My name is Ron McClure and I am a General Contractor maintaining licenses in California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. I have worked in the capacity of a General Contractor for over 35 years and have completed in excess of $50 million in construction related contracts in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina and Hawaii. I am a North Carolina State licensed Home inspector and have been professionally inspecting both residential and commercial buildings since 1984. I sat as a board member and provided technical information to both the Carolinas Lathing and Plastering Contractors Association and the Charlotte, Mecklenburg Stucco Task Force. I presently specialize in construction related failure issues in both the commercial and residential building market. I have currently inspected over 6000 buildings which include more than 3500 sided with EIFS or Synthetic Stucco. My opinions are self generated and unrelated to any association or affiliation with any builders, manufactures, building officials, legal profession, real-estate, insurance companies or other second party positions. My only obligation is to the actual facts as demonstrated through those 6000 plus evaluations. My purpose is not to point a finger at anyone, but rather provide you with the most professional unbiased opinion as possible.
NOTE: ALTHOUGH THIS OPENING INTRODUCTION PAGE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO MORE CLEARLY REFLECT MY CURRENT STATUS THE ARTICLE ITSELF HAS NOT BEEN ALTERED BECAUSE IT HAS NOT CHANGED AND I STILL BELIEVE IT REFLECTS THE TRUTH ABOUT SYNTHETIC STUCCO.
The widely held perception today is that Synthetic Stucco is defective by design and should not be considered as an acceptable exterior siding material. This perception which is held by many builders, homeowners, building officials and realtors is not founded on solid facts and I believe could not be farther from the truth. I have never seen a case where the Synthetic Stucco itself ever caused any moisture related problems at all. The purpose of this report is to show you what the real problems are. To demonstrate the errors in preparation and provide you with important information on the truths of Synthetic Stucco.
In the past years much has been learned about the problems effecting the Synthetic Stucco sided home. What went wrong ? Could it be repaired, and if so, then how can it be repaired? Not at all surprising to many qualified non-bias evaluators and repair contractors alike not only were these conditions effecting the structure repairable but could be repaired in such a manner as to provide proper conditions for one of the finest exterior cladding systems on the market today.
In order that you may fully understand all conditions this report has been written in laymen terms. To the technically minded much may appear to be missing, although my attempt is to provide you with simple clarity. I find that to often technical confusion easily obscures the true facts or the bottom line. My hope is that perception can be altered and that your understanding of the Synthetic Stucco home will be based on facts which are probably unknown to you today.
WHAT IS SYNTHETIC STUCCO?
Synthetic Stucco, or EIFS as it is known in the industry stands for Exterior Insulation and Finishing System, the most common of which is formed around a polystyrene insulated based material also known as EPS Insulation Board. Basically the same as your common Styrofoam coffee cup with an fiber glass embedded acrylic base coat finished with an acrylic textured color coat.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM ?
Simply put, the problem is that when moisture continually enters behind the Synthetic Stucco System it can and often does cause damage to the buildings frame structure.
CAN THE PROBLEMS BE RESOLVED ?
The answer to that question is a resounding, YES it can. It is being resolved every day of the week and my hope is that it will continue until people realize the true facts. The primary fact of which is that Synthetic Stucco applications have been successfully installed on building structures in Europe since the end of WWII and introduced into the United States in the late 1960's. Due to proper building procedures these older systems did not display the current problems which we are experiencing today. I have personally evaluated systems in the Charlotte area as old as 20 years which are in as good a condition today as they were when first installed. This all leads to one absolute conclusion and that is if they can be built correctly they certainly can and are being repaired correctly. It only requires an understanding of the causes, the effects and a resolution to the problem.
Understanding the causes, being the first element in the resolution requires that we understand how the moisture gets into the frame structure of the building. It makes logical sense that if water cannot pass from the face side of the stucco finish to the back side it naturally follows that if water is on the back side it cannot return to the face side. This is not to suggest that if moisture does find its way to the back side of the stucco that it is forever trapped. There are those who believe and teach that moisture that enters the frame structure is there to stay and that the only satisfactory repair is to remove the stucco material at that location for drying or repair. This kind of thinking has obviously come from someone with little or no experience evaluating Synthetic Stucco Systems. Remember your coffee cup. Well just cut a hole in the base of it and see what happens. Needless to say moisture will dissipate from the system.
There are 3 main locations where water enters into the frame structure of a Synthetic Stucco building and they are-
- Leakage through door and window installations.
- Leakage at the end of roof eave connections to the Synthetic Stucco siding. (Roof flashing.)
- Leakage below extended exterior deck connections.
There are additional locations or components through which moisture can enter the building structure depending on different structure designs, although these are the primary conditions which effect most all Synthetic Stucco homes.
My field of expertise is primarily moisture related construction failure problems in all types of building structures and I will tell you that none of the noted conditions are unique to Synthetic Stucco sided homes alone. In fact while the world seems to be engrossed in the Synthetic Stucco problems we have turned a blind eye to everything else.We do not have a moisture problem we have a builder understanding of secondary component problem and it is not just with Synthetic Stucco its with all homes and its siding material is not the determining factor.
A typical example is that when we make an error with any of the 3 issues listed it has the same effect on any system in which we make that error. A case in point. I have real Stucco homes suffering with the exact same problems, some of which suffer even more damage than that typically found in Synthetic Stucco. The problem causes are the same. There are some home owners who are removing the Synthetic Stucco and replacing it with conventional stucco. If this is done because of perception I can understand, but if it is being done without the understanding of the real problems its like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The problems are still there only to surface again at a later date.
If we can understand that this is a component problem that relates to all types of structures we are not just on the right track but may well be doing a great service to those owners and builders of all other types of homes. If moisture has a source it shouldnâ€™t take a genius to realize that the long term affects are going to damage the structure. Eliminate the moisture source and you have eliminated the moistures damaging effects and its as simple as that.
The primary components and their related effect are as follows:
Windows and Doors
The first thing we must understand is that regardless of performance standards we must assume that all windows allow moisture to penetrate through their frame structure and that doors leak moisture through the connection between their jamb and threshold. Additionally both windows and doors often allow moisture to pass between their frames and the adjacent siding material. If we will accept this and provide protection to the structure for this possible problem we have passed the first major hurdle.
Roof eave flashing
The lack of proper roof flashing and its proper termination is probably without question the cause of some of the most damaging problems, not just with Synthetic Stucco but in whatever system it has been eliminated from. It is most always a very simple component to install during or after original construction. Where it has been omitted or improperly installed the effects are usually quite costly to repair. Most people are very familiar with step flashing on brick homes. I doubt there is a brick home around that is missing it. Its normally identified by its step style detail down the edge of the roof where it butts the side of an adjacent brick wall. Just imagine building a brick home without proper installation of that step flashing and guess what the results might be. If we understand the principle of its use in brick construction we should likewise understand how important the proper installation of this component is to all other types of systems as well.
Extended deck connections
Similar to the roof flashing condition a properly installed flashing detail where decks connect to building frame or siding structures is a simple long lasting conclusion for protection against damaging moisture infiltration. Where this component has not been installed properly or at all it can always be retrofitted into whatever the existing cladding system may be.
As mentioned before there are of course other conditions where moisture may enter into the building frame structure. Areas such as through entry or patio stoop connections, at the floor band line or any component connection to the structure such as awnings, light fixtures or electrical boxes. No matter what the component part is or into what type of siding system it is being installed its proper installation is critical to the long term protection of the building frame structure.
The presentation of these conditions to you may sound to simple to be true, yet the truth be known it is as simple as this. When we vary from a standard of proven construction methods we exposes ourselves to exactly those conditions now effecting our Synthetic Stucco housing market and as long as we refuse to see the conditions for what they are we become incapable of seeing it in all other types of construction as well. To believe anything other than errors in construction standards (And this includes secondary component manufactures such as windows and doors.) is akin to sticking our heads in the sand.
As I mentioned to you earlier I along with a number of others in the construction, product manufacturing and inspection field are presently evaluating some of the concerns we are now experiencing in the conventional stucco sided homes. Like the Synthetic Stucco the problems are not related to the system, for we all know that conventional stucco has been around and performing satisfactorily since about the beginning of time. By looking at the problem cause and not the system its easy to see the conditions and resolutions are exactly the same in not only these two systems but all others as well.
My entire working career has been in the construction industry and I believe and agree with many other builders who believe that quality construction is the foundation of its future. The vast majority of builders that I have come in contact with are some of the best I have ever met. Their commitment to quality is for the most part without question, but it is my firm conviction that if we reject the facts and the truth before us now and refuse to deal with them properly we will never correct this or any other related problem.
There are a number of conditions through the building process which have caused substantial problems with Synthetic Stucco sided homes. The ongoing struggle as to who was at fault and who we should point the finger at has entered to the center of attention. The view points are usually personally motivated, wide ranging and most always opposing each other. This situation has left the homeowner and real-estate community with little or no understanding of what the real truth is or how to resolve it. I believe the information provided in this article is common sense. It comes from outside the field of battle and is provided with sincere hope that with a better understanding of the Synthetic Stucco situation we can trade false perceptions for solutions to identifiable, repairable problems and restore both the beauty and value that the Synthetic Stucco home so richly deserves.
Since the original publication of this book, Ron McClure has been retained as an expert witness in a number of legal issues to express the opinions as he has stated in this book.