Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Exterior Stucco - EIFS Photo Guide to Leak Points
     

  • SIDING EIFS WALL LEAK POINTS - CONTENTS: EIFS - synthetic stucco troubleshooting and inspecting examples. Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems or "barrier" walls, synthetic stucco. EIFS inspections, EIFS leak diagnosis, EIFS repairs, EIFS or synthetic stucco litigation. Proper installation methods for synthetic stucco on buildings. Photos of snafus in an EIFS installation & ensuing lawsuit
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EIFS Synethetic Stucco wall leaks: here we provide a photo guide to some common leak points on EIFS stucco building exteriors, to aid in the the inspection, diagnosis, repair, and proper installation of synthetic stucco EIFS systems.

We describe common mistakes that lead to leaks, adhesion, cracking, or other failures in Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems or barrier, synthetic stucco wall installations, including an ineptly presented and decided EIFS lawsuit.

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How to Inspect for & Spot Leaks in EIFS Synethetic Stucco Wall Installations

Photograph of EIFS synthetic stucco exterior (C) Daniel Friedman

When originally imported from Europe to the United States in the 1970s, most exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) were “barrier” type systems.

They were designed to create a waterproof exterior skin consisting of a thin layer of acrylic polymer-based synthetic stucco directly applied to foam insulation.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Our photo (left) shows a modern Sto-Wall covered home that was investigated to diagnose the sources of wall leaks through the stucco system. We found many installation details that did not follow the manufacturer's recommendations. As a result there were significant leaks into building walls and a considerable mold contamination issue as well.

The expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam was glued to the building’s sheathing. A layer of fiberglass cloth embedded in the synthetic stucco provided reinforcement, and a thin acrylic finish coat added color and texture.

EIFS Leaks in a Sto Wall (C) Daniel Friedman

With the EPS glued directly to the sheathing, there was no place for building paper or conventional flashings at penetrations. Openings, joints, and penetrations relied on caulks and sealants for waterproofing. With no backup waterproofing or drainage layer, there was little margin for error.

While these systems performed adequately in Europe for nearly 25 years, the United States version had thinner base coats and lower polymer content, creating a weaker skin. Also, workmanship in the United States was often inferior due to lack of applicator training and quality-control programs.

The water running down this building interior wall was traced to omission of the manufacturer-specified sealant methods at the top of the building exterior wall. Wind-blown rain entered the wall top just below the soffit overhang, wet the wall interior cavity, and finally appeared on the foundation walls below.

When water leaked into these systems through failed caulk joints, cracks in the stucco skin, or through the window frames themselves, it wet the foam insulation, sheathing, and sometimes the structural framework.

Williams & Williams describe various EIFS Barrier Wall Deficiencies. [12] They point out that because multiple layers of materials must be applied to construct an EIFS barrier wall there are multiple opportunities to foul up. To their catalog of errors we'd add a related list of damage done after the walls have been completed, such as the creation of holes during installation of lighting fixtures, awnings, additions, even the misuse of a weed-whacker too close to the wall bottom.

More EIFS Leak Point Photos

Below left, our EIFS leak point photograph shows a leaky window detail at an EIFS-clad building in New York.

This in turn led to more sealant failures and cracking of the surface and additional leakage. The EPS foam acted like a sponge, trapping water against the building, and the nonporous polymer coatings retarded drying. In many cases the leakage and resulting decay was extensive, resulting in widespread property damage and litigation.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Above right, our EIFS leak point photo shows leak stains on the L-channel securing the end of a soffit covering over an upper level intersecting roof. Water entered the building wall at that glob of foam in the center-left of the photo,and if you look closely you may also see leak stains down the stucco wall at center right of this picture.

Below left, our EIFS leak point photograph shows that the builder relied on caulk at a roof-EIFS-wall intersection to try to stop leaks into the structure. Specifications from EIFS manufacturers include requirements for special backer rods, flashing details, approved sealants, and other measures, not just a blob of asphalt or roof cement at these junctures.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Above right, our EIFS leak point photo shows that the roof-wall step flashing was improperly sized and placed, allowing leaks into the structure. Below left, our EIFS leak point photograph shows a crack developing in an EIFS wall coating.

More EIFS system installation areas & possible leak points are shown just below.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

... downspout spilling roof drainage onto a lower roof where roof-sidewall step flashing is inadequate combines a double risk of early shingle wear and water volume causing leaks into the structure ...

... weed whacker damage to EIFS wall at ground level creates a water entry point, exacerbated if close to a downspout or in-slope grade - inviting insect attack or rot damage ...

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman


Base coat thickness and the position of the embedded reinforcing mesh are critical factors which affect two central dimensions of system performance: moisture and impact resistance. ... Non-cementious base coats are typically more resistant to moisture transmission than those which incorporate portland cement. Whatever type of base coat is used, application to the specified thickness is essential for system waterproofing.

... Thick base coats also tend to crack, ... once cracks develop in the lamina, they serve as routes for water intrusion. [12]

Above right, our EIFS leak point photo shows a similar crack in the EIFS coating below a roof edge - a likely building leak point.

More EIFS SNAFUS Cause Leaks into the Building Wall Cavity & Invite Insects, Mold, Rot, Water Damage

Below left, our EIFS leak point photograph shows a drywall screw used to attach a gutter strap, violating the manufacturer's EIFS installation guidelines, puncturing the wall, and creating a possible leak point.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

... Inadequate mesh embedment a poorly reinforced system with lower protection against impact. ...

Thin basecoats are subject to cracking and subsequent failure. [12]

Above right, our EIFS leak point photo shows incomplete EIFS coating and repair work, leaving the fiberglass mesh exposed and leaving a hole in the building wall.

More EIFS system installation areas & possible leak points are shown just below.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

... failure to follow manufacturers' EIFS installation specifications for a backer rod and sealant at the juncture of EIFS wall top and Soffit trim risks wind-blown rain leaks into the wall structure - resulting in severe water & mold damage in some homes inspected by the author [DF] ...

... Incomplete EIFS barrier installation at the roof wall juncture increases the risk of leaks into the building wall cavity ...

More EIFS system installation areas & possible leak points are shown just below.

Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman Leak point in EIFS stucco wall (C) Daniel Friedman

... inadequately or improperly connected fasteners pull out of EIFS coating leaving a hole and leak point in the building skin ...

... caulk points at gaps between EIFS exterior surface and various building materials may indicate a location of historic leaks - beware of hidden moisture, mold, rot, insect damage in such locations ...

EIFS Lawsuit Mistakes & Photos

Our photographs below describe some of the conditions at a different EIFS clad New Jersey home, one that suffered extensive cracking and adhesion failures in the final stucco coating soon after its installation. Details about this installation are at SIDING EIFS STUCCO FAILURES DUE TO WEATHER.

EIFS barrier wall construction Bard College (C) Daniel Friedman EIFS barrier wall construction Bard College (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: Most disturbing about this disappointing EIFS installation and its ensuing lawsuit were that:

  • The EIFS installer did not come close to following the installation instructions of the EIFS manufacturer, including installing insulating board and EIFS coatings over soaking wet building surfaces, omission of sealants and gaskets at all of the penetrations for windows and doors, and improper fastening of insulation to the sheathing.
  • In court the installation contractor argued that "the installation of caulks and sealants" required by the product specifications were not part of their contract with the homeowner. Unfortunately not only were those components not part of anybody else's contract ural obligations either, and we couldn't figure out who else might have borne that responsibility, since the installation procedure for the EIFS expects the proper backer rods, flashings, and sealants to be installed where required as part of the EIFS installation procedure.
  • In a baffling decision, the judge bought the argument by the contractor's attorney that the contractor could rightfully exclude these necessary steps and components from his job contract with the homeowner and thus bore no responsibility for the ensuing failure.
  • And unfortunately there was no one else on the construction scene who might have explained to the homeowner that they were agreeing to a job that was guaranteed to fail.

Details about EIFS wall problems, inspections, and litigation are found at SIDING EIFS & STUCCO. Also see Insects & Foam Insulation.

If you are an EIFS manufacturer, installer, or EIFS inspector, contact us at LINK EXCHANGE to add listings - there is no fee.

 

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