Replacing Synthetic Stucco With Peace of Mind

Poorly installed synthetic stucco on homes constructed in the 1980s and '90s has created homeowner nightmares and substantial litigation.

March 31, 2003


"We are moisture specialists," says Mark Tiffee, who considers the building envelope the primary defense in protecting the structure. "Water-proofing the home avoids future problems. It provides a huge peace of mind to the homeowner." The first step in removing synthetic stucco is to scaffold the area. A plastic tent is installed over the scaffolding to protect the house from inclement weather. The stucco is removed and disposed of in a drop box. Once the sheathing has been exposed, secondary defects are examined. Any areas with dry rot are removed, "like removing the cancer," Tiffee says. Studs that are rotten are cut out, and one stud is nailed to another "like a splint on a leg." Tiffee says 5-20% of the sheathing in these EIFS removal cases requires dry-rot repair. Leaking windows are addressed at the same time and replaced, if necessary. All windows are detailed with a waterproof barrier such as Grace Ice & Water Shield. Tiffee also integrates a moisture barrier with special flashings around windows, decks, doors, concrete, stone, brick and gutters. "The system is waterproofed even before the envelope is done," he says. "The siding is just icing on the cake."

Poorly installed synthetic stucco on homes constructed in the 1980s and '90s has created homeowner nightmares and substantial litigation. "It is a huge problem," says Mark Tiffee, president of A Cut Above Siding and Windows in Portland, Ore. In 2002 the company completed about 30 exterior remodeling jobs involving removal of EIFS. Tiffee expects to do 80 to 100 similar jobs in 2003.

This Portland home displayed characteristic defects, says Tiffee. Synthetic stucco was installed without any moisture barrier underneath it, and the house was caulked and sealed improperly. "EIFS is dependent on keeping the water out to protect the framing underneath," Tiffee says.

The majority of A Cut Above's jobs are in excess of $100,000. In addition to removing the EIFS, the company must repair secondary defects from dry rot, decks that are leaking or improperly flashed, and leaking windows. "There is a substantial amount of money associated with secondary defects caused by EIFS," Tiffee says. He has had jobs on which it cost $40,000 to $60,000 just to fix the framing because of moisture-related problems.

On this 4,500-square-foot home, synthetic stucco was removed and replaced with brick, stone and cedar siding. Dry rot was isolated to some stud replacement and plywood. Other construction defects such as improper deck flashing and gutter flashing also had to be repaired.

Tiffee says homeowners are reluctant to spend $100,000 to correct a problem that will not necessarily increase the value of their property. "But if they don't take care of the problem," he says, "it can put their home in jeopardy."


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