Stone Facades - The Next Homeowner Problem

By
Home Inspector with Master Home & Building Inspections, LLC MD Lic 32336-VA Lic 1044

It seems everyone loves the look of natural (or simulated) stone around and inside new homes. With all new materials used and which become popular in new construction, we rarely have prior knowledge how they will perform over time. New high-tech materials and new design and installation procedures are the most challenging to inspect, as we have no historical failures to know what the consequences of these materials and designs will be and how they will fare over time.

However, when it comes to exterior surfaces, weve suffered through 30 years of  "new" materials and installations which gave the industry a whole new respect for several hundered years of prior home construction methodology and the "tried and true"standards that worked so well. With the introduction of EIFS, fiberboard, and composition siding materials starting in the 1970's, the industry learned that all wall systems need to breathe. Water WILL get into the exterior of ALL homes, and it's only a question of how the exterior surface covering is applied that determines if the moisture and water will leak out, vent out, or remain confined to rot out the structure of the home while the occupants sleep.

So here we are in the 21st century and currently obsessed with stone, and precast concrete stone-looking facades on our homes. The first thing to remember is that (like brick) stone and concrete are like sponges and will absorb rainwater. Generally they are thick enough that the sun and wind will dry them out when there is enough of either. As we know however, the main problem arises  typically from improper installation proceedures by the contractor who is cutting corners or the installer who is not properly trained.

For home sales, the primary issue we come across during a home inspection is cracks and openings in the siding surfaces, window surrounds, and caulking, that allows rainwater and wind drriven rain (WDR) to find its way through the crevices and into the interior materials where they can begin to damage the structure if they can't get out or dry out quickly. So, when you see inspection report comments about cracks, separated caulking, and the neeed to repair or replace caulking, it's no small thing for the longevity of the structure. Anyone who has been part of a siding tear-off knows the damage that can occur from water that is not allowed to drain, vent, and dry.

When it comes to stone facades (as we learned with EIFS siding), it's no different. The house structure must have a water barrier installed behind the stone, the surface material must be installed such that no cracks exist, and there must be a vented airspace behind the stone. There are other installation requirements, but for brevity, the focus here is on cracks. So, make sure those cracks are caulked or sealed with mortar or other required material depending on the surface being repaired. It's also important to review the exterior of the home annually as the harsh effects of sun, wind, rain, and temperature changes primarily affect the areas where dis-similar materials meet, and separations typically begin.

 

The home below was built in 2013. Imagine every stone facade home in the subdivision has similar problems. In a typical 10-20 year weathering period, there may likely be serious stuctural issues if these issues are not corrected.

Cracks around trim
 Note missing stone or protection behind light    Hard to see in this pic but cracks & no caulk around all trim

 

Here is a link to a great article with more detail from another inspector: Manufactured stone veneer moisture problems

Another article on the problems (note Forbes has an incredible number of ads and pop-ups that slow viewing):

Stone veneer siding looks great but bad installations cost homeowners thousands

 

 

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Topic:
Real Estate General Information
Tags:
moisture problems
caulking
stone veneer
cracks in siding
rainwater leaks

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Donald A. Masters

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