New'ish' home massive water intrusion.

riddeiAugust 22, 2007

This is a cross-post from the home disasters forum.

It was suggested that I post this information here. Bottom line is, don't for a second skimp on proper water drainage and flashing!

I'm not going to post pictures yet, but be advised I can put my head through the holes in the rotten OSB! Pictures don't do it justice.

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Is the OSB the problem? We're not allowing any OSB or MDF to be used in our new house. Exterior grade plywood only on the structural and exterior parts.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 9:51AM
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There was a person who used to post here, I think her name was Suzy Snowflake, who had the exact same problem as you and had to essentially rebuild her 3-year old home. Hopefully Suzy will see your post. She also had a web site that detailed their problems which might help you. Pinktoes, OSB is not the problem. The problem is contractors who don't know what they are doing and inproperly install flashing (or fail to install it at all, etc.) If Suzy posts link to her website, you will see what causes problems like this. The trouble for a person buying a house, is that these defects are mostly hidden. Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 10:01AM
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Here's the link to Suziesnowflakes' house pictures. It is imperative that windows and doors be properly installed and that roofs have proper flashing. I think that suziesnowflake left this forum because someone posted a question and pictures of the windows of her new house and it was obvious from the pictures that the windows were improperly installed and that there would be water instrusion in the future for that homeowner and suzie pointed that out, but the homeowner got mad because she was only interested in aesthetics, not whether her windows were properly installed and said some nasty things to suzie. Unfortunately, as the OP of this thread has learned, it is possible to build a beautiful looking house that is a disaster waiting to happen.

Here is a link that might be useful: suziesnowflakes water instrusion

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 10:19AM
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Thanks for posting this. So many times on here people post pictures of inadequate flashing done by builders, but they are afraid to confront their builder over it. This shows why it is so important to take care of it BEFORE the damage occurs.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 4:28PM
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That's not Suzie's house. It's Lisa's house...I think she goes by lkplatow on here. Lisa is on another forum that I go too as well, and she will jump in to tell you how important proper drainage is.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 10:02PM
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Suzie...Lisa. Whatever.

A very instructive site and pictures that illustrate what's going on in undoubtedly thousands of homes with improperly designed EIFS. Let alone all the other moisture-inducing defects that are SOP for many builders.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 10:58PM
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Oh, I see it's stucco over OSB. You gotta be kidding!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 11:01PM
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Thanks for remembering me. I haven't really left the forum, every so often I come back to see if builders are still just as incompetent as they used to be and, sure enough, they are. I don't post much any more because I am trying to move on with my life and put the six years of our homebuilding/legal nightmare behind me and focus my attention where it belongs - on my family.

The link mentioned in a post above is for Lisa's house, however, it might as well be my house because ours had the same kinds of problems. Our house, however, was NOT stucco or EIFS - it was plain old cedar siding. Our builder was/is an idiot and did not install any flashing at all. Of course, our house leaked like a sieve. A few hundred thousand dollars later - paid to many incompetent contractors, a very few good ones and a few incompetent attorneys - and our house is finally well built. We may never recover financially, but our house will remain standing long after I am gone.

Our builder caused extreme harm to us financially and emotionally. Yes, I am still bitter about what he did to us. And, yes, our builder still builds crappy homes and gets away with it every day. He is the only person I have ever labeled "evil" - because it suits him.

As the OP stated, water management is crucial. The flashing and drainage plane MUST be done perfectly. There is NO room for error (or deliberate short cutting). Very, very few builders in this country do it correctly and even fewer municipal building inspectors know how it should be done (or, perhaps the slipping of a few dollars into the hand makes them look the other way, if they bother to show up at the construction site at all).

The only hope homeowners have is to learn how the work should be done themselves and to then hire structural engineers to inspect the house several times during construction - BEFORE the walls get covered up by drywall or siding. Homeowners simply CANNOT trust the builder or the building inspectors to insure a well built home. Doing so may lead to heartache and you may find yourself six years later still bitter venting on a homebuilding forum to warn other innocent home buyers.

I know there will be several contractors who find this post offensive. Tough. I don't really care about offending incompetent contractors. The good ones will know that I am telling the truth and they will share their knowledge. Don't worry though - construction is not the only field that has an overwhelming number of incompetent people - the legal field is overflowing with corruption and incompetence too.

To those who assume that we must have hired the lowest bidder - you couldn't be more wrong. Ours was a high-end custom home and we selected the highest bidder - a small, custom home builder recommended by our architect. All of our builder's references said he was wonderful - the only things we could have done to be clued into his dishonesty and incompetence would have been to hire a private investigator before signing with him and to hire structural engineers to inspect the houses he had under construction at the time - they would have easily identified him as an incompetent, dishonest builder.

To the OP - please determine early on just how much money you are willing to throw away on the legal process. Please do not count on ever recovering your losses - you have a better chance at winning the lottery.

For those who want to make sure that their house will last longer than the mortgage, here are some good websites to begin to learn how flashing and drainage planes should be done:

If you have already fallen victim to a dishonest and/or incompetent builder, you can find the support of other victims at

The very best resource I know of on the internet is a photo album assembled by one of the very, very few good builders in this country - Rollie Peschon. Rollie follows good construction practices and was kind enough to capture them in photos so that others might learn how to build well built homes (thank you Rollie!). Here is the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Rollie's Photo Album of Good Construction Practices

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 12:06AM
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Thank you for your posts.

We had the typical home inspection done (the one's that Real Estate agents recommend). A home inspector and a "Professional Engineer" are two different animals. I'm sure there are good home inspectors, but I will only use a P.E. for future purposes. Also, I would think long and hard about buying another spec. home (80% complete w/ siding installed).

The important thing for us, is to get our house back into the shape that it should have been in the beginning. We have found a builder we have confidence in. We will be moving forward to button things up before the winter. Thank you to both Suzy & Lisa for posting very helpful information.

Please, please, please!!! If you are building a new house insist on using best practices for wind driven rain protection. I only hope that when we take the rest of the cedar siding, Tyvek, windows, OSB, insulation, framing, joists, etc., etc. off, we don't find even more damage than our $70,000 - $100,000 estimate suggests. Keep in mind this is on top of the $80(+)K improvements that we made in the three years since we bought our *new* home.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:07AM
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I have posted on this forum several times regarding EIFS and water intrusion. As you all can see, proper flashing and drainage planes are not exclusive to EIFS or stucco. Water will get behind any substrate (whether siding, brick or stucco) -- it's the nature of water. It's almost impossible to get your home so tight that water will not get in somewhere (if it's that tight you have a whole other issue). The idea is to give the water a place to drain and also to use a breathable membrane applied over the sheathing to keep moisture and air from penetrating it. There are many products on the market that contractors can use. The link below gives detail on just one of those products manufactured by Sto.

I hate to hear stories like Suzie's and Lisa's. It's obvious both were victims of poor construction practices. It wasn't the siding choice that caused the problem so homeowners can not assume that choosing, for example, brick or vinyl over EIFS or wood will ensure that they won't get water damage.

The purpose of this forum is to gain information and learn from each other so we don't fall victim to shoddy workmanship. With the help of my EIFS-contractor DH, I am trying to not only defend our trade but to inform others that water intrusion is applicable to all of us. This is just as important if you choose a brick, vinyl or wood siding as it is with EIFS or stucco. We are on this forum because we like to be hands-on and actually a part of the construction of our new home. Proper detailing is probably the most important component of home construction, but it isn't as fun as, say, picking out an exterior color scheme. We need to make it a priority.

Here are a couple of websites with some good information regarding proper detailing. Some are related to EIFS, but can be applied in other situations too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sto Gold Guard

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:14AM
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"...home inspector and a "Professional Engineer" are two different animals. I'm sure there are good home inspectors, but I will only use a P.E. for future purposes."

PE are engineers. "PE" means they passed a test (the EIT)and have a certain amount of work experience. It does not mean they know a darn thing about flashing. A civil engineer might be an expert in field work, bridge construction, or any number of things. He may not even know anything about residential construction. And even if he does, he may know load calculations, span limits, etc. (basically, a structural engineer) It doesn't mean he can actually inspect whether flashing was done correctly or a window was properly installed.

You want a home inspector. A good one. Someone fussy.

Now, there may be PEs with expertise in best building practices down to the level of flashing, etc. But seeing the "PE" after their name won't tell you this. You'd need to investigate their work experience. I would still use a structural engineer re: foundation, framing, headers, snow loads, etc.

NEVER hire a home inspector recommended by a real estate agent. You want someone who is independent of REAs and won't be influenced by an association with them. After all, if you get your work from REAs, are you going to produce super detailed reports on the houses they are trying to sell, saying how much is wrong with them (and a fussy home inspector will always find stuff wrong with a house).

The person I WOULD ask for a recommendation would be your local building inspector. Tell him you are looking for a home inspector that is very detail oriented. He'll probably know someone. Your bank might know someone. There are also licensing organizations. When you call the potential home inspector, ask him questions to find out how detail oriented he is. You want someone who comes across as an anal-retentive fuss budget. THIS is the person who will find the problems with your house. I have a good friend who is one of these people. No realtor would ever hire him (well, not twice!), and he won't work for them. Banks use him in litigation to prove faulty construction. He's never seen a house without a pageful of issues. And he's not an engineer. In fact, I don't think he graduated high school. But he knows how to put a house together. He knows all the trades and can find problems. In fact, he may have stopped my house from burning down due to the electrical problems he discovered. A PE won't do that for you.

It sort of stinks, doesn't it, that you have to hire all these people to make sure your house is built properly? Welcome to "the industry that time forgot".

Here is a link that might be useful: The Industry That Time Forgot

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:31AM
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Knowing now what I know, the name of the game is drainage. Water will inevitably get behind the siding structure of the house (whatever that siding is). Building envelope practices must be employed to "shed the water" once it does get in. In our case (as well as any other case), sealants applied to fix a leak are like trying to put a Band-aid on cancer, thinking you are going to cure the patient (it ain't going to happen).

We have decided to go with "Tyvek DrainWrap" in an effort to create a drainage barrier (along with other best practices that were originally missing). There are others on the market, we just decided on availability, the DuPont name, and the similarity of installation with common Tyvek.

The biggest problem on our house was the north facing wall (go figure). When the rain was out of the north, our poor house absorbed an UNBELIEVABLE AMOUNT OF WATER. Water literally drained for days after dissecting it in our attempt at diagnosis.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:33AM
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Perhaps I was a bit harsh (jaded). Actually, we had a American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) certified inspector look at the house before we closed. He was a very nice person, and he was very detail oriented. He owned a well respected business in our area. I would use such an individual again before a closing.

However, if I were to build a new home, I would DEFINATELY use a P.E. with a building background. No offence to your friend without a high school diploma, but I want a mechanical engineer with a "construction background" (not a Civil Engineer that designs freeways) to evaluate the building practices before the siding goes up (or at various recommended stages).

I would put in writing with the General Contractor that this would occur. If the builder is unwilling to have his work inspected and scrutinized, then I would NOT have that builder, build my house.

Once your house is done, the builder is on to their next product, and they never want to look back. You are left to live with the consequences.

Again, I state that home inspectors and P.E.s are different animals entirely, with different expertize, and purposes.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:54AM
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To be fair to building inspectors, their reports are usually limited to items that were visually accessible to the inspector without the use of invasive inspection techniques. Would improperly installed flashing, drain wrap, etc. be visually accessible to the inspector without the use of invasive inspection techniques? It seems that the damage from improper flashing, drainage, etc., becomes visible in about 3-5 years, so it would likely be discovered by a regular home inspector doing an inspection of an older home. The main difficulty seems to be with newer homes and it seems that a P.E. is what you need to inspect a new home. However, how invasive does an inspection of a newer home need to be to discover whether there is a problem?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 11:16AM
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Rollie is a great guy and really knows his stuff. He kindly volunteered to meet us at our building site to look over our flashing. It's people like him who helped us get our builder to redo our windows properly.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:55PM
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I don't know why you'd want a mechanical engineer to look at a house. They deal with mechanical systems and don't know anything about residential construction unless it's their hobby. There are many types of civil engineers. A structural engineer is one type of type of civil engineer.

Not my quote, but I like it:
What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?
Mechanical Engineers build weapons. Civil Engineers build targets.

If you are going to use an engineer as an inspection service, make sure they are from an outfit like this (attached).

The PE/structural engineer we used to check beam sizes, roof loads, etc., is also a builder. We know someone that worked on a house with him. The guy couldn't execute on details. DH is a civil engineer and a licensed builder. They don't teach window istallation, flashing, siding, roofing, etc., in engineering programs.

You can't assume PE = builder = inspector. In fact, I would bet that is rarely the case.

Here is a link that might be useful: PEs and Inspection Services

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 10:45PM
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Thanks for the excellent link. Criterium Mooney is the exact firm I used to the structural evaluation for water intrusion due to the defects with our house. These are PE's with expertise in building practice.

This is the exact firm I would use to inspect a home if I was building new.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 2:29PM
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It's been a long time. We finally settled out of court. This got dragged on far too long! Our builder is out of business, they are auctioning his foreclosed residence next week. We had to pay a lot of money to our lawyers to extract our case from the bankruptcy court. His insurance company counter-sued his primary builder.

When it was all said and done, we paid $100,000. We settled on $64,500 from the two insurance companies.

It was an expensive lesson learned! It would have been much worse if the builders didn't have builders insurance (which is not required in our state).

Read this thread and learn from it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:37PM
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are you saying you paid 100k in lawyer fees and only got 64k back? talk about adding insult to injury.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:46PM
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No, we paid about $25,000 in lawyer fee's. None of which is recoverable unless the builder did something wrong malisciously and tried to cover it up. The best non-building analogy is someone who turns the odometer back, and represents that a car has less miles than it actually does when they sell it to you.

In our case the builders were incompetent but not dishonest.

We could have taken the case to court and spent another $25K in lawyer fees and ended up with maybe $75,000. So, it was better to settle than to fight on...

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:53PM
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Missed this post the first time around. Mustve been on vacation.

There used to be a water intrusion/ housewrap/ drainage plane posts every week in years past, now you hardly ever hear of one on here anymore.

Anyone have any ideas why?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 10:42PM
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I'm hoping it's because some of those who have been on these boards for several years have provided some education to new home builders on what to watch out for. Terms like "proper flashing," "drainage planes," and "weep screeds," are part of their vocabulary.

I am also optimistic that builders are becoming more educated on proper exterior construction. Whether it's because they want a quality home or because they want to avoid lawsuits the end result is the same.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 7:51AM
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Could be just the general housing slowdown. Seems like very few people are moving these days.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 1:09PM
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