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.