July 1997 Edition

How To Identify (EIFS) - Synthetic Stucco

We are looking for a new home and would like to know how to identify the difference between real and synthetic stucco?                       
When you look at the finished product, it is difficult to tell the difference between “Hard Coat” or “Real” stucco and “EIFS” (Exterior Insulating Finish System) or “Synthetic Stucco”.                       
Hard coat is typically installed over expanded metal lath which is used to bond the finish to the wall. Normally the system has between 1/8” to 1/2” of finish applied over the mesh. The finish is very hard and is similar to concrete. When you push against it, it will not give or move. The bottom edge may have a metal bead or trim piece. The finish may be applied directly to concrete foundation walls, so look at the wood framing areas only when trying to identify it. 


EIFS is typically installed over a 1/2” insulation board that will have fiberglass mesh applied that is normally blue, but can be any color. The finish is normally 1/16” to 3/16” thick. The finish may give when you push against it. The bottom edge should be finished, but in some cases the fiberglass mesh may be exposed.                        
When trying to identify the products, do not look at the raised window trim, door trim or raised keys. These areas typically have insulated sheathing behind them and could have fiberglass mesh for both systems. Stay in the main wall area only. Look at the bottom edges, look around pipe penetrations and look for any holes in the finish. You’re trying to see any evidence of the metal or fiberglass backing.                      
If all else fails, there is another test (which we do not recommend since it will damage the finish) that may work. Take an awl or small screw driver and try to puncture the finish. You will not be able to puncture hard coat but you will be able to puncture EIFS. When in doubt, hire a professional to inspect it. They can tell you if it is properly installed and give you maintenance advise.  

Choosing A Contractor

Do you have any tips on choosing a remodeling contractor?
Choosing a remodeling contractor is the most important step in assuring the success of your remodeling project.
Nearly half of all remodeling projects are the result of a referral by a satisfied client. Some sources you may wish to explore are :
  • Relatives                                                                                                             
  • Friends                                                                                                                
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Neighbors                                                                                                
  • Co-Workers                                                                     
  • Building Suppliers
  • Lenders            
  • Architects                                                                                     
  • Interior Designers
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) @ 770-939-6274 or National Association of Home Builders - Remodeling Council @ 800-368-5242.
  • Job Site Signs: If the project impresses you, stop by and talk to the contractor and owner.
  • Local Media: Look for magazine or newspaper articles about local remodelers. Some radio stations carry talk shows about remodeling.
  • Direct Mail: Some contractors will send direct mail to homeowners within a few blocks of a current project. Call and ask the homeowner if you could tour the project with the contractor.
  • Seminars: Attend local seminars that are hosted by contractors, mortgage companies, banks or community services. Check for ads in the newspaper.
  • Home Shows: This is an excellent place to talk to a large variety of contractors. Most will display photographs of their projects. Keep the cards or brochures of the ones that impress
    you and file them away.
This is the most important aspect of choosing a contractor. You need to choose someone you believe can handle the project, someone who will always be available to discuss the project as it progresses and someone you can trust. 
The following are good examples of questions you should ask the prospective companies:
  • How long have you been in business?
Any business over five years old is probably a good risk. Most businesses fail after the second year. Look for people who have a good bit of experience in the construction field.
  • Find out who will be in charge of the project.
Who will be the jobsite supervisor. Who do you contact if you have a change? Be sure to obtain all of the phone numbers and contacts before the project begins.
  • What is the time schedule for the project.
When will the project begin and what is the estimated completion date? What time do the crews begin each day and when do they leave? Do they work Saturdays and Sundays? Will the crew be pulled off in the middle of the project to go somewhere else? Will I be contacted in advance for delays or changes in the schedule?
  • How do you operate?
In other words, do you sub everything out or do you have crews to do the work? How reliable are your subcontractors? Will they show up when they promise? Will the jobsite be cleaned everyday?
  • Do you carry workers compensation and liability insurance?
Will you send us a certificate before starting construction? Will you protect the rest of the house and landscaping during construction? Will you be liable for any damages?
  • Are any of your people Certified?
Both the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry have certifications available. This is a good indication of the company’s dedication and professionalism.
  • Ask for references.
Have them give you three references of projects similar to yours and also, references of their last three projects. This way they cannot pick and choose only good references.
  • Will we need a permit for the project?
If the answer is “no”, look for another contractor. All projects must be permitted with the local jurisdiction, no matter how small.
  • How are the progress payments handled?
Be sure you understand what is required as a down payment, how progress payments are handled and be sure you hold out the final 5% to 10% until the project is totally completed.
  • Do you feel comfortable with and trust the person you are dealing with? This is the most important question you can ask! Price is not!

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at rodharrison@christianbuildinginspectors.com. We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote of the Month

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

- Albert Einstein

A Tip Of The Hat To:

Ken Pharr

Re/Max NE Gwinnett

Lilburn, Georgia

**** Thank You****