HD29 - The Use of Synthetic Stucco in Virginia

Executive Summary:
House Joint Resolution Number 466, passed by the 1997 General Assembly, requested the Board of Housing and Community Development to study the use of synthetic stucco (known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems or EIFS) in Virginia. Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) are multi-layered exterior wall systems used on both commercial and residential buildings. Since 1985, several locations around the country, including Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia, South Carolina, and other states have reported various problems associated with EIFS.

The predominant problem with the EIFS has been water infiltrating the system and then being trapped against the substrate and studs. Excessive moisture causes the wood or gypsum substrates and the metal or wood studs to deteriorate to the point of structural damage. Often, the damage to the structural members is invisible as it is occurring. Extensive damage can occur before it is visible.

An Ad Hoc Committee formed at the direction of the Board of Housing and Community Development identified various problems associated with the EIFS during its the study. These problems covered everything from the provisions of Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC), to the materials and use of the EIFS, and to other materials and components of a finished building that may be incompatible with the EIFS.

The 1996 Building Officials and Code Administrators (BOCA) National Building Code, as referenced in the USBC, includes a section on EIFS and requires special inspections under certain conditions. The BOCA membership recently amended the model code to change significantly its requirements for EIFS; however, those amendments would not ordinarily be adopted as part of the USBC until the next code change cycle for the next edition of the BOCA code.

Rather than wait for further developments on the national scene, the committee recommended the following actions to the Board of Housing and Community Development:

• The USBC should require that all EIFS projects meet the new BOCA requirements, regardless of the Use Group of the building or the amount of EIFS present, thereby assuring that single family dwellings built under the CABO standards would be covered.

• The USBC should require that the person responsible for “signing off” that the EIFS project was completed correctly, shall be appropriately trained and/or certified. However, the committee does not recommend that every worker on an EIFS project would have to go through the required training/certification and “sign off” on the project.

• The USBC should require that only water managed or drainable type EIFS products with valid and current BOCA, National Evaluations Services (NES), or other equivalent research and evaluation reports will be considered for approval on wood frame construction or with other types of construction where the substrate under the EIFS is susceptible to moisture damage. Barrier types of EIFS would be prohibited from use on those types of construction and substrates.

• There should be provisions for identifying the specific manufacturer’s products used on or in an EIFS project so that owners, inspectors, builders, insurers, or others would be able to identify those products at a later date.

• The USBC should be amended to require special inspections for all EIFS applications except those where the EIFS is not relied upon to provide the water resistance barrier for the building wall.