EIFS and Termites

Unfortunately, EIFS water intrusion and retention isn’t the only thing we have to worry about…we also have to address termites.

Termites… I don’t know about you, but I usually address them as “those damn termites”. 

Their mission…turn your house into sawdust. It’s nothing personal, they just like to eat wood and your house is full of it.  Your mission…make another location more attractive to the little mulch-makers.  Again, nothing personal but you probably like the wood that keeps your house standing instead of collapsing into the basement.

EIFS is abundant In the Southeast US, and so are termites.  “Can’t we all just get along?”,  you ask.  Sure, as long as the termites stay in the ground.

So what’s the problem? 

EIFS looks kind of funny when it stops above the grade, exposing the foundation.  So in the past most builders let it continue down below the soil line. On top of that, many local building codes required builders to insulate concrete foundations.  Foam insulation seemed to be the way to go, especially since it was part of the EIFS system anyway.  It seems like a natural thing to do, but that’s where the termites come in, literally.

Termites like the EIFS system foam.  They don’t like to eat it.   They like to move through it. It gives them cover and freedom of movement so they can get to the “wood buffet” without being harassed by those pesky termite eliminator types.  Because they need a continual source of water and they aren’t fond of sunshine, termites build protective tunnels from the ground to their target so that they can move back and forth.  Being able to spot these tunnels is the main way that pest control technicians detect the presence of the little critters.  It’s a popular myth that pest control guys and home inspectors have X-Ray vision.  But think about it, if the termites are behind the face of the foam they can’t be seen and are free to destroy your home at will.

What to do?

If your home has EIFS or foundation insulation that extends below grade, cut at least a 2″ wide channel through the system that exposes the foundation. It’s not hard to do.   Don’t cut above the top of the foundation.  Also, don’t think that your problems are now solved if you have an EIFS house.  There are numerous reports of termites being supported by water that leaks into EIFS houses.   With a source of water right in the walls, there is no need for them to return to the ground.  And if they arrived at the wall as a flying swarm, there will be no tunnels to detect.  You must have the EIFS properly inspected and eliminate all water intrusion. 

Get a termite bond for your home.

Do not buy a “Retreatment Bond”.  This only provides that the company retreat your home if termites are found during their inspection.  Since the company isn’t on the hook for damages and only has to retreat the soil, the chance of you getting a decent inspection are about nil.  A termite inspection should take about an hour.  My first hand experience from watching dozens of them is an average time of about 10 minutes.

Pay the extra fee and buy a “Damage Repair” bond.  As always, read the contract, especially the exclusions very carefully.  I think you’ll find that you’ll also get a more detailed inspection with this type of bond.  After all, the company will be responsible for damage caused by termites that they don’t identify.

Florida Construction Law

When you are interested in getting construction work contracted out, it opens up a couple of options including directly hiring a contractor or having competing contractors bid to get the construction work. There are also differences in the laws in Florida as far as the contract is concerned in that you could choose between government contracts and non-government contracts.

Splitting Contracts Are Not Allowed

According to Florida construction law there is need to have competitive bidding and it is not possible to split the contract into distinct pieces in a bid to avoid statutory monetary minimum. Furthermore, it is also not possible under Florida construction law for a public body to draw specification in its request for bids whereby just a single bidder would be qualified to win the project.

Also, according to Florida construction law there are three types of payment methods available that include cost-plus, lump sum and unit price. Furthermore, Florida construction law also provides for cases involving substantial performance in which the contractor is in a position to recover the price of the contract minus costs of fixing any minor defects. In a nutshell, these laws in Florida also allows for situations in which the contractor have not in the main performed the duties entrusted to him or her, but who can still under the terms of the contract’s restitution principle recover for work that has been completed.

There is also special such laws in Florida that pertains to modifying the contract and where the law also allows for furnishing additional materials and labor as a trade-off for any additional money which can be considered as being proper consideration. And, there is also a clause in the law regarding mechanic’s lien which is a security device in which any contractor, sub-contractor and even supplier who is unpaid may apply for enforcing payment for services and materials by using the lien process.

Exterior Wall Insulation

Exterior wall insulation is designed to ensure that your home is comfortable throughout the extremes of the differing seasons, keeping your heat inside its walls in the winter and Mother Nature’s out in the summer. Of course, exterior wall insulation also saves you money on those heating and cooling bills, making your home more energy efficient. If your home could use a bit more protection against those cold drafts in the winter, a variety of exterior wall insulation products are available that are relatively easy to install.

If your home is an older one, chances are that your walls are not insulated as effectively as the typical new home. Standards and materials are changing all the time, making exterior wall insulation products used in today’s construction industry much more efficient than those used when older homes were built. Also, exterior wall insulation installed years ago may have settled or degraded, substantially reducing its performance.

The most effective method of determining the status of your exterior wall insulation is through an energy audit, performed by a qualified professional home energy auditor. However, if an audit is not the way you want to go, you can look at your insulation yourself. In unfinished areas, such as the attic or an attached garage, insulation is generally right out in the open, making it easy to identify its type and thickness. To evaluate the exterior wall insulation in finished areas of the home, turning off the power to the electrical outlets in each room will allow you to safely remove them to look inside the wall.

If you discover a need for more exterior wall insulation in your home, loose fill or blow in insulation are good options to consider. These products can provide an effective barrier against the elements with the least possible disturbance to your home, sealing out the worst Mother Nature has to offer for your comfort.

Construction Defect Law

If you are a new contractor or if you are a new home owner then you should know about Construction Defect Law.  As a contractor you would not want to do anything defective to a property that would result in the loss of your business under the Construction Defect Law.  As a homeowner you want to understand what repairs you will generally want to be able to handle and what type of repairs are out of the ordinary.  Everyone expects a building to go through certain wear and tear when people are living it and the building is surviving against the elements, but there are some things that are out of the norm and should be dealt with.

As a new contractor you want to make sure that the work you are doing is going to be of good quality.  Understanding Construction Defect Law you will be able to understand what to expect not to see from your employees.  You want to make sure that when you finish a project as a builder, an electrician, a plumber or any other contractor that you have done the best job possible.  You would also want to be familiar with Construction defect Law in case a homeowner comes to you with an issue.  As a new contractor you are going to need to know if you are held responsible for something going wrong in a structure or if it is out of your hands.

As a homeowner you should be familiar with Construction Defect Law to protect your home and family.  You want to know that if there is an error found in the wiring of your home that the insurance company is in charge of making sure the home gets rewired instead of you shelling out the money when it is not your responsibility.  You also need to know that if there is a mold problem in your new home from trapped water from a poorly installed EIFS system you are protected under Construction Defect Law, unless the water damage comes from a sprinkler routinely spraying the walls of your home.

Construction Defect Law should be known by all parties involved in home building and home owning.  You always want to understand policy and procedure so that you know what is correct.  It is always easier to fix a problem when you know the proper steps and understanding Construction Defect Law is the first step to understanding.

Construction Delay Claims

If you are a building contractor then you understand that things take time to go up and get wired correctly.  If you are a homeowner then you may only be concerned with the final deadline.  If the final deadline gets passed over more than once then the contractor may face construction delay claims.  To prevent this from happening you need to keep open dialogue with your homeowner.

As a construction contractor you may be better with wood then you are with people.  However, as in order to defer construction delay claims you will either need to learn to be great with people or have to hire a secretary who is.  Having someone like a secretary to communicate with clients is a very beneficial thing.  A secretary can prevent construction delay claims by keeping in daily or weekly contact with a homeowner to keep them abreast of everything.  As a contractor this will require very little effort from you as all you will need to do is show your secretary your daily logs.

If you are excellent with people then you will be able to converse with your client very easily.  Keep them up to date on all of the benchmarks of your construction practice.  Most people will not file construction delay claims if you have kept them a part of the process the entire way.  You may have to do more then necessary but then if you run into a snag the client will understand because they have been aware of the process.

Preventing construction delay claims is much easier then sitting through litigation when they arise.  Some people need to be gently handled and like to know everything.  Understand that a construction project is yours but your client may like to micromanage.  Stopping construction delay claims is just a matter of keeping lines of communication open and hoping for good weather so the project does not have to run overtime in the first place.

Law Construction

Whether it is an apartment complex or a government building, an entertainment venue or a high rise office, all buildings must follow certain law construction requirements.  These laws are put in place to ensure the safety of everyone from the beginning construction phases and throughout the building’s lifespan.  One of the first stages of law construction consists of the zoning of the building.  Builders must obtain a number of zoning permits including those that contain noise clauses.  Once a permit is issued, no changes can be made without express written consent from the locality, and often a lawyer has to be involved in order for the change to be made final.  For builders, it is smart to have a legal advisor or even a legal team set in place before construction begins, just in case issues arise later on and things need to be addressed in court.

In rare cases, law construction exceptions can be made, and a lawyer can ask that certain things be exempt from the builder’s requirements.  Usually this process involves paperwork and an appeal to a judge or city official. One may wonder why all of this is so important, and how law construction guidelines are implemented in the first place.  The construction process is a very complex one, and all aspects need to be laid out and examined.  Some of these include budget plans, architectural sketches and floor plans, scheduling of various activities, safety for the workers, material availability, and of course logistics to name a few.  These laws and regulations are necessary to ensure a smooth process and to be positive that when the building is finally done, there are no surprises later on down the road.  With the help of various laws in regards to construction, we can all be sure that our buildings were built properly, legally, and safely.

EIFS Systems

Exterior Insulation Finish Systems were developed in Europe after World War Two.  The EIFS systems were fit onto buildings that had previously had masonry walls.  It was found that EIFS systems were very good at lowering energy costs.  EIFS systems were introduced in the United States in 1960 but did not catch on in popularity until 1970 when the country went through an energy crisis.

EIFS systems were very popular in the United States until the early 1980’s when people began to complain of water damage problems.  Water would penetrate the EIFS systems and create a breeding ground for Black Mold that would multiply and create mycotoxins leading to lung and skin infections.  Once the mold had set into the home or building it was very costly and time consuming to remove.  The EIFS systems companies stand firm in their belief that the problems from the 1980’s lawsuits were not from faulty products but from faulty insulation.

As building codes changes EIFS systems with drainage became more popular especially on wood frame buildings.   The popularity at the moment brings sales of EIFS systems to more than 200 million square feet per year.  There are many new buildings and homes out there on the market today that you would not even know that they are EIFS system finished because the look if an EIFS system is so smooth.  It is amazing what a new EIFS system can do to rejuvenate a business.

The wonderful thing today is that the makers of EIFS systems want to prevent any problems like there were in the 80’s and therefore are making sure that EIFS systems are being sold in much better condition than before.  EIFS systems are now being put on the market with the adhesives and coatings necessary to ensure a quality finish.  Let the history of EIFS systems change the history of your home or business.

Construction Claim

When a home is being built there are numerous inspections conducted throughout the construction process. Beginning with the foundation and continuing until the new owners take possession of the building, countless inspections occur on virtually every aspect of the construction. A construction claim can be filed by the owners if, after talking possession, they find a problem with the house that should have been caught by one of the many inspectors.

In most states, once a building’s plans have been completed they are reviewed by engineers for the structural integrity, electric, water, sewer, heating, ventilation, air condition and all other aspects of the project. A construction claim can result if anything that was approved by the engineers and a subsequent state review and the contractor does not follow the plans in every respect. For example, if the contractor allows the use of a lighter gauge wire in the interior electrical system that was called for in the approved plans, a construction claim can be filed to have the inferior product removed and the appropriate one installed.

In some cases a construction claim is filed for what the owner believes to have been an error on the contractor’s part, when it reality it may have been an engineering mistake. For this example, consider cement used in basements or in foundations. If the engineering review and state review indicates a five-bag mix will be sufficient for a six-inch concrete slab, which is then installed and the slab develops cracks, a construction claim against the contractor will not stand up in court.

Many states place a time limit on filing a construction claim against the contractor and most new homes have a one year warranty in which to file claims. However, if some major disaster occurs, such as a fire or major plumbing leak, everyone from the homeowner on to the builder will be looking for someone to blame.

Electrical fires, while not overly common do occur, and in many cases it is a result of too much being expected of a single outlet, caused by the homeowner. In others cases, a faulty breaker or fuse that should have opened the circuit failed to do so, causing the blaze that destroyed the home. In these cases a construction claim may not be possible, and instead will end up seeking restitution from the manufacturers of the fuse or breaker.

EIFS or Stucco

So, how do you know if you have EIFS or some other product?  EIFS looks like stucco and stucco looks like EIFS.  Here are a few tips to determine which product that you have.  This info does not apply to the newer drainage type systems which started to show up in late 1997,

1.  Ask your Builder for documentation.   This probably won’t work but if you can get it, do.

2.  Inspect a penetration through the wall.   Many times penetrations aren’t sealed the way they are supposed to be.  This may afford a look at a “cross section” of the system. 

The hard “stucco” layer (lamina) of EIFS is thin, usually between 1/8″ and 1/16″.  Traditional stucco is hard all the way through and is typically 5/8″-1″ thick.

Embedded in the lamina of EIFS is a fiberglass mesh.  It looks kind of like window screen, except the openings are larger.   It’s made in a number of colors.  The mesh in traditional stucco is made of heavy wire, usually in a diamond pattern.

EIFS is typically applied to either white or yellow foam. These foam panels are attached to the sheathing.  Traditional stucco is applied over building (tar) paper which is applied directly to the sheathing.

The total thickness (not counting sheathing) of EIFS can be from 1″-4″, depending on foam thickness.  The total thickness of traditional stucco is usually 5/8″-1″ thick.

3.  When I want to know which it is, I just probe it.  Remember that thin lamina that EIFS has?  Well, this will allow you to drive an ice pick or similar tool through it relatively easily.  You may have to give it a few taps with a hammer, but when you penetrate the first 1/16″ or so of lamina, the tool will glide through the foam.  Try driving anything lighter than a jackhammer through traditional stucco and you’re in for a workout. Your workout will continue for about 3/4of an inch.

A Hint:  Don’t just start poking holes willy-nilly.  Most of the decorative trim at windows, doors, and corners is EIFS on newer houses, even on traditional stucco houses.  These details should be applied over the stucco, instead of the stucco butting to it.  If the stucco does butt against the EIFS, you may have a problem.  Don’t probe below the top of the foundation.  Sometimes the EIFS will change to stucco at this point.  Find an area in the “field” of a wall. Speaking of walls, don’t check a retaining wall.   Make sure the wall contains wood framing.  Look for an out of the way spot that isn’t noticeable and has some protection from the weather.  I like to probe just below a piece of protruding trim.  Be sure and caulk the hole when you’re done.

That’s it!  See, that wasn’t so hard. (unless it was stucco of course)

Construction Claims

A construction claim is a claim brought by a contractor against the party hiring the contractor requesting additional money due to a change in the terms of the contract.  Many changes in the contract are done innocently, however it often costs the contractor money that he is unable to make up without issuing a claim.  A quick example would be the contractor hiring a crane to come in a certain date to move a heavy piece of machinery into a building.  If the night before the other party calls to say that they aren’t ready for the crane yet, the contractor will be out a lot of money, not through any fault of their own.

One of the easiest ways to avoid construction claims is to make sure that both parties are very well informed of what the other is doing.  If any potential delays are expected, the other side should be told as far ahead as possible to reduce the money it may cost for the delay.  The more open both sides are, the easier the whole construction job becomes.  The unfortunate truth is that most contracts are written by lawyers and can only be read by other lawyers which make it difficult for the two sides to know what is explicitly spelled out in the contract.

There are 3 general rules you should follow to limit the number of construction claims you have to deal with.  First of all, know exactly what the contract says.  Know what msut be done by what deadline.  Secondly, do exactly what the contract requires.  By doing your half of the contract you ensure the other side can’t make a claim against you.  Lastly, talk about any potential changes as soon as possible.  The sooner you tell the other party the quicker they can take to limit any monetary damages the change causes.