J. Spencer Cook and Bryan G. Scott | Spilman Thomas & Battle | November 30, 2017
We all remember the litigation nightmare surrounding synthetic stucco or EIFS (exterior insulation finish systems) in the recent past. Now, commentators worry that Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer, also known as manufactured stone veneer (pictured below), when installed improperly, poses the potential to cause widespread litigation similar to EIFS.
In case you do not recall, EIFS became a popular exterior on residential structures in America during the 1980s. However, in the mid-1990s, home inspectors noticed some EIFS-clad homes experienced significant amounts of moisture damage, particularly those on the coast of North and South Carolina. News and media outlets began to widely publicize extensive litigation over EIFS-clad homes.
With the cloud surrounding EIFS, builders shifted to other exterior building materials to provide an upscale and appealing appearance on buildings. Manufactured stone veneer in recent years has seen a dramatic rise in use on residential and commercial buildings because, like EIFS, it enhances a building’s aesthetics by giving it an upscale, trendy, and modern look that many builders and owners seek. Notably, Remodeling Magazine recently published a report noting that adding manufactured stone veneer holds the third best ratio for cost to value received on home remodeling projects. Given these attributes, manufactured stone veneer appears positioned to continue to rise in popularity.
Manufactured stone veneer is a fabricated alternative to using natural stone on either the exterior or interior of homes and is composed of cement, natural aggregate, and iron pigments that are molded into natural-looking stone shapes using molds of natural stones. Manufacturers create manufactured stone veneer to be a lighter weight material than natural stone. Therefore, using manufactured stone veneer is preferable to natural stone because it is less stressful on foundations and does not require additional strengthening of walls or foundations.
Despite manufactured stone veneer’s increase in popularity, some home inspectors worry it will be prone to the same moisture damage risks as EIFS if it is improperly installed. Because manufactured stone veneer is applied in a similar manner as EIFS, improper installation potentially can cause water to infiltrate the veneer. Proper installation of manufactured stone veneer requires implementation of adequate installation protocols to prevent the moisture from becoming trapped behind the stone veneer. Otherwise, a structure will be at risk for mold, rot and other moisture-related structural damage. Proper manufactured stone veneer installation may often require builders to implement additional drainage measures to limit water infiltration. Additionally, manufactured stone veneer is prone to cracking from improper mortar or sealant materials utilized during installation. Any cracking may exacerbate water infiltration and moisture damage issues.
Despite these concerns, manufactured stone is an upscale and value-adding material that, when properly installed, is an effective exterior building material. The Masonry Veneer Manufacturers Association has published an installation guide for the installation of manufactured stone veneer on buildings. Contractors and owners should take care to ensure manufactured stone veneer installed on their projects complies with all manufacturer’s installation requirements, and also meets applicable building codes and industry guidelines.