STUCCO & EIFS FACTS
Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS), sometimes referred to as synthetic stucco, typically consist of five components: adhesive, insulation board (attached to substrate with adhesive), a base coat into which a fiberglass mesh is embedded, and a decorative finish coat in the desired color. This type of system is called a face sealed barrier EIFS and resists water penetration at its outer surface. It is not intended to drain water that gets behind it. It differs from other types of cladding that have a weather resistive barrier behind the cladding (tar paper or house wrap) and/or may have air spaces between the cladding and substrate.
There are many types of cladding materials that look like stucco. Traditional stucco is made of cement and is different than EIFS cladding, which uses the five components listed above. Other types of “hybrid” stucco include polymer/cement base coat directly applied to a substrate, or traditional stucco with an acrylic finish coat.
Interfaces between EIFS / Stucco and dissimilar materials are a common source of water intrusion, not the EIFS / Stucco lamina (base coat and finish coat). The most frequent source of water intrusion is windows. Water frequently enters the EIFS / Stucco at window locations in two ways: either through the joint around the perimeter of the window or through seams and joints in the window construction itself. Large quantities of water resulting in some of the most severe damage have frequently been discovered entering behind where a roof meets and terminates at the lower edge of a wall. Other potential sources of water intrusion are chimneys, decks and any other penetration of the EIFS / Stucco lamina.
Architectural design, severity of weather (rainfall), exposure, and the performance and integration of other building components usually determine whether water infiltration behind the EIFS / Stucco will occur. Although the likelihood of penetration through the lamina is remote, water can enter the system through cracks in the lamina.
Water intrusion occurs through and/or around building components such as windows, doors, gable vents, penetrations, and a variety of flashing and construction details. Water intrusion also occurs when maintenance is ignored for these components and other critical areas, such as caulk joints. It is important to discover the occurrence of water intrusion, because water can enter behind the cladding and wet unprotected sheathing, and in some cases, the wood structural members. Depending upon climate and the overall make-up of the wall assembly, the wall may not readily dry out. As water intrusion continues to occur undetected in a particular area, it can accrue to levels substantial enough to cause damage. Early detection of water intrusion is the key to minimizing and preventing such damage.
The location of water entry is often difficult to see, and the damage to the substrate and structural members behind the EIFS and or stucco exterior wall cladding frequently cannot be detected by a visual inspection. The only method of detecting moisture contents and or damage is to have a professional stucco evaluation.
INSPECTION & REPAIR
Yes. Testing should be done at least bi annually. A combination of two moisture meters should be used for EIFS: (1) a non-invasive meter that scans through the wall without penetrating the EIFS lamina, and (2) a probe-type meter that penetrates the EIFS lamina and gives moisture readings of materials in contact with the probes.
A single probe meter is used with hard coat stucco to determine moisture and damage behind the stucco application. Readings are taken at the substrate location for both systems. Only a professional experienced in EIFS & Stucco water intrusion inspections should perform these tests.
Damage can be significant if moisture intrusion goes undetected. Damage can become more serious if allowed to continue over time. The typical cause of damage is due to improper and or the lack oof proper flashing installation. Typical areas of leakage are around windows, doors, roof wall intersections known as kickout areas. Chimney to roof interface locations are also susceptible to leaks and can result in significant damage.
Any repair method undertaken should render the house into a serviceable condition. The performance criterion used to determine if a serviceable condition is being sustained is a moisture assessment. A serviceable condition exists when damage or excessive moisture is not detected behind the EIFS / Stucco cladding. This may be true even if the manufacturer’s standard specifications and construction details were not originally followed. Localized removal of EIFS / Stucco may be necessary to facilitate repairs where damage is discovered. Total removal of the cladding may not be necessary. There are now new materials developed for the repair and flashing of EIFS and Stucco properties.
Home owners who are deciding whether to re-clad should consider the following questions:
Does the substrate have prolonged excessive moisture that causes decay? If water intrusion has occurred, what is the extent of damage? Do the areas requiring repair represent the majority of the cladding area, or are they localized?
What is the cost of repair in comparison to the cost of re cladding the home?
Is the cost to repair the house in excess of the cost to re-clad?
The primary objective of repair is to eliminate water intrusion. Repairs should be made where elevated moisture is detected or structural integrity of the material is impaired. Where structural damage has occurred, those areas require replacement of decayed wood products in addition to eliminating the source of water intrusion. Areas of elevated moisture in the absence of damage or decay may require no more than eliminating the source of water intrusion. It has been discovered that wet but undamaged substrate can dry out over time once the source of the water intrusion has been eliminated. Repair methods should address leaks associated with but not limited to:
Roofs – Install effective kick-out flashing at roof-to-wall intersections, diverter flashing around trapped valleys, and rake flashing.
Caulk Joints – Install effective caulk joints.
Windows and Doors – Caulk window jamb to sill joint and joints in any molding surrounding the window or door. Specially designed sill flashing is needed below most types of windows and most windows that are mulled together.
Decks – Install effective flashing.
Chimneys – Install effective cap flashing, cricket flashing at trapped valley, and effective kick-out flashing for roof-rake wall intersections.
Other Penetrations – Install effective caulk joint and/or flashing.
Yes. You should hire a professional experienced third party inspector certified in EIFS and Stucco water intrusion inspections to advise, monitor and perform follow-up inspections within six months after the repair. Then once every year or two, the effectiveness of the repair should be monitored as part of the whole house moisture survey. If the repair is not successful, elevated moisture levels will be detected, and the repair method should be evaluated for the reason for failure. After making additional repairs, follow up with another inspection until such time that the moisture level becomes acceptable.
Environtech Building Consultants has been offering oversight repair inspections for many years. The results have been verry good with few if any need for follow up repair. Please call 570-209-6131 for information and to set up your repair inspections.
Realtors report that some stucco homes are taking longer to sell and are typically selling for less because of the public perception of stucco. Although we feel the media has exaggerated some of the problems, prudent home buyers, sellers and realtors are having stucco homes inspected. General realestate home inspections do not include the stucco / EIFS systems as part of their inspection.
How a quality EIFS / Stucco Inspection can help potential problems before they become major ones: Many times, some of the most damage causing problems are problems that can be easily and inexpensively corrected if found before damage occurs. Our inspection includes checking many specific items and details we know to cause most problems and damage that occur with stucco systems. The sooner a home is evaluated the better.
New homes are generally inspection within 6 months of construction. This allows for early correction of any problems and should still be the responsibility of the builder.