Five Things to Look at on Your EIFS/Stucco Listings

By
Home Inspector with LPM Home Inspections, Inc.

Realtors - are you afraid to list a house with EIFS siding?  You don't need to be if you know what you are looking for.

A lot of people are afraid of synthetic stucco aka EIFS (External Insulating and Finishing System) because it had so many problems in the 1990's.  However, the good news is that it's come a long way since then and the old problems of moisture penetration and wood rot and decay inside the walls are much less frequent now.  Manufacturers have improved the components significantly, especially addressing the issue of water drainage inside the walls to prevent it from sitting inside the walls and damaging the wood substrate.  Some manufacturers are requiring installers to take a training course and pass an exam before they will let them buy their products. 

By and large EIFS is now as safe as any other exterior wall claddings like brick, board, stone, vinyl and other sidings. They all have to be maintained and serviced regularly.   In my view, the only real difference between EIFS and other sidings is that I can measure moisture in the wood beneath the EIFS.  If I find moisture readings that are too high or wood that feels soft, I know something is going on and needs to be checked further.  I can't do that with brick, wood or stone siding without boring holes into the wall.  To inspect them, I usually have to remove the siding or cut a hole that lets me  look inside the wall.   

Maintaining the outside cladding of your house, including EIFS, isn't as hard as it sounds.  Take a walk around and look for some of these things:

  • Are there holes or large chips in the siding? 
  • Is the paint faded, peeling or thin on the wood pieces of the house? 
  • Is hard-coat stucco badly cracked (some hairline cracks are normal) or broken?     
  • Are penetrations where wires, cables and pipes go into the walls sealed with caulk or gaskets?Is the caulk around doors and windows soft and pliable or is it hard, cracked and receding?
  • Is the flashing (metal strips above your doors and windows)in good condition or is it broken or bent?
  • Are downspouts and gutters clean and clear?  Are they crushed or disconnected?  Does their water flow freely away from the house?

By now you've probably figured that everything I've listed relates to preventing moisture intrusion into the walls.   If you find any of these things, they should be fixed or you run the risk of water getting into the walls and damaging the structure of your house. 

What experiences have you had with EIFS are hard coat stucco?

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