Faux stone may become the new EIFS - 2*. This is a follow-up to a previous post.
When I see a house with faux or cultured stone installed, I look around and point things out to the buyers.
On my inspection report, I include language which looks something like this:
" Faux stone siding is found on this house and cannot be viewed except from outdoors and examining the wall structure underneath for damage or rot is not possible without destructive testing. Improper faux stone installation can cause serious damage.
Specific problems noted with the visible components can include, but may not be limited to:
- Weep screeds are missing at the base of the wood frame walls.
- Weep screeds are missing at the tops of window and door openings.
- There is no caulk between other materials and the masonry veneer at windows, doors, and adjacent trim.
- The masonry veneer is in contact with the ground.
- The masonry veneer is in contact with paved surfaces.
- The masonry veneer is in contact with roofing materials.
- Kick-out flashings are missing where roof eaves meet the masonry veneer.
- Metal lath is visible between stones, indicating that the proper base coats of mortar were not applied prior to installation of the stone. "
Then I give a series of links to various sites which show "Best Practices"for faux stone installation. Some of these sites have 3 and 4 dozen diagrams! One shows installation videos.
There is great specificity for proper installation in various places, and necessarily. Over windows, around doors, corners, at the base of the stone, etc., all need different ways of diverting water.
I also give links to the International Residency Code mentions for faux stone. Virginia adopted the 2009 IRC code for this, and this was carried over into the 2012 code. Again, there are reasons for this! On home inspections I am not a code enforcer. Nor do I pretend to know every code for everything in every application. But I can help my clients learn how to find out!
For example, a "weep screed," mentioned above, is essentially a secondary flashing. But it goes UNDER the stone and OVER what we would normally consider to be flashing! It provides a way for water to get out, should it get in! It prevents pooling of water over windows and doors, over any wood framing and at the BOTTOM of the stone work itself!
Examples of what was done on the problem house in question is shown here.
The left photo shows a corner. Some mesh was nailed on, over the fiberboard and tar paper. You can see that the faux stone was simply glued to the mesh! There is no drainage at the bottom of the wall.
The photo on the right shows how water that had been getting in above and around windows and mortar cracks had accumulated at the bottom. There was no drainage provided, a hole was left in the rim joist sheathing and that white tube on the right has an undetermined function.
These are just a couple of photos of what has happened in only 4 - 5 years. This is a disaster!
Remember that the code is really a minimum standard. It is a floor from which to work. It is not the peak of hoped-for professionalism! It is just a jurisdictional authority saying that they would like to see at least these particular standards met. HAD THOSE MINIMAL STANDARDS BEEN MET ON THIS HOUSE, YOU WOULD NOT BE LOOKING AT THESE PHOTOS!
My recommendation: Stay tuned, again! There will be more.
* 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 gluing 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 materials 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.