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Synthetic Stucco Concerns 

What is EIFS and why do we care? EIFS stands for Exterior Insulating and Finishing Systems. It is sometimes referred to as Synthetic Stucco. Its use increased sharply in the 1990s. In North America about 300, 000 homes have an EIFS exterior.

We care because EIFS has been connected to concealed rot in wall cavities.

A Little History

In 1994, moisture damage to the interior of walls was being linked to EIFS. In August 1995, 32 EIFS clad homes in North Carolina were tested and 30 were found to have moisture problems. In January 1996, the National Association of Home Builders issued a "Builders Alert" about EIFS. In May 1996, Raleigh North Carolina, imposed a moratorium on the product through January 1997. In March 1996, the North Carolina Building Code Council adopted stringent guidelines for the application of EIFS mandating that a drainage system be installed in the exterior walls of EIFS homes. By September 1996, twelve class-action law suits had been launched in the States. In September 1996, Maryland Casualty Company notified its clients, who were contractors, that work with EIFS systems would no longer be insurable. At about the same time, a major relocation company advised its clients that it would eliminate the guarantee on EIFS homes for employees seeking their services during a transfer.

The Mortgage Division of the Chevy Chase Bank decided about the same time to no longer accept mortgages on houses built with Synthetic Stucco. In January 1997, the Georgia Association of Realtors changed its property disclosure statement to disclose whether the house was built with EIFS.

What Exactly Is It?

There are many different systems offered by various manufacturers, but in general EIFS wall systems consist of a wood frame wall covered with a sheathing such as plywood, or even gypsum board. Plastic foam insulation boards are glued or fastened to the sheathing. A 1/16- to 1/4- inch-thick base coat is troweled on to the insulation. A glass fiber reinforcing mesh is imbedded in the base coat. Finally, a finished coat is sprayed, troweled or rolled on. This finish coat provides the color and texture.

Many installations have no building paper or housewrap behind the stucco to act as a backup material.

What Is Happening

Rain water appears to be getting into the wall systems through imperfections in the stucco. These include joints around windows and doors and penetrations from railings, wiring, plumbing, vents, etc. Once water gets behind the system it gets trapped, leading to mold, mildew and rot of the sheathing, studs, flooring and other framing members. EIFS houses often look good until sections of the wall are removed revealing concealed damage. The damage can take place within the first few years of the home's life.

As most of the damage has been found in houses in coastal areas, some have suggested that condensation is a problem; however, since the most severe damage seems to show up around wall penetrations, condensation does not appear to be the culprit. The worst damage is often found below and beside windows.


There is little that can be done on existing systems short of re-siding or paying fanatical attention to keeping the water out. Caulking and flashing maintenance should be a high priority for people with synthetic stucco houses.

In the very newest installations, contractors are using building paper or housewrap behind the insulation to protect the sheathing. In addition, the newest installations are designed with a drainage system behind the insulation to allow any water which does get in, to drain out. This is not unlike the drainage system found in a brick veneer home. These improvements should work but only if they are well constructed.


So far we know that areas of high rain fall, and particularly areas with rain accompanied by wind, result in houses with the most damage. Homes which have no roof overhang or very small overhang or many penetrations through the wall systems are also at risk.

Unfortunately, a visual inspection cannot tell the whole story, and until invasive testing becomes standardized and sufficient data becomes available for our area, concealed damage in synthetic stucco houses will remain a question mark.


Curing Wet Basements

Problems with water in your basement can often be corrected by controlling water above ground.  Correcting those above-ground problems may prevent structural damage to your home as well as dry up those basement damp spots. Saturated soil increases the soil pressure on the basement wall which can lead to cracks, shifts, collapses and other structural problems. Start first by looking to the roof. An inch of water on 1,000 square feet of roof amounts to about 623 gallons of water. A foot of compacted snow on that same roof could contain up to 4 inches of water, or nearly 2,500 gallons. Getting all that water away from the house is a big first step to preventing basement problems. That's why all downspouts should have extensions to carry the water several feet from the house.  Just as the roof is sloped to shed water, the ground around your home should be sloped too. In addition to good drainage above ground, a drainage system below ground is important to keeping your home dry. A properly installed drainage system at the house foundation and under the basement floor will ensure a dry basement and eliminate saturated soil conditions next to the wall. A study of leakage problems showed that more than 90 percent were due to improperly installed drainage systems. A properly installed foundation drainage system includes drainpipes placed alongside the footing. In areas with high water tables, a drainage system can also be installed around the inside of the footing and under the basement floor. Using granular material to allow the movement of water and filtering material to keep soil from plugging drain pipes is essential to keeping the system functioning for the life of the house. Granular backfill should be used next to basement walls. Using soils that don't drain well can cause pressure on the walls if the soils become saturated. Poor- draining soils also increase the potential for moisture or water vapor to move through the wall into the basement. In certain areas, that moisture can carry minerals that are detrimental to the concrete. Window wells also need to be correctly constructed with drains linked to the foundation drains. Soil elevation in the window well should be several inches below bottom of window and sloped to the drain. "The cost of installing the drainage system during new construction is minimal and the benefits are priceless.  In existing houses with wet basements, correcting the problem may be as easy as controlling the water above the ground. If that's not successful, then an exterior and interior drainage system may need to be installed.


Radon Monitoring

January is Radon Awareness Month and ESI Property Inspection can test your home to determine if you have a Radon problem or not. Radon is a gas that comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It enters the home through the foundation or crawlspace that comes into contact with the soil.


Exposure to indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause among non-smokers. Radon gas is radioactive, occurs naturally and is invisible, odorless and tasteless. It can build up to harmful levels in unventilated areas of buildings, especially during the winter months when residents keep doors and windows tightly shut.


Testing is the only way to know if you have a Radon problem. If a problem is discovered, it can be corrected. Radon mitigation systems can be installed to ventilate the gas to outside of the home. Kansas City homeowners who want to know whether there is radon in their homes can call my office at 913-523-5148.


Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

We went to my Father-in-Law's for a long weekend of watching football, eating (non stop) and riding horses.  I am ready to get back to work.


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