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Cultured stone install minus vapor barrier?


Brandon Whitmore
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I've got a house that has cultured stone installed up against what appears to be a treated plywood, and it looks like the WRB was omitted. The areas of concern are along the covered porch perimeter where steps tie into the wall and along the outside perimeter.

I don't like it, but am not 100% sure as to whether the installation is allowed.

Here's some pictures, what do you guy's think?

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After laying up stone for quite a few years, I'm not crazy about synthetic stone to begin with, but I've never seen a simulated dry-stack synthetic stone install I liked. It seems to me, that in such an application there really ought to be a drainage plane behind it, like with a lot of synthetic stuccos. These set ups are bound to result in future moisture intrusion problems.

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After laying up stone for quite a few years, I'm not crazy about synthetic stone to begin with, but I've never seen a simulated dry-stack synthetic stone install I liked. It seems to me, that in such an application there really ought to be a drainage plane behind it, like with a lot of synthetic stuccos. These set ups are bound to result in future moisture intrusion problems.

True.

The same rules that apply to keeping brick dry should apply to stone as well.

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Nor have I (in my mind). The installs I see look so vulnerable. I don't like them. I'm surprised that no one has ever come out strongly against present methods and proposed systems akin to those for synthetic stucco.

The last time I was up in PA at a seminar, I visited a company that develops flashings and vapor retarder systems to go behind exterior finishes, and spoke to one of the owners about this very subject. He readily admitted, as a moisture intrusion specialist, that synthetic stone installations are every bit as disastrous as the old synthetic stucco installations were. He showed me a system in their shop that he felt was suitable, but it doesn't seem that anyone has risen up to blow the whistle on how bad the "dry stack" synthetic stone system really is. In my mind it's basically worthless - kinda like how a failing cedar shake roof is suddenly relying on felt paper to perform... Heck, sometimes on those synthetic stone systems you can actually SEE the felt paper, and felt paper fails pretty quickly when exposed to the elements.

Bottom line, every time I see a "dry stack look" synthetic stone application, I tell the home buyers to contact the manufacturer and make certain that everything has been done according to the manufacturer's recommendations before they own the place. And, if it hasn't, understand that there is probably ongoing moisture intrusion and structural damage. As a home inspector, this system scares me every bit as much as synthetic stucco does.

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Nor have I (in my mind). The installs I see look so vulnerable. I don't like them. I'm surprised that no one has ever come out strongly against present methods and proposed systems akin to those for synthetic stucco.

The last time I was up in PA at a seminar, I visited a company that develops flashings and vapor retarder systems to go behind exterior finishes, and spoke to one of the owners about this very subject. He readily admitted, as a moisture intrusion specialist, that synthetic stone installations are every bit as disastrous as the old synthetic stucco installations were. He showed me a system in their shop that he felt was suitable, but it doesn't seem that anyone has risen up to blow the whistle on how bad the "dry stack" synthetic stone system really is. In my mind it's basically worthless - kinda like how a failing cedar shake roof is suddenly relying on felt paper to perform... Heck, sometimes on those synthetic stone systems you can actually SEE the felt paper, and felt paper fails pretty quickly when exposed to the elements.

Bottom line, every time I see a "dry stack look" synthetic stone application, I tell the home buyers to contact the manufacturer and make certain that everything has been done according to the manufacturer's recommendations before they own the place. And, if it hasn't, understand that there is probably ongoing moisture intrusion and structural damage. As a home inspector, this system scares me every bit as much as synthetic stucco does.

Read the MVMA guidelines book (liked above someplace). It's essentially a stucco applicator's application manual with the words stucco replaced with masonry veneer. Same rules for termination beads, weeps screeds, double layer of paper, wire lath, flashings, 6" clearance from grade, 2" clearance from hardscaping, etc..

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Nor have I (in my mind). The installs I see look so vulnerable. I don't like them. I'm surprised that no one has ever come out strongly against present methods and proposed systems akin to those for synthetic stucco.

The last time I was up in PA at a seminar, I visited a company that develops flashings and vapor retarder systems to go behind exterior finishes, and spoke to one of the owners about this very subject. He readily admitted, as a moisture intrusion specialist, that synthetic stone installations are every bit as disastrous as the old synthetic stucco installations were. He showed me a system in their shop that he felt was suitable, but it doesn't seem that anyone has risen up to blow the whistle on how bad the "dry stack" synthetic stone system really is. In my mind it's basically worthless - kinda like how a failing cedar shake roof is suddenly relying on felt paper to perform... Heck, sometimes on those synthetic stone systems you can actually SEE the felt paper, and felt paper fails pretty quickly when exposed to the elements.

Bottom line, every time I see a "dry stack look" synthetic stone application, I tell the home buyers to contact the manufacturer and make certain that everything has been done according to the manufacturer's recommendations before they own the place. And, if it hasn't, understand that there is probably ongoing moisture intrusion and structural damage. As a home inspector, this system scares me every bit as much as synthetic stucco does.

Read the MVMA guidelines book (liked above someplace). It's essentially a stucco applicator's application manual with the words stucco replaced with masonry veneer. Same rules for termination beads, weeps screeds, double layer of paper, wire lath, flashings, 6" clearance from grade, 2" clearance from hardscaping, etc..

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

You know, Mike, the part that bugs me the most about the stone systems is meeting windows and doors with such a chopped up surface. It is a real challenge to construct a proper transition with backer rods and sealant. But I agree, all the same stuff applies, and if I were going to have it on my home, I would definitely have a drainage plane behind it.

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You know, Mike, the part that bugs me the most about the stone systems is meeting windows and doors with such a chopped up surface. It is a real challenge to construct a proper transition with backer rods and sealant. But I agree, all the same stuff applies, and if I were going to have it on my home, I would definitely have a drainage plane behind it.

But it's not really a challenge if you terminate the stuff properly with proper accessories so that you have a smooth consistent edge to transition to.

Around here, they've finally begun using flashings and terminating above grade and hardscaping in many of these installs but most are still not using proper termination accessories at the vertical joints and I'm still writing them up.

Here's a good product that would work if they'd use it.

http://www.emseal.com/Products/Architec ... erseal.htm

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Brandon, besides the stone issues, I don't see any ventilation for that composite decking. I know it sounds like a seperate issue, but there are several points of contact between the stone and the composite and bound up and overheated boards will exert enough pressure on the veneer to break stones and create addition points of entry for moisture. That system can't cope with any amount of water as it is, no need to introduce more.

How old is the building? If it's as new as it looks, I'll bet you a donut that the screwed up details on the building are screwed up, or missing altogether, on the plans. It's bad enough that there are builders out there botching stuff like this, but there is an alarming number of 'home designers' and 'architects' that don't bother to read the directions either.

Tom

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Thanks Tom,

The place was built around 2007.

I did write up the lack of ventilation, but didn't even consider the expansion and contraction in the comp. boards-- tunnel vision I guess.

My main concern with the lack of a WRB at the porch skirting is that the plywood will still swell up quite a bit when wet-- I guess they'll find out down the road if it will be a problem, seeing as how the HOA covers all of the exterior stuff.

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I guess they'll find out down the road if it will be a problem, seeing as how the HOA covers all of the exterior stuff.

Ask the HOA, but I bet they already have. It explains the lack of quality work. In that scenario the HOA wants the buildings to look the same, but the repairs and maintenance to be as cheap as possible. It's amazing they can't figure out that it's cheaper to do it right than it is to keep doing it over.

Tom

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