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Cross of Synthetic stucco


Synthetic Stucco

The Problem:

Synthetic stucco is basically a rigid plastic foam board with a textured exterior liquid-applied finish that looks like stucco. Some systems use multiple applications of coatings with or without glass fibre reinforcing mesh. This system is often referred to as EIFS, which is an acronym for “Exterior Insulating Finish System”.

EIFS has been associated with water penetration problems and rot in wood frame construction. The first well publicized case occurred in 1995.

The common wisdom (popular conception?) is that rain water is penetrating the wall systems through imperfections in the synthetic stucco, including joints around doors and windows, edges of decks or balconies, or light fixtures and ventilation hoods, etc.

There is some speculation that there may be water penetration at the joints in the insulating foam boards or that in areas with extended wet seasons, such as in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, water may be penetrating the entire wall in a process known as “migration”.

Do You Have EIFS?

Most people cannot distinguish between real cement stucco and EIFS, but some indicators are usually a lack of visible flashings above window and door openings and wide caulked joints. When tapped, the walls typically have a hollow sound.

Our experience in single family house construction is that the most severe damage occurs around exposed windows. In one case, however, the rot was so generalized that it could not be entirely explained by leaks around windows and other “openings”.

The Risks:

There is no published information on how to reliably fix leaking synthetic stucco. There have been attempts to re-caulk and seal entire walls, but some buildings are known to have continued leaking after the repairs. We don’t know whether this was due to incomplete repairs, ineffective repairs, or if there were other ways that moisture is getting in.

A visual inspection cannot possibly find truly concealed damage. Without destructive testing, only the increased risk of water problems can be reported.

More Information:


DISCLAIMER: Please note that the information and materials located on our web site is provided free, for general information only, and is not intended to provide or be relied upon as specific professional advice. This information represents the current technical facts as understood at the time published, but is in no way comprehensive and you should not act or rely on it regarding your specific situation -- until you have consulted with a qualified home inspector. No liability is accepted therefore for any errors or losses that may be incurred if it is relied on "as is". The use of information posted on these pages does not create a consultant-client relationship.