I knew the wall in this home would be water damaged. Without this hole in the wall, how would you know the wall in your home was rotting? Even more importantly, how would your home inspector know?
This is not a wall cladding failure. As you can see, the EIFS wall cladding looks good. This damage was caused by leakage at and around the window and around the second-story window not shown in this photograph.
Since I have pointed out the cause of the damage, many might suggest the damage was related to improper stucco stops/caulking around the window and they would be partly correct. Some may say the window was probably not wrapped correctly (moisture barrier) and, again, they would be partly correct. However, in this home, the major damage and wood rot was caused by the window frames which have no drainage ports along with poor glazing.
This home sold for over $850,000 and it is a beautiful home in a nice subdivision with a pool and summer kitchen. The home has nice upgrades like wood flooring, cabinetry, granite, and built-ins. It also has standard, builder-grade windows and doors (the builder has to cover upgrade costs somewhere).
The repair cost of this 15-year-old home will be around $220,000 and is not covered by homeowners’ insurance. Homeowners’ insurance does not cover construction defects or neglect. In this case, there are both. Poor window design, poor contractor installation, and neglect on the part of the homeowner to replace the windows; the homeowner knew nothing about the windows when they bought the home less than a year ago. Their home inspector did not mention anything about the windows, but they did tell the homeowner a ceiling fan wasn’t working, the shower needed updated caulking and the oven light wasn’t working. Nice to know but I’m guessing this homeowner could have lived without knowing that.
In the home inspector’s defense, there was no visible evidence of moisture present (which is what the seller said). The home inspector even checked below some windows with a thermal camera and the images did not reveal any possible moisture anomalies (which makes sense but that is a story for another time).
The new homeowner noticed bubbling paint on the interior wall a few months after closing. They hired a handyman to check it out and once the contractor opened the wall they found wood rot, elevated moisture, and mold growth. Two stucco contractors were called in and both said the EIFS wall cladding needed to be completely replaced. A forensics engineering firm was hired, and they provided a report stating the EIFS wall system was not built to building code (but it was). All parties reported the wall cladding would require complete replacement along with repair/replacement of some wall framing but no one ever specifically explained why the damage occurred. No one even mentioned the windows.
Home Inspections in FL
This is not a blog post about the dangers of EIFS wall cladding because there is no danger with EIFS wall cladding. EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System) is a sound building material with a history of performance for over 77 years. It is a great wall cladding product for endurance, and it provides significant energy performance for homes in all climates.
This is a blog post about recognizing window failure. Homeowners are simply unaware of the life expectancy of windows (especially in hot, humid climates like we have in Jacksonville or Orlando, FL). Many homeowners know they should check their windows for deteriorated caulking (but they rarely do). Most homeowners seem to think windows last forever (or at least until they sell the home). Homeowners don’t like to talk about windows because windows are expensive to replace and let’s face it, no one I know of budgets to replace windows based on planned obsolescence. Few people budget to replace anything in their home; we deal with it when we have to.
Was it possible for this homeowner to know the windows were defective before they bought the home? The answer is yes provided they had hired a home inspector with sufficient knowledge and experience on exterior wall construction. This homeowner hired the inspector referred by their real estate agent who may not have any idea about the unique qualifications of the inspectors they refer. Most agents refer inspectors they like rather than who they think, or even know, may be the best inspector.
Homebuyers – Be Aware!
Homebuyers should understand most home inspectors have little or no background in building construction. They complete a 120-hour course (online) and pass a test to receive a license. In Florida, there is no OJT requirement which is mandated in other trades such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, and even septic. It is harder to get a septic contractor license than a home inspector license. In fact, it is harder to get a barber’s license than a home inspector’s license.
The state recognizes this, so the home inspector is only tasked with reporting “visible” damage. In this case, the damage was not visible so there is no claim against the home inspector. The home inspector is not required to know anything about the different grades or quality of window construction, so they are not required to alert you to possible issues or to provide “predictive reporting”.
So, who does this homeowner sue to remedy the problem?
- There is no case against the builder as the home is well over ten years old. In fact, it would be arduous to sue the builder after four years.
- There is no case against the window manufacturer as the windows are warranted for eight years only (builder grade).
- There is no case against the seller. The damage was not visible nor was there evidence the seller covered it up. Personally, I don’t think the seller knew about it.
- There is no case against the home inspector. The damage was not visible.
- There is no case against the real estate agent. Agents don’t have to know anything about home construction and they did advise you to have the home inspected.
- There is no case against the insurance company. They don’t insure latent defects caused by poor construction, neglect, or materials obsolescence.
In this case, the homeowner is on their own. They did notify their insurance carrier who denied the claim and gave them 30 days to correct the problem before their policy would be canceled.
Who To Hire
How can a homebuyer in metro Jacksonville or Orlando protect themselves against catastrophic issues after closing?
- Hire a home inspector who is qualified above a basic home inspector license. We believe experience is critical in a home inspector.
- Hire a home inspector who has a General Contractor/Building Contractor license. Don’t you want your home inspector to have a background in building construction?
- Hire a home inspector who is a Certified Building Inspector. Very important if the home has had major upgrades, renovation or the home is new construction. A home inspector is not licensed to inspect building code.
- Hire a home inspector who is a Certified Level II EIFS/Stucco Inspector. Sadly, most home inspectors have no experience or knowledge in EIFS or Stucco wall claddings.
- Hire a home inspector who emphasizes the major components over minor, cosmetic issues. You can live with a loose doorknob, wobbly ceiling fan, a nail pop in the shingles, or cracks in floor tiles which is where most inexperienced home inspectors spend their time inspecting (anyone can see that). Wouldn’t you rather know about the things which may cost you tens of thousands to replace or repair?
- Don’t hire a home inspector who raves about thermal imaging, mold testing, or free gap warranties on appliances. Focus on finding the most experienced home inspector with a proven background in building construction you can find. You can buy a gap warranty for about $12 if you think it is important (it isn’t).
- Don’t be fooled by home inspectors touting warranties up to $100,000. Hire a home inspector who has Errors & Omissions insurance and if they are negligent, file against their E&O. Don’t be fooled by promises of third-party warranties; you don’t need them. A good home inspector will carry at least $1 million in E&O. Are you willing to forgo $1 million in E&O for the promise of a $100k warranty? Of course not.
Don’t trust your home inspection to an inspector with 120 hours of classroom training. You don’t know what they don’t know!
Hire Experienced & Qualified Home Inspectors
Property360 is one of the most experienced and qualified home inspection firms you will find. We serve the metro Jacksonville and metro Orlando markets. We offer qualified home inspections, commercial building inspections, forensic moisture, termite evaluations, EIFS/stucco assessments, WDO inspections, ADA surveys, phase I environmental site audits, mold assessment and clearance testing, lead paint inspections and manufactured home foundation certifications. Contact us at (904) 606-1570 to request an inspection today!