Are EIFS, MSV and stucco really a problem in the Western USA?

We perform cladding inspections for all the major corporate relocation companies in the USA. 90% to 95% of the inspections they order involve moisture testing, since normal home inspections do not sufficiently meet their requirements. If they are not willing to rely on visual inspections, should you?

Any cladding may experience problems in construction in any geographic area. The culprit is usually inadequate or omitted waterproofing, improper or missing flashing, improper detailing, improper installation, improper or missing sealant application or any combination of these. Many builders, general contractors and, in some cases, applicators either do not care, practice or do not know the proper procedure for applying various materials which often leads to water intrusion and costly repairs. If problems are identified and remedied quickly, damage and costs can usually be prevented or limited. Thorough and complete inspection and testing are very important in identifying areas of potential and existing moisture intrusion.

What are some of the signs that my exterior wall cladding is failing or has failed?

There can sometimes be very few visible indications, especially to the untrained eye. This is why inspection and testing by a qualified company are so important. Some of the more obvious signs you may want to look for are bulging or cracking, water stains on the outside or inside of the wall, especially around the windows, doors, etc. (Warning signs.)

How do I find a professional EIFS or stucco inspector?

EIFS & Stucco Inspection & Forensic Services does not provide total typical home inspections. However, we have been recommended by professional home inspectors to assist them with the exterior cladding portion of their examinations. To their credit, they acknowledged to their clients that they were not fully knowledgeable regarding the nuances of the EIFS, MSV or stucco.

Many Home Inspectors are not so candid. Beware of so-called "EIFS Inspectors" who are not well-versed or certified in EIFS or other claddings. Ask questions such as:
Do you have a a current EIFS Inspection Certification from an independent organization?
How long have you been involved with EIFS, MSV or stucco?
Are you trained to test for moisture and resultant damage?

Assess for yourself if they are unbiased and knowledgeable when it comes to recommended repair procedures. Get several references and call them all if the inspector wants their own crew to do the suggested repairs.

My advice is to contact or go to the websites of the three organizations recognized by the industry as issuing credible certifications: Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries (AWCI), Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau (NWCB) and Exterior Design Institute (EDI) to search their databases for a local certified inspector.

Our reports will reflect exactly what we discover whether we are retained by an owner, buyer, real estate company, bank, manufacturer, distributor, insurance company or installer.

What does the testing and inspection include?

We provide various levels of inspection:

A basic inspection is limited to a visual walk-around of your home or building to determine if the cladding has been installed per industry standards.

The next level of inspection is non-invasive moisture testing at the surface to determine if any significant moisture intrusion is occurring or has occurred. If a substantial time interval has passed since a significant rainfall period, the wall should be wetted two days prior to testing. This is only applicable to EIFS. For stucco and MSV, the next step is below.

Depending upon those results, the next level of recommended inspection is semi-intrusive, requiring the use of a probe type moisture meter (small “snake-bite” holes punched through the system, which are then caulked) to determine the moisture level of the sheathing and/or wood framing. Additionally, short of removal of the EIFS in particular areas (Destructive Testing), we may attempt to determine the condition of the substrate and the extent of damage, if any, to each test area by use of a Structural Resistance Test (SRT).

Our reports will include detailed photos of the affected areas and descriptions of the areas that are in need of repair or further invasive testing. Occasionally, findings warrant more invasive investigations referred to as "Destructive Testing."

Destructive testing involves removing a selected section(s) of the wall cladding.

Will the probe holes be noticeable?

The answer is usually 'no'. Probe holes are about the size of a chop-stick point (~1/8”). The number of holes needed is determined by where moisture is found and how large the area of moisture is. After testing is completed, sealant is used to fill and seal the holes. Unless one knows exactly where to look, the sealed holes are difficult to find, especially after spot paint application if the sealant color does not match the surrounding wall color.

What is the price of an EIFS Inspection?

The cost varies from home to home and is dependent upon location, size, architectural configuration, wall square footage, complexity of the EIFS, and access to the structure itself. Our basic EIFS (and stucco) inspection and report begins around $625 excluding travel time, mileage and tolls. The cost of inspecting a residence with complex design features can approach or exceed $1,000. Commercial inspections, due to larger structure sizes, are usually more expensive. Since we cannot anticipate the nature or complexity of issues we may uncover, we do not offer set pricing for a given service. Our rates are hourly only, although we can offer “not-to-exceed” contracts.

The cost of our inspections are minimal especially when compared to the expense of stripping and replacing the EIFS and stucco wall structure of a home, which may run into tens of thousands of dollars, if moisture intrusion is ignored. Moisture-damaged wood is somewhat akin to cancer. You have to stop it from spreading, or cut it out. The first step to stopping it is to have an inspection or survey performed -- as soon as possible!

Do you also do repair work on EIFS?

Unlike some self-certified EIFS inspectors, we do not make repairs and we are not affiliated with any repair company. We would consider this an obvious conflict of interest. Inspectors who also are repair contractors may overstate problems with your EIFS so that their bill can be inflated.
We can, however, provide you with a “Scope-of-Work”. This is a step-by-step guideline that can be used by the repair or remediation company you have chosen to ensure that only specified areas of the structure be addressed in a specific, properly detailed manner.
What are some of the signs that my EIFS is failing or has failed?

There can be very few "signs," especially to an untrained eye. What may appear innocuous on the exterior can mask serious problems lurking underneath. This is why inspection and testing are so important. Some of the more obvious signs you may want to look for are bulging or cracking EIFS, water stains on the outside or inside of the wall, and around the windows, doors, etc. Click on warning signs for more information.

How do I maintain the exterior of my house?

1. Physical Damage - Patching and Small Repairs

It takes time, skill, experience, proper techniques and the correct material to make a good repair. Both color and texture must be blended for the area to look good.

Holes, cracks, wrinkles and bulges should all be corrected to prevent additional damage. Some are easy to repair and some very difficult. Most repairs may still be slightly visible unless the entire panel is recoated. Even then, a badly worked repair or patch may still be seen.

The time required to repair EIFS depends on the size and depth of the damaged area and its accessibility. Most installers do not have personnel available to repair a small area and with the expense of travel time, etc., their pricing on small repairs can be expensive. However, postponing needed repairs will likely increase the amount of damage over time, thus increasing costs further.

2. Cleaning EIFS, MSV and stucco

Keeping your house or building clean is vital to curb appeal. Whether you are trying to draw customers or clients or are selling a structure, a positive first impression depends on a clean exterior.

EIFS, MSV and stucco rarely need to be painted, should be cleaned occasionally to maintain its like-new appearance. Various kinds of stains and discoloration can occur on the surface. Each has its own characteristics and remedial cleaning processes. EIFS manufacturers have cleaning instructions that should be followed to prevent surface damage and color fading -- and to maintain your warranty.

WARNING: Many firms use high pressure (3500psi+) to clean or remove stains and mildew. High pressure washing may easily damage EIFS and other surfaces, including brick and concrete. Over-zealous individuals can ruin caulking, mortar joints, masonry surfaces, paint and wood deck surfaces with a high pressure washer. High pressure has its applications, but only when used carefully with damage prevention in mind. There is a preferred low pressure option for cleaning EIFS, which can accomplish the same satisfactory result without the danger of damaging the surface.

EIFS & Stucco Inspection & Forensic Services will be offering this cleaning service in the near future. Please check with us if you are interested in this service.

3. Mildew (see "Put Mold on Hold")

For mildew removal, use the EIFS and stucco manufacturers' recommendations or have the house professionally cleaned. Please see "WARNING" in No. 2 above.

4. Painting or Recoating EIFS

Painting or recoating EIFS is normally unnecessary unless a color change is wanted or unusually stubborn stains cannot be removed.

EIFS buildings should not be painted like most surfaces. Picture framing, streaking, and flattened textures are the results of inexperienced painters using improper or inappropriate procedures required on EIFS. Proper painting is not more difficult, but it is different. Don't hire a firm unfamiliar with painting EIFS so that they can learn on your project.

Some coatings will change the sheen or gloss. Repainting or recoating only a portion of a structure may change the texture sufficiently that an entire elevation must be painted to be aesthetically acceptable.

EIFS surface is an elastomeric or silicone-based coating; regular latex paint will not adhere properly and peeling may result. Some coatings can substantially change the water vapor transmission characteristics of the EIFS and trap moisture inside. Solvent-based coatings can dissolve the EPS insulation board and cause delamination of the outer layers of the EIFS.

Although top-quality exterior acrylic latex paint is often used on EIFS material, coatings other than those provided by the EIFS manufacturer may void the warranty. Contact the EIFS manufacturer for advice or call a professional in the EIFS coating business to do it correctly.

Put Mold on Hold: What is toxic mold?

Media reports about "Toxic Mold" seem to abound these days. Mold in residences is a common occurrence. The process for remediation of mold and subsequent moisture damage hasn't changed much in three thousand years. If you suspect a problem with mold in your home, the best course of action is to seek professional guidance and information. Excessive media coverage often leads to "misinformation". For example, "toxic mold" is a media term. The proper term is "toxigenic mold". Mold belongs to the Fungi family, and includes mildew, yeast, etc. Science recently informs us that very few molds are actually toxigenic.

Basic techniques and information follow:

Should you choose to remediate mold yourself, always wear protective clothing; i.e., respirator, rubber gloves, etc.

Small areas of mold are often found in the bathroom shower and/or tub. A common household fungicide (Clorox and water) will usually take care of this problem in short order. Wash the affected area with soap and water first. Allow the surface to dry, and then spray it with the Clorox mixture. This works well for mold found in vanities, closets, windowsills, and on the surface of A/C supply registers.

If the mold covers a larger area, and is found on the drywall or ceiling tiles, then you may have a serious problem. Often, the mold you can see is only the "tip of the iceberg." Toxigenic mold needs three things to thrive: oxygen, water, and a food source. According to the EPA, moisture control is the key to mold control. In order to eliminate mold growth, one must cut off the supply of moisture. Your first order of business is to resolve the issue of moisture intrusion, and then remediate the affected area accordingly. It may be prudent to seek professional help.

If carpets have been wet, e.g., due to a plumbing leak or flood, there's a good chance that mold is growing beneath. Once again, professional help may be your best choice. According to the EPA, carpets that have been wet for more than 24 hours should be discarded. This is also true for ceiling tiles, drywall, fiberglass insulation, and cellulose insulation. In other words, most items that contain cellulose (books, fabric, wood, drywall, etc.) should be discarded if moldy. Furniture and personal belongings may require professional restoration. Vacuuming personal items with a HEPA Vacuum Cleaner and/or spraying with fungicide is one option. Seek the advice of a qualified contractor. Sometimes the only alternative is disposal of the contaminated items.

If you suspect that mold is inside your A/C ducts, then you certainly need to call a professional cleaning service. Make sure the contractor follows the GUIDELINES set by the EPA in the document titled: "Should I Have My Ducts Cleaned?" This EPA document can be downloaded from the Internet. Read it carefully, and make sure your contractor follows the EPA guidelines.

As mentioned in the beginning, mold has been around for a long time. It's important that you don't over react. Become informed and resolve the issue yourself if appropriate. Otherwise, retain a professional who will investigate the problem and offer alternatives for remediation.

For more information about mold, click on the EPA link below:

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