
5. EIFS should not be installed below grade, so when replacing mulch, first remove the old mulch.
6. 85% of all remediation, costs less than $1500, and is usually a maintenance issue. Keep in mind, water intrusion is cumulative. The longer water penetrates the building envelope, the greater the potential damage.
7. Be aware that any inspector who proposes to remediate and inspect on the same project, is in conflict of interest.
Moisture content of wood must exceed 19.5% for the algae, which causes wood rot, to exist. Kiln dried lumber is dried to 19%, prior to shipment to lumber yards. There are so many references to moisture content of wood by so many scientists, testing labs and agencies, anyone who states a 10% moisture reading in wood or OSB sheathing should be considered an elevated reading, is simply making up the rules and completely disregarding an army of highly trained experts. Likewise, any inspector or consultant who states any moisture reading in any type of wood, exceeds 40%, has their moisture meter probes submerged in a glass of water, or is using the wrong equipment. Without a doubt, this individual is not a qualified moisture analyst. Most grades of construction lumber and sheathing cannot absorb more than 30-35% moisture before reaching total saturation. The harder the species, the lower the saturation point. Why? The wood fibers take up the rest of the space. There is simply no more room for water without removing the wood fibers.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY MOISTURE BARRIERS
Tyvek, felt paper or liquid applied membranes are all components of the secondary moisture barrier. Add flashing, windows, doors, and the walls should be able to shed water without any moisture reaching the sheathing or framing. Next comes the cladding and caulking (sealant). The only work left, is to properly install the primary moisture barrier according to details and specifications. If this is done correctly, the secondary moisture barrier remains a dormant backup to wear and tear of the cladding. All cladding does need some sealant, depending on the cladding used. Never use acrylic caulking on the exterior. It has an anticipated life of less than two years, and a 10% movement capability. Use only urethane or silicone sealants.
When your home leaks, it is a symptom of the problem. Leaky cladding is a symptom and you need to fix the actual problem. Something in the building envelope is usually the problem, unless, of course, you have a burst pipe. If you have leaks in the ceiling, it may be the roofing, but it may also be flashing or clogged gutters.
Treat your home the same way your doctor treats your medical ailments. Symptoms lead to causes, and causes are what must be treated. Don't waste your time treating the symptom, it will just mask the root cause and could lead to more severe problems.
If you own an EIFS home, don't panic. If you plan to sell your EIFS home, get it inspected prior to putting it on the market, as any professional real estate salesman would suggest. If you plan to buy an EIFS home, require an inspection as a condition of purchase.
The EIFS industry took in the '90's, was negative. But it was very similar to the problems experienced by the rubber roof industry in the '80's. Their solution was to require independent certified roof inspectors to sign off on every installation, and the problems disappeared. EIFS clad homes, buildings and condos can be remediated at a fraction of the cost of complete removal.
A partial home inspection is one that entails inspection of one or more of the following components;
• Site: Landscape, lot grade, walkways, patios, driveways, decks and porches.
• Exterior: Foundation, wall covering, trim, soffit, fascia, doors, windows and electrical.
• Roof: Shingles, structure, flashing, chimneys, vents, gutters and drainage system.
• Foundation Interior: Stairways, foundation walls, floors, support systems, moisture penetration and insulation.
• Plumbing System: Water service, waste drainage, venting, water heater, fuel supply and laundry service.
• Heating & Cooling Systems: Distribution and condition.
• Electrical: Main service type and size, condition and sub panels.
• Kitchen: Service, condition and appliances (where applicable).
• Bathrooms: Service and condition.
• General Interior: Walls, ceilings, flooring, electrical, fireplaces and heat sources.
• Attic: Access, roof structure, insulation and ventilation, chimney and flues, electrical and plumbing.
• Garage: Wall coverings, roof, structure, foundation, vehicle entrance, firewall and windows.
Commercial Inspections Available:
* Office Space
* Historical Buildings
* Apartment Buildings & Complexes
* Storage Complexes
* Banquet Halls
* Strip Malls
Inspections are customized to your needs.
More and more sellers are choosing to have their home inspected prior to listing it with a Realtor. Our pre-listing inspections can be tailored to meet your particular needs from home inspections to radon testing. Performing an inspection before a home is listed is one of the smartest investments a home seller can make. Don’t let anything take you by surprise while selling your home.
Benefits of a Listing Inspection:
* Minimize market time by providing a value added benefit to your listing with proof of the property's
* Promotes assurance to your prospects that a home has been inspected by a professional.
* Allows sellers the time to decide to correct problems, adjust the sales price to reflect the estimated
repairs, or provide the information necessary to disclose the as-is condition of the home eliminating
the negotiation of the sales price.
* Increase awareness and promote a sense of trust with your buyers.
Rental Weatherization Inspections
Starting January 1, 1985, most residential properties in Wisconsin have had to meet minimum energy conservation standards at the time of ownership transfer. Private state-certified inspectors are hired by owners to check properties for compliance with the standards. The Register of Deeds in your county will not record the transfer of a property unless:
– An inspector has certified the property; or
– The buyer has filed a Stipulation to bring it up to Code within a year; or
– The property or transfer is shown on the Real Estate Transfer Return to be excluded from the Code; or
– The buyer has filed a Waiver with the Department of Commerce stating that the building will be demolished within two years
The code excludes transfers that are:
– For security purposes;
– Between agent and principal or trustee and beneficiary without consideration;
– Part of divorce settlements;
– For no or nominal consideration between husband and wife or parent and children;
– Part of the probate process;
– Involuntary, including foreclosures, bankruptcies, condemnations, court-ordered property transfers or delinquent taxes and assessments; but not any subsequent transfer to a party without a previous interest;
– Conversion to condominium.
The code excludes buildings that are:
– To be occupied by the purchaser as a primary residence for at least one year beginning within 60 days of transfer. (Applies only to buildings with 4 or fewer dwelling units.);
– 1& 2-family residences constructed after December 1,1978;
– Buildings with 3 or more living units constructed after April 15, 1976;
– Condo buildings with 3 or more dwelling units;
– Rental unit(s) which will not be rented between November 1 and March 31 of each year (including summer/vacation homes and second homes);
– Mobile/manufactured homes;
– Hotels, motels and tourist rooming houses which are licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services;
– Hospitals or nursing homes which are licensed by the Wis. Dept. of Health and Family Services.
Keep in mind that the Code applies to the future use of the property. Single family homes and individual condominium units (in one- or two-unit buildings) that are used as rental properties are also subject to the Code.
For more information, please refer to:
Department of Safety and Professional Services
Industry Services Division
P.O. Box 7302, Madison, WI 53707-7302
Telephone: 608-266-1818; Fax: 608-283-7413
Office hours: 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday