How to Choose the Right Stucco for Your Home

Stucco is a popular siding choice, but identifying the two types of stucco, hard coat and EIFS, can still stump many looking for a home. And, like anything else, many problems can arise when installation and maintenance aren’t performed correctly that won’t show themselves until the home inspection. Hard coat stucco is what most people think of when they think “stucco.” It feels like concrete, adds value and a unique appearance, while being fire-proof and very strong. However, EIFS, or synthetic stucco, consists of a rigid foam board that is glued to the wall, covered by fiberglass mesh and sealed. It was created to increase energy efficiency and the flexibility of designs of the stucco look, without the investment of real hard coat. However, it is also more susceptible to destructive complications. How can you tell the difference between hard coat and EIFS, and whether either one is in good condition?

EIFS/Synthetic Stucco

EIFS is softer when pressed. It sounds hollow when you tap it, and is easily dented. It is likely to be cut out of the soil at the bottom of a building, exposing the foundation.

Some concerns may include:

  • Missing kickout flashing
  • Foam or mesh visible at the edges, hand-in-hand with improper sealing
  • Missing back wrapping
  • Open penetrations

When windows, doors, and fixtures on a stucco building aren’t sealed correctly, moisture will run behind the stucco and become trapped there. Termites also love when they can get to the foam behind it. Either of these can decay entire sections of a home’s exterior, a surprise no one wants during a real estate home inspection.

To maintain a functional and beneficial synthetic stucco siding, bottom edges much be finished and sealed. Siding in contact with the soil is a huge red flag for Atlanta home inspectors, and six inches of clearance is preferred. EIFS has weaknesses, but most sidings do! EIFS can maintain its worth and more, as long as you invest in proper installation and maintenance.

Hard-Coat Stucco  

Hard coat, concrete-like stucco, can be identified by its texture, along with uneven thickness, especially around trim, and corners that aren’t quite 90 degrees. When installed correctly, it is a low maintenance and long-lasting option. Of course, if installation was incorrect or careless, many issues can arise that are shared with EIFS. Improper or missing flashing and kickouts, along with a lack of control joints, can begin the destruction of home integrity. Soil above the foundation is a red flag, compounded by the potential issues that come with improper or inadequate sealing. Open penetrations can also allow water to enter and destroy a home, regardless of the siding choice. Issues more specific to hard coat can include:

  • Trim decay
  • Compression cracks
  • Bulges and delamination
  • Vertical cracks at corners

Stucco can be a great choice for any buyer, and EIFS doesn’t have to be a deal breaker! A dependable, knowledgeable Atlanta home inspector with training in stucco systems will perform moisture testing on EIFS, determine needs for flashing, caulking, and bottom edge termination, and recommend any repairs necessary to extend a home’s life. Don’t let synthetic stucco ruin your deal!

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