Crumbling Dreams

The outsides of many new homes in the US and Canada are covered with synthetic stucco. It's easier to work with than cement stucco and it's less expensive. But Consumer Reports says thousands of homeowners are complaining synthetic stucco has led to severe water damage, costly repairs, endless lawsuits and a real heartache for homeowners.

"The minute we walked and we saw the light and beautiful modern simplicity of it, we just fell in love it."

Laura and Russ Rudishes' dream home is just eight years old. They paid more than a million dollars for it.

"We were really taken, I guess, by the finish of it because on the inside it really looks like the best of everything. We had no idea that in the walls, in between the inside and the outside, there was this major problem."

The Rudishes say the problem was related to synthetic stucco that covered the house — a problem that they're now paying $375,000 to fix.

Keith Smith, the contractor doing the repairs, says much of the structure of the house was literally rotting away under the synthetic stucco.

"It's an exterior wall finish, which is insulated. It's Styrofoam, which is actually glued onto the structure. Water gets behind the system and it just totally deteriorates the wood substrate that it's on top of."

Consumer Reports' Mari McQueen has just investigated synthetic stucco, which is called Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS (PRON: Rhymes with “chiefs”).

"There have been a lot of lawsuits against the manufacturers of EIFS across the country. Now they've come up with different designs that they say are better. The Styrofoam is no longer resting on the wood. There's a weather barrier and a drainage mat behind it. We don't know yet if these new systems will solve all the problems that have been associated with EFIS."

The Rudishes' house had the older type of EIFS. The first sign they had trouble was a green mold.
Other signs of trouble are:

a mildew odor

bulges in the walls

or leaks near windows, doors or along the roofline.

If the problem isn't caught early, you could end up with walls and beams that are literally crumbling away.

The makers of synthetic stucco say poor construction and poor maintenance are responsible for water damage, not their products. However, the National Association of Homebuilders has warned contractors that even when properly constructed the older type of EIFS can develop moisture-related problems.

If you think you have a problem with synthetic stucco or some other defect with your home, you can get more information on what to do at Look under the tab marked "Personal Finance."

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