Faux Stone Might Become The New EIFS

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

In my opinion, faux stone might become the new EIFS*.

A year ago a couple called me with moisture problems.  They had found me and my thermal camera use on line and wanted help.  Their house has faux stone as much of its front siding.

Due to installation malfeasance, faux stone might become the new EIFS.  Remember the problems when "synthetic stucco" (EIFS) first came out?  That was due to installation misunderstanding, and literally malfeasance.  Faux stone will almost certainly become the same thing in terms of moisture problems inside the home.

Based on our discussion, I did an exterior examination and found that the siding had probably not been installed correctly.  I say "probably" because there are things that must be done that can sometimes be hidden behind the stone and mortar.  But things looked improper to me.

Certainly cracks and gaps existed over and around windows and the front door.  Things that you look for - things called "weep screeds," "backer rods," flashing, a separation between wood trim and mortar with a special caulking - things actually called for in the 2009 and 2012 International Residency Code were not there.  This house was built in 2007.

There was moisture inside in spots.  Drywall had been removed around some windows and staining was evident.  And Mighty Mo (my affectionate name for my thermal camera) revealed a little, but not the definitive evidence I would want to report.

I suggested we wait for the next good rain.  A few days later, rain happened later in the day and I happened to be available.  Only about 10 miles away, I rushed over!

Moisture was getting in and around all windows, even collecting at the sills.  Water was also, obviously, dripping into the house due to a lack of flashing over the framing. 

In these images, the moisture appears as lavender and purple.

The way the faux stone was installed, water was actually DIVERTED to pool over the windows, and was coming in.

These people had been battling this for some time with towels.

Of course the builder and faux stone sub contractor disclaimed responsibility as this is "AFTER" the warranty expired.  The homeowners got nowhere.  They were treated rudely in fact.

In this case the "warranty" was etched in stone.

I was called in because they decided to begin building their case. This has been a long haul.

The other day they again called me to come over and have a look.  They gave me the history of what has transpired in the last year.  Not much good has come of their efforts for help.

This is the house today.

After contacting many people for help, and receiving none, they got a series of estimates.

With information from me, and their own research, they knew what to ask for and look for in an estimate.

They even contacted the company that originally installed the faux stone for an estimate.  They asked that company to give an estimate based on what they then knew to be proper installation criteria.

What they got back was an estimate to do the stone, ONCE AGAIN, the same way they did it the first time!  When the homeowners called back to say that the IRC criteria was not included in the reinstallation estimate, the company said, "We didn't know you were serious."

Get real.  That's disgusting.  They should be out of business.

They did find a contractor that knows what they are doing.  A mostly commercial contractor, they got started, I spoke with the manager, and they do know what they are doing!

The homeowner also got a local TV station, with a consumer advocacy program, to take this on as a feature on the show.  We'll see what comes of this.

I will continue to go by during different phases of the reinstallation and see what I can see.  A mini blog series will be used to instruct any who want to be instructed.

My recommendation:  stay tuned.

* When I say EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System), I am referring back many years to when the original "synthetic stucco" first came out.  It was problematic because it was not entirely understood how its installation, by essentially glueing it to a wood subsurface, would prevent any condensation from evaporating.  This accumulated condensation would cause rot and therefore molds.  Since those days the product has improved dramatically, with different materails in the product line, drainage techniques to allow condensation to dry and/or be eliminated, and helping to insulate exterior walls.  In home inspections, I refer to the newer products generically as "dryvit," or simply "stucco."

Faux and cultured stone, it seems to me, is in this comparably original stage as was EIFS, and most installers seem to have no idea what they are doing.  Of course water, in any intrusive or accumulated form, such as condensation, can enter and damage any house, regardless of the exterior skin, if ignorant, improper or unprofessional installation techniques have been employed.



Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560



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Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Very tough product, I have not every heard long term good things being said about faux stone.

Thank you for sharing the post with all of us.

Mar 28, 2012 09:36 PM #10
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

If this home has poorly installed faux stone how many others in the community do as well?


Mar 28, 2012 09:38 PM #11
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

I had a buyer just walk from a house with EIFS. The original installer had put the Dryvit right into the ground. The second installer during a renovation and addition to the house a few years ago had done the same with the newer, drained system. The manufacturer specifies as best practice an 8 inch clearance to grade. This guy ignored that advice. He wrote a letter to my clients saying everything was great 5 years ago when he installed the product...incorrectly. He also offered to install the drained system to the rest of the house for a substantial amount of money. Yeah, just the guy I would want to do the job. 

Mar 28, 2012 10:00 PM #12
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

What is amazing is that the contractor, rather than avoiding litigation by not doing the right thing, is actually making it much worse.  Angry consumers tell a LOT of people.

Mar 29, 2012 12:25 AM #13
Lisa Von Domek
Lisa Von Domek Team - Dallas, TX
....Experience Isn't Expensive.... It's Priceless!

Good morning Jay,

Those poor owners...and shame on the builder and installer - they know they are wrong, and are just ducking their responsibility.  I hope the local tv station's advocate can turn this around...I will be watching for updates!

Mar 29, 2012 12:50 AM #14
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay, I see a lot of this same issues here in my neck of the woods. We do not get the moisture and rain issues that say Seattle would so I rarely see any problems due to the improper installation. But that is just rolling the dice.  

Mar 29, 2012 12:52 AM #15
Peg Barcelo
Fluff My House! Home Staging Inc. 250.486.6369 - Summerland, BC
The FlufftasticStager from Summerland, BC

Jay, I love how this story is going! I love consumer advocates! How wonderful you could give them information so they could shop for a contractor that would take them seriously! I agree; that other biz should be put out of work, or fined, or something bad...

Mar 29, 2012 01:24 AM #16
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Over and over I am seeing hardscape and dirt installed over the bottom of synthetic stone installations---lots of opportunities for this to be as bad as eifs if not installed properly.  That said----any material can be installed improperly.

Mar 29, 2012 01:25 AM #17
Kristin Hamilton CA Realtor
Sun Lakes Realty - Banning, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning

Hi Jay,

It is so sad when contractors do inept and sub-standard work by ripping off the consumer. Sometimes the consumer doesn't even know until it shows up later after the warranty period or when they get ready to sell their house. The states and counties are doing what they can to protect homeowners but we must keep our eyes open too and alert our friends, family, neighbors and clients. Great article and hope all is resolved soon. You are working hard to make this happen as well. I am sure you will save many homeowners grief in the future.

Mar 29, 2012 03:38 AM #18
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Jay -- it appears that "just slap it together and it will work" is the motto of that first builder/sub contractor.  If this hits the air waves, you may have quite a few more clients wanting things checked out with their faux stone facings.

Mar 29, 2012 08:13 AM #19
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Cindy - this community has many!  And this house is on a cul-de-sac with 4 other homes VERY interested in what is going on.

Jim - it's pretty clear that everything has its installation criteria!  I don't have so much problem with the newer stuccos.  The EIFS I refer to is the original stuff - in its first stages it did not do well, much like the faux stone today.  But geez, don't install it underground!

Kathryn - I told them to start a blog, have about 100 entries and name names!

Lisa - we'll see what happens.  This builder is nationwide and probably won't notice the buzzing fly, but that contractor is local!

Mar 29, 2012 08:20 AM #20
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Don - improper installation of any material is going to have problems and cause rot.  Even where it is dry, over time!

Peg - I gave them lots of suggestions and they have done the leg work.  And the past year has not been fun for them.

I am too Charlie, and just the other day!  And as you say, every product has its installation so forth and it's always best to obey!

Kristin - all the houses in this location are done the same, probably by the same subs.  And, subs who apparently do not know how to do it right.

Steven - that may happen sooner than later.  These people are going to talk around the neighborhood and will likely take my reports to show people what was going on.

Mar 29, 2012 08:35 AM #21
Chris Smith
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage - New Tecumseth, ON
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta

Jay, I have not seen faux stone as a exterior building material in my marketplace, yet...

... but thanks to you, I am at least partially informed.  Thank You

Mar 30, 2012 06:43 AM #22
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

We all gotta start somewhere Chris!

Mar 30, 2012 09:04 AM #23
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Jay, I look forward to reading more of your posts on this topic. I hope it works out for the best for the homeowners. Yep, I agree, these hacks should be put out of business. 

Mar 31, 2012 05:43 AM #24
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

They were a prime example of what can be hired by builders - these guys have to be vetted Pamela!

Mar 31, 2012 10:52 AM #25
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Great stuff Jay.  I'm hoping to write a similar post about this product in the next year or so, because I've been hearing the same thing about it.  It's the new big problem.

Apr 02, 2012 12:09 PM #26
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Reuben - my buddy Carl Brown, who operates this site:   http://www.your-leaking-house.com/   told me a few years ago that faux stone was the new EIFS.  I believed him then and since have gone about seeing how right he was.

You might contact him.  That's a great group.

Apr 02, 2012 06:42 PM #27
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

His web site doesn't have much content... am I missing something?

Apr 02, 2012 08:32 PM #28
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Is this better?    http://www.your-leaking-house.com/

There is a ton of content and places to go.

Cut and paste it.

Apr 02, 2012 08:36 PM #29
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