Potted plants outside a window of stucco building

Stucco Inspections

There are two main types of stucco inspections.

The more complete is called a Moisture Intrusion Inspection and the lesser is the limited Visual Only Inspection. The majority of our clients need the information that the full moisture intrusion evaluation provides, yet we understand that inspection costs are important. Consider both services and weigh the value that each will provide. You can order the Visual Only and then pay a return fee for the full Moisture Intrusion Inspection later. This inspection is recommended to all clients who want to know the condition of the structure behind their stucco. The report will provide stucco identification, a visual inspection identifying system details and omissions, as well as the probing results and moisture content levels. This is more expensive, but it provides you with the needed information about the structure.

What is EIFS?

​EIFS, or Exterior Insulated Finishing Systems, (sometimes referred to as “synthetic stucco”) are wall systems that incorporate insulation with the exterior cladding and were invented in Europe after 1947. German engineers formulated a variety of materials utilizing polymer chemistry around the same time. These modern materials were based on plastics technology and were soon brought together to form what is known as an EIFS wall system.

The use of the product became very popular due to its physical, aesthetic, and economical characteristics. The rebuilding of Europe after the Second World War spawned widespread usage of these systems that worked well with construction standards at that time. Typical construction of residential dwellings in Europe consisted of a masonry structure and then the application of an EIFS wall system. The first commercial producer of EIFS in Europe was the Sto Corporation.

The first project in the United States was begun in Rhode Island in 1969. The introduction stage lasted up until about 1976. During this time, one company, the Dryvit Co., manufactured and marketed the product in this country. Application was primarily in the commercial market.

From 1976 to 1990, substantial growth occurred in this industry. Additional competition entered the marketplace and projects were completed which received national attention from the industry press. The manufacture and installation of EIFS wall systems were becoming known as an industry and there was significant development as a result of increased competition.

Today EIFS buildings account for nearly 17% of the commercial market and about 3% of the residential market.

EIFS is a non-load-bearing exterior wall finishing system that gives the building a stucco-like appearance. The system typically consists of four components:
  • Panels of expanded polystyrene foam insulation glued and screwed to the substrate or vapor barrier.
  • A base coat that is troweled over the foam insulation panels.
  • A glass fiber reinforcing mesh that is laid over the polystyrene insulation panels and fully embedded in the base coat, and a finish coat that is troweled over the base coat and the reinforcing mesh. The base coat, mesh and finish coat are usually 1/8 to _ inches thick. This is also called the lamina.
There are two basic types of EIFS currently in use in this country, barrier and water-managed (or drainage). Barrier EIFS is designed to divert all water from the exterior surface. Water-managed EIFS assumes that some water will penetrate the surface and incorporates redundant water-management features (flashing, weeping, drainage plane, and water-durable substrates) to ensure that water that penetrates the exterior finish will quickly exit the system. Most EIFS clad homes in the U.S. are barrier EIFS systems.

The advantage of EIFS as a finishing system is that it is energy efficient and economical to install. Regrettably, barrier EIFS systems have been found to have problems, often severe, with moisture intrusion. In 1995, building inspectors in Wilmington, North Carolina discovered severe moisture damage on hundreds of EIFS clad homes in that area. Similar problems have since been discovered on EIFS clad homes in other parts of the country, resulting in class-action lawsuits against the EIFS manufacturers. In some cases, removal of the EIFS cladding has revealed extensive water damage to the framing, compromising the buildings’ structural integrity.

Because the EIFS system is practically watertight, water that penetrates behind the EIFS sheathing does not readily evaporate. The barrier EIFS system is designed to allow for small amounts of water vapor, but the system does not allow larger amounts of moisture to readily evaporate. Water can become trapped and can be absorbed into the substrate and framing. Unlike more traditional facades, there is normally no secondary barrier (house wrap or building paper) installed behind the EIFS to protect the sheathing or framing. Severe damage could occur without any exterior signs. These problems can exist regardless of the age of the building or the quality of construction. Some of our inspections have revealed extensive damage to buildings’ substrate and framing, of which the homeowners were completely unaware. If problem areas are identified, preventative measures can be taken before damage occurs, or before it becomes extensive enough to jeopardize the structural integrity of the building. Early detection and prevention of moisture intrusion can save thousands of dollars in repairs later on.

Water does not usually enter through the EIFS system itself, but through penetrations in the EIFS. The most common areas of moisture intrusion are around windows and doors, at the intersections between the EIFS and the roof, and areas where the EIFS has been penetrated by attachments such as mailboxes, shutters, decorative molding, roof gutters, railings, deck attachments, vents, chimney caps over EIFS clad chimneys, and utility lines and pipes. Meticulous attention to attachment of penetrations is essential to prevent water intrusion. EIFS systems also depend heavily on sealants to keep moisture from getting behind the system. If the sealant is inappropriate, decayed, damaged, or missing, water intrusion may occur. Moisture intrusion may also occur if the EIFS itself is cracked or damaged.

An EIFS moisture inspection is intended to identify areas of high moisture content in the sheathing and framing, identify areas where the substrate has already been damaged by water, and identify areas of potential moisture intrusion. Often, an EIFS moisture inspection will detect leaks that are not related to the EIFS system at all. For example, our inspectors have located plumbing leaks, roof leaks, and leaks from shower and bathtub enclosures during EIFS inspections.

There are standard inspection protocols governing EIFS inspections, but each building must be evaluated independently. The nature and scope of the inspection may change according to what is discovered. The inspection may take several hours, and may even span more than one day.

Before the inspection, the buyer, homeowner, Insurance Company, or other client is asked to complete a survey detailing what specific areas of concern should be addressed, any problems that have been seen, and other information about the building. When the EIFS inspection occurs as a result of a real estate sale, the EIFS inspector should coordinate with the home inspector and the termite inspector to share information and findings. After the inspection, a customized report is prepared for the homeowner or client, including recommendations about maintaining an EIFS building to minimize the risk of water damage.

In a standard EIFS inspection, a non-intrusive moisture scanner (Tramex Wet Wall Detector®) is used to identify areas of probable high moisture content. In areas where the scanner indicates high moisture content probability a probe moisture meter (Tramex® Professional Moisture Meter for Wood) is inserted to test for the moisture content of the substrate and to test for damage to the substrate. The probe moisture meter is also used at random locations throughout the system, and in areas where potential moisture intrusion typically occurs, such as near windows. High moisture content in the probe reading indicates that water intrusion has indeed occurred, and may be causing structural damage to the building. If the probe indicates that the substrate is soft, this could be a sign that significant damage has already occurred. The probe moisture meter will make small ice pick-sized holes in the EIFS, which are then sealed by the inspector with an industry-approved sealant.

If the probe moisture meter indicates high moisture content, or if areas of the soft substrate are found, it may be necessary or advisable to conduct a more invasive inspection. This will involve removing sections of the EIFS to physically inspect the substrate or framing. Sometimes significant damage is discovered, which, if not repaired, could jeopardize the building’s structural integrity.

Annual inspections of EIFS buildings are recommended by the industry, including all of the systems manufacturers and the National Association of Home Builders, to minimize the risk of serious damage and to identify potential problems before they become serious. Be sure to utilize the services of an EDI (Exterior Design Institute) and EIMA (EIFS Industry Members Association) certified EIFS inspector.

Quality Stucco inspections require extensive experience, training, and technology. Our company is the area leader in each of these categories. We are East Tennessee’s oldest property inspection and diagnostic service, providing over 13,000 residential and commercial inspections to our communities. The Exterior Design Institute establishes the highest standards for the certification of EIFS industry consultants and professionals as third-party inspectors for government agencies, manufacturers, existing inspection services, and code agencies, as well as quality assurance programs for applicators, general contractors, and building owners. By setting rigorous academic and ethical benchmarks, the Institute issues credentials that establish the professionals it trains, as the standard for all EIFS and building exteriors applicators and inspectors

EIFS Inspector Training- Exterior Design Institute Moisture Analysis Training Includes Types of EIFS, OCS, sealants, flashing, application, new construction inspection, MD, barrier, sheathing, and substrates. Inspection equipment, building wraps, inspection procedures, reporting, and technical considerations. The Exterior Design Institute is the leader in Stucco/EIFS training. Students are required to pass very rigid standards to qualify as a Stucco/ Moisture Analyst. Do yourself a favor and put your trust in the experience, training, and technology leader… Tennessee Building Inspections.

What You Should Know

The important thing to remember about exterior claddings is that ALL types of sidings can leak. The skin or siding of a structure is not a waterproofing system, but a water-shedding system. The difference with some of the EIFS “barrier” systems is the moisture is “trapped” and not able to dry out or escape to the atmosphere like other cladding systems. Newer water managed or “drainable” EIFS systems have a drainage plane similar to house wraps and are also designed to allow water to escape or exit the system before it can do damage to the underlying materials.

The good news is that we can help you identify your EIFS system, evaluate the current condition and design a management or warranty plan for the future protection of your home. As Certified Moisture Warranty Inspectors we can help you increase the value and confidence in the EIFS clad home you own or are looking to purchase. For more information on the EIFS WARRANTY PROGRAM, visit: www.moisturefreewarranty.com

The Positives
Did you know that EIFS clad homes are up to 20% more energy efficient than other cladding systems?

EIFS wraps the exterior in an energy-efficient thermal blanket. By insulating outside the structure, EIFS reduces air infiltration, stabilizes the interior environment, and reduces energy consumption.

By contrast, traditional “between-the-studs” insulation, no matter how thick, leaves “thermal breaks” — gaps where heat and cold pass more freely between the outdoors and the space within — at studs, wall outlets, wall joints, and elsewhere.

EIFS can reduce air infiltration by as much as 55% compared to standard brick or wood construction. And since walls are one of the greatest areas of heat and air conditioning loss, improvement in the wall insulation can be very meaningful in terms of energy conservation.

What’s more, EIFS adds to the “R-value” of a home or building. (R-value is a measurement of the resistance to heat flow; the higher the R-value, the better the material’s insulating value.) Most EIFS use insulation board with an R-value of R-4 to R-5.6 per inch as the innermost layer in the wall system. When combined with standard wall cavity insulation, this extra layer can boost wall insulation from R-11 to R-16 or more.

Our Services

EIFS Moisture Inspections

The most common inspection we perform involves evaluating EIFS/Stucco Systems for potential moisture intrusion. We provide this service in 3 steps:
  1. Visual Analysis and Non Destructive Testing
  2. Moisture Probing and Damage Mapping
  3. Thorough Reporting Methods
1. Visual Analysis and Non-Destructive Moisture Surveys
The first step in any EIFS / Stucco evaluation involves a thorough evaluation of the stucco system used including the exterior components (doors, windows, guttering, exterior drainage, landscaping, etc.), and note any potential areas that are at risk for moisture penetration. We then follow that up with non-destructive moisture evaluations with our Tramex Wet Wall Detector and document our findings.

2. Moisture Probing, Material Analysis, and Damage Mapping
The next step involves probing the areas we checked with the Tramex that showed the potential for high moisture in the stucco system. With the permission of the owner, we conduct a thorough moisture content test with the Delmhorst BD-2100 moisture probe. High moisture levels (above 30% are then checked for structural resistance of the substrate. We evaluate the substrate as FIRM OR SOFT to indicate the damage level due to moisture. Damage mapping involves probing the areas we confirm as SOFT to indicate how large the damaged area might be. This could save the owner thousands on repairs costs.

3. Reporting
The high readings, along with the specific location of the readings, should be noted in the report. This is necessary so that in the future, the readings can be referenced for a follow-up test. A reference for future testing should be indicated in the report. The time frame should be approximately 6-18 months. The report should indicate the following concerning the readings:
  • 10-19% – Moisture is present in the wall. Additional sealant at the specific area should be sufficient.
  • 20-29% – The source of the water intrusion should be identified, if possible. Appropriate corrective action should be taken to stop the entrance of the water. In many cases, a particular detail may be corrected, or additional sealant installed as a satisfactory corrective measure.
  • 30%+ – This is the fiber saturation point of wood, the level at which decay rapidly begins to occur. The EIFS in these areas should be removed so that the framing can be inspected for indications of rot or decay. Any damaged areas should be repaired or replaced, as necessary.
The problem areas will be identified in the report. We use the Report Maker Pro system for our report software. Report Maker Pro is specifically designed for EIFS/Stucco reporting and is recommended by Moisture Free.

4. Warranty Programs
​As Certified Moisture Warranty Inspectors we can help you increase the value and confidence in the EIFS clad home you own or are looking to purchase. For more information on the EIFS WARRANTY PROGRAM visit: www.moisturefreewarranty.com. If you have any questions regarding our inspection procedure for EIFS clad homes please contact our office: 865-970-4363.
Thermal Imaging and Camera

Thermal Imaging

Infrared Building Diagnostics

Reducing operating costs, such as building maintenance expenses and heating and cooling bills, is a primary concern for managers of commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings. The only method proven successful for identifying energy losses is infrared thermal imaging.

Infrared thermal imaging, or Thermography, can provide a visual representation of the surface temperatures of any part of a building, including windows, walls, roofs, doors, and any construction joint. Differences in temperatures (Delta-T) can often reveal conditions that may contribute to wasted energy and significantly reduce operating costs.

Advancements in technology have brought more accurate inspections of building systems. Our Thermal Imaging equipment allows us to see large areas to pinpoint damages that would not otherwise be found.

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Moisture Intrusion

Moisture is the number one cause of damage expense to a building. Thermal imaging can provide visual evidence and represent the area of moisture without removing the materials. Infrared thermal imaging is instrumental in finding the cause of the moisture in roofs, siding, plumbing systems, foundations, and mechanical equipment malfunctions.
Lit up circuit breaker

​Electrical System Inspections

Excess heat means trouble for electrical systems. High temperatures can indicate several major problems with electrical equipment, including excessive electrical resistance, failing components, ground faults, or short circuits. Finding these problems and failures may prevent costly repairs or even catastrophic failures. Visual and manual inspections are not sufficient for detecting these problems, but infrared technology is an accurate and cost-effective way to quickly locate the underlying problems.

What can be detected
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​​Infrared Roofing Inspections

​Most commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings in the United States constructed today are flat roof structures. Millions of square feet of roofs are installed every year, and studies have revealed that an estimated 40% of these structures will develop problems within the first year of installation. When correctly installed and maintained, a roof can last as long as twenty years; however, the average life span of these roofs is often closer to only seven years due to installation and maintenance problems.

Replacing a roof can cost $8-10 per square foot, including disposal costs. Premature failure of roofs costs billions of dollars every year. Preventative maintenance can save bundles of money, by prolonging the life of a roof. The best method available today for testing a building’s structural integrity and revealing problems is infrared testing, or thermography.

A flat roof is constructed with a deck, insulation, and a membrane. The membrane is typically constructed of layers of roofing felt bonded together, or a rubber or plastic sheet anchored by a stone ballast. The membrane is in place to keep water and moisture away from the roof deck and insulation.
Thermal view of building roof

​Commercial & Residential Infrared Flat Roof Inspections

thermal image of building in neighborhood

Structural Energy Loss

The infrared / thermal audit is a scan of the homes interior and exterior structure, including walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and doors. When the conditions are right the infrared camera will show different thermal patterns based on the radiation emitted from the object we are scanning. I’m specifically trained to recognize anomalies in those images and can quickly tell you if it is related to insulation or air infiltration defects. We are finding significant energy loss issues due to poor installation. The Infrared / Thermal Audit can save you many times the cost of the service. In the course of the audit we may find other issues related to moisture, heat, equipment failure, and more. At that time we will provide you with and option for a whole house infrared inspection a a significant discount.
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Energy Audits

Performed by a Certified Building Analyst Professional
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Moisture and Mold

We solve moisture issues related to
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​Moisture Diagnostics

Eight of the top twelve issues found during a property inspection involve moisture-related problems. Excessive moisture comes from many sources and must be eliminated or managed to prevent damage to the building’s components and health issues for occupants. We use Infrared Thermography to survey areas of concern and follow up with highly specialized moisture meters to determine the extent of moisture penetration, concentration, and possible damage.
Aerial view of luxury property

Aerial Inspections

We've upgraded to top-quality aerial inspection expertise.

Our newest technology is an Inspire commercial quality drone. With a maximum range of over 1000 feet and 40 minutes of flight time, we are more than well-equipped for anything our clients may need in aerial inspection and documentation.

Services include: