Dryvit stucco – bonus or plague?

Well, dang! Shouldn’t have put this stuff on over wet sheathing. But who’ll ever know?

Dryvit is a plastic, stucco-looking exterior wall coating that once promised to be an answer to maintenance and, so important in Greenwich, “keeping up appearances”. Dryvit and other “EIFS” – Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems” products were most popular in new construction, commercial and residential,  in Florida and other southern states but the product also found its way up here. I don’t like the stuff and steer customers away from houses that have it. Here’s why:

Dryvit seals out moisture: it also seals moisture in, and if water infiltrates beyond it – usually through faulty or failed caulking, improperly flashed window, chimneys and other joints, it’s trapped there, slowing rotting the sheathing. And you can’t necessarily tell, just by looking or even using a moisture meter, how extensive that damage is without tearing off the siding – try doing a destructive home inspection and see how the homeowner reacts.

Experts recommend annual inspections of a Dryvit house* to detect problems, but do you want to go through this, every year?

“Installed properly” Dryvit is supposed to be trouble-free. But of course, the devil is in the details. Who installed the stuff on the house you’re looking at? And can a house inspector detect problems? You, the buyer, probably won’t know. Can you even get homeowner’s insurance if you live behind Dryvit walls? In many cases, no.

Here’s a brief discussion on the subject from Trulia, “does the presence of Dryvit affect a home’s value?” One guy says it doesn’t but he identifies himself as the manager of a real estate firm (which is honest of him), and what’s he supposed to say, especially if he’s got listings to sell that have the stuff on their walls? Most of those responding don’t like it and advise against it – I’m with them even if, as Dryvit claims, they fixed the problems (after massive class-action suits against them) in the 1990′s. The stigma lingers on, and I’d avoid it if I were buying a home.

*We recommend annual inspections if your home is clad with a “barrier” EIF system. Water-managed or drainage EIF systems and homes clad with cultured stone, stucco or thin brick should also be inspected periodically, depending on your geographical location. For example, homes in the Midwest experience an extreme weather cycle with rain and sleet in the fall, snow, ice and temperatures below 0°F in the winter, rain in the spring and lots of sun with temperatures over 90°F in the summer. These extremes can cause excessive structural movement of many of the different materials on a house (wood, aluminum, vinyl, stucco, brick, stone, etc.) which in turn can cause sealant joints to fail, as well as ice damming, flashing failure and structural cracking.

In most cases water intrusion problems are not apparent from a visual inspection of the exterior. However, we have the methods and tools necessary to detect any problems or potential problems.

Some of these methods may be more invasive than others and some are non-invasive. They include a thorough visual inspection and various types of meters that can measure the moisture content of the building components behind the exterior. One of these meters can detect moisture through electronic impedance technology, by scanning the surface of the wall (although this type of meter is not 100% reliable). Use of a scan meter should always be coupled with a probe or pin-type meter. Do not allow any inspector to convince you that they can perform a thorough assessment of any EIF System without invasive testing of some kind.”

UPDATE: A response from the manufacturer’s spokesman: Lengthy, but I wanted to append it here so that someone stumbling across this post while searching for EIFS product information will have the opportunity to get both sides.

[Dear Mr. Fountain]:

I want to follow up with you after I caught your blog post entitled “Dryvit stucco—bonus or plague?”yesterday with some newer information that you might not have on EIFS.

I’m sure you know Dryvit is a manufacturer of EIFS just like STO, ParexUSA, and BASF Synergy.  I’m assuming the reason you’ve dealt more with Dryvit, hence referring to it as Dryvit, is that their main headquarters is in the Northeast, whereas another manufacturer is located in Florida.

 

EIFS is not only popular in new construction but there is a very strong market in retrofit projects for it as well.  The design flexibility for EIFS is much larger than with other exterior wall claddings.  Manufacturers, such as Dryvit, have designed new brick, limestone, and metallic finishes; these along with lower cost for construction have made this a very attractive system.  As you mentioned in your post, up keep is important with EIFS as it is with any exterior wall cladding.  This is true for all exterior wall claddings as proven by the fact that at least 20 major cities have façade inspection requirements.  On our website, we discuss the topic and we always recommend people check out websites such as AWCI.org for information pertaining to certified inspectors and contractors from the “EIFS Doing It Right” course.  We even did a blog post of our own, back in May, on the topic of maintenance.

Moisture Control:

This obviously, for good reason, is a concern of home and building owners alike.  Because of that, research has recently been done by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and supported by the Department of Energy, validating EIFS as the “best performing cladding” in relation to thermal and moisture control when compared to brick, stucco, and cementitious fiberboard (commonly known as fiber cement) siding.

 

A couple of the reasons that EIFS is performing to these standards is the addition of a drainage cavity that permits the evacuation of any incidental moisture accumulation to be removed.  In addition, it provides protection to the substrate by the use of a liquid applied water resistive barrier (WRB).  A water-resistant base coat has also been added that is applied on top of the insulation to serve as a weather barrier.

 

These are some of the advancements the EIFS industry made to address previous issues that arose.

Energy Efficiency:

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Better Building Challenge that the current Administration has been promoting.  As part of that there is the 2012 Better Building Federal Award Program, that’s looking at energy reductions in federal buildings through a 12 month period.  This past month there were several write-ups about the current standings of this competition, with results expected next month.  Currently, the building with EIFS as a exterior wall cladding has seen energy reductions of 47% over the last year, more than 15% better than the building currently in second place.

Additionally, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have completed a life cycle analysis of EIFS, pertaining to energy efficiency, determining it outpaces other exterior cladding options.

Insurance:

I believe there was a comment about insurance and I’d point you to our insurance page of our website.  Over the last year, with the advancements being made, several more providers are coming to the table with insurance coverage with others going back to review their older policies.

I hope this information provides helpful update to you and any of your clients it may get to.  Hopefully we continue to see positive signs in the housing market, for all of us.

 

 

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Dryvit stucco – bonus or plague?

  1. anon

    I’m guessing you are going for some pun with the way you spelled Drivit? It’s actually Dryvit but I sense you were trying to tell us it was Drivel?

  2. Anonymous

    My parent’s home in Virginia Beach is clad with Drivit. It has been an awful experience to say the very least, for all the reasons you list.

  3. Greenwich Gal

    This is why I like to buy older construction, pre-war. Even with the necessary renovations, you just can’t build them like that anymore. (I guess you can but todays price is ourageous.) Solid construction, materials and craftsmanship. I hate all this fake stuff.

  4. Anonymous

    Enjoy posts like this. Truthful things about housing that aren’t obvious to consumers until too late.

  5. Anonymous

    Most insurance companies won’t insure a builder or contractor unless they accept an EIFS exclusion in their policy. So you don’t see it being used much these days.

  6. One of the issues with Dryvit you mentioned is also a concern for me when it comes to sealing a house to it’s foundation to help with energy efficiency. When you have an energy audit, one of the things that is often put on the list is for you to have someone seal the house onto the cement bottom. I’m sure there’s better wording for what I’m saying. It’s supposed to help a great deal with heating bills, but I thought that maybe since my cellar is 50 years old and has never been sealed and I don’t get mold problems, maybe if I seal it up, I will. There is dampness in my cellar, but no flooding and no mold growing anywhere. I’m not sealing it.

    • Can’t speak to your individual basement but most of them that old will have plenty of ventilation regardless of your attempt to seal them. I’ve read what seems like practical advice on this issue which is, it’s better to have a sealed house where you control the ventilation than an old leaky house with drafts that come and go as they please.

  7. NRA

    Stucco is bad enough… but I’ve always found EIFS to be about as charming as a plastic sofa cover. Then there’s the issue of scale: it visually reduces a mass to a toy-like appearance.

    And another thing… once rodents get behind it, it’s an escalator to the interior. (What, natural creatures are so cute and cuddly, yes?)

    I can dig why Greenwich Gal prefers older construction.

  8. In my experience, having done a lot of business with corporate tranferees, relocation companies want nothing to do with these kind of EIFS systems. In corporate HQ markets like the Basking Ridge, NJ area where I live, and Greenwich, sellers and their agents are marketing their EIFS homes to a smaller buying pool. That ultimately translates to a lower market value.

  9. My only beef with stucco is how hard it can be to inspect by yourself. You can’t do much without tearing apart one area or knowing exactly what you’re doing.

    -Adam Ahmed