Stucco homes are plentiful in the United States. You can certainly find a broad selection of homes with EIFS or Dryvit stucco systems available. That said, just because stucco is popular doesn’t mean it does not have problems. Whenever stucco is a rush job or installed improperly, structural problems are bound to arise. If you want to purchase a house using EIFS, you have to be aware of the risk.
Let’s discuss the potential issues that have rose with EIFS so you are better prepared.
What is Synthetic EIFS Stucco?
Synthetic stucco is different from traditional stucco and is also known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS). This style of stucco was created in Europe years ago since it provided more building flexibility and enhanced waterproofing. Around 1970, the American company called Dryvit introduced EIFS to American contractors, and it has gained popularity ever since. EIFS technology has advanced throughout the year, but the basic components of EIFS stucco remains the same.
You can expect there to be at least three layers: Insulation, base coat made of Portland cement and a synthetic product embedded into fiber mesh, and the finish coat made of stucco. These layers function synergistically by funneling moisture towards the ground and away from the house’s foundation.
However, American construction has a tendency to lean towards quantity, not quality, and so when contractors started cutting corners with developments, it introduced a greater room for error—primarily with stucco and EIFS installation.
About 10 years after the introduction of EIFS, home inspectors were starting to find noticeable issues with EIFS cladding, like water damage. The damages had even permeated some of the framing. Multiple EIFS homeowners were outraged that they now had an unplanned expense, and the housing market took a hit due to properties with questionable stucco siding.
No wonder many American homeowners have filed law suits against EIFS manufacturers and contractors.
Noted Problems With Stucco Homes
- High level of humidity in the house
- Occurrence of pest infestation—insects, ants, termites, mice
- Mold, mildew, and fungus growth on the walls and window frames
- Cracked drywall
- Bubbling, peeling, cracking paint
- Cracking around windows with EIFS dressing
- Rotten wood trim
- Structural integrity problems
All of this happens when EIFS is improperly installed or if too much water is drawn into the insulation foam, resulting in extended exposure to moisture.
A 2006 study done by the well-known Oak Ridge National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy, found that “EIFS was the best performing cladding in relation to thermal and moisture control when compared to brick, stucco, and [fiber cement board] siding,” but it needs to be properly installed and maintained. Since EIFS does not breathe, water that gets trapped inside cannot escape.
Replacing and repairing damages caused by trapped water are difficult to resolve. Not many contractors have mastered repairing EIFS, and insurers hesitate to fulfill claims for damaged EIFS stucco.
Buying An EIFS Home
Water damage is hard to detect on newer homes with EIFS stucco, unless you have an extremely thorough inspection. Furthermore, water damage will take a while to set in, so you might not realize that the EIFS stucco is not working as it should until years after moving in and getting settled. Then, you could be faced with an extensive repair job that you had no intention of dealing with.
So, if you are wondering if you should buy a house with EIFS, the answer is: it depends. An EIFS system that has been installed properly by a certified contractor who has been approved to use the system is ideal—and you can trust the job. But if you are buying a home with previously installed stucco, you have to consider that it was done cheaply, with inferior materials, and may be below grade or not completely waterproof.
You can read about multiple stories online about homeowners who have purchased EIFS stucco houses only to find out later that the damages were worth tens of thousands of dollars. Some of these homeowners even hired inspectors, but those inspectors missed the less visible signs of damage. Now, these individuals are stuck in a house with a failing structure, and there is no way to sell a place like that.
While there is no guarantee every EIFS house will have problems, the probability is there.
Thoughts on EIFS Homes
In the end, it is always your choice as to whether you will buy a house with EIFS stucco and make it a home. We strongly encourage anyone who has recently purchased or plans to purchase a house with EIFS to get an extensive inspection done by a professional who knows the signs and symptoms of an improperly installed system. While the decision is up to you, being as informed as possible when it comes to the property can save you from future mishaps.
Do you have questions about EIFS remediation, repair, or would like more advice about buying or selling a house with EIFS stucco? Get in contact with us by filling out the contact form!