If properly installed and maintained, real cement stucco and synthetic stucco (properly called EIFS-Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems) can both last for the life of the home. These systems are designed to shed rainwater immediately with only small amounts absorbed but dried out by the sun and wind. Stucco’s life span is dramatically reduced, however, when water passes through small hairline cracks. Trapped and unable to dry out, water saturates and rots the plywood or oriented strand board sheathing and framing, creating a breeding ground for toxic mold.
Channel 8, WFLA.com, ran a story (with contributions by Jeff Lieser) recently about an Apollo Beach homeowner who experienced stucco failure due to improper installation. After noticing small cracks in the stucco exterior of his home, he removed a section of the stucco and found rotten wood and mold underneath. An expert in stucco defects inspected the home and noted several reasons for the water intrusion:
- Stucco layers were too thin and were thus prone to cracking.
- Paper backing was lapped incorrectly, producing thin areas prone to cracking.
- Points where stucco intersected with windows lacked caulking to prevent water entry.
Other common reasons for cracking and water entry are:
- Real stucco not cured properly
- Water-resistant barriers not installed properly
- Kick-out flashings not installed properly
- Control joints not installed properly
A hairline crack can allow gallons of water to enter during one of Tampa’s rains, and if the stucco system as a whole was improperly installed, the damage can be catastrophic. Indeed, the expert informed the homeowner that all of the second floor stucco of the home had to be removed and replaced.
Builder Refuses to Repair
The home was built in 2006 and sat unoccupied for some time until the homeowner purchased it in July, 2013, as a bank-owned foreclosure. At this time, a home inspector had observed a few small cracks, but the homeowner went ahead with the sale after being assured by the builder that any necessary repairs would be covered by warranty through 2016. Now the builder denies that the warranty applies because the home was not maintained when no one lived there. The builder asserts that the cracks should have been caulked and sealed as part of the general maintenance required of every home.
That may be true, but every serious problem with stucco can be traced back to installation errors. Hairline cracks will develop in real and synthetic stucco over time due to normal internal and external forces. But moisture intrusion should not be a problem if the weatherproofing components were properly installed at the time the home was built.
Do You Have Water Damage?
You may not know for years whether your stucco-clad home has sustained water damage, rot and mold. Visual inspection often doesn’t reveal internal water damage. The best way to diagnose water damage is to hire a professional water intrusion expert to test your home at least annually for the presence of moisture in the interior wall cavity of your home.
If your inspector determines that that your stucco system has suffered water damage and needs repair, removal or remediation, you should make a demand on your builder to fix the problems. If he refuses, you should contact the Tampa construction defect attorneys at Lieser & Skaff to discuss your available options. We try to resolve your case without resorting to litigation, but if filing a lawsuit becomes necessary, we work with your insurer, contractors and other parties to resolve the dispute as quickly and efficiently as possible
Deadline to File Stucco Lawsuit
If the statute of limitations for filing a construction defect lawsuit is quickly approaching, our Tampa building defect attorneys will suggest that you sue all potentially liable parties to preserve your legal claims. In Florida, you must file suit within four years after discovering the water damage, but in no event can you sue after 10 years from the date the construction of the home was completed.
For example, the Apollo Beach resident’s home was built sometime in 2006. He would have to file a complaint against the builder by sometime in 2016 if the builder refuses to make the repairs. The homeowner has a 10-year construction warranty, but let’s assume that it was for only five years and had expired in 2011. The homeowner would still have until 2016 to take legal action. Note that he would not have until 2018, which is four years after he discovered the damage, because the law does not permit a homeowner to sue a builder more than 10 years after the home was built.
Source: WFLA.com, Fla. homeowners with building defects have protection, Shannon Behnken, June 5, 2014.