The Home Inspector

Reuben Saltzman is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. Naturally, this blog is all about home inspections and home-related topics in the Twin Cities metro area. In addition to working at Structure Tech, he is also a licensed Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and several other cities.

Troubleshooting a Leaking Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman under Home Improvement Updated: May 22, 2014 - 5:06 AM

After writing a blog post about leaking temperature and pressure relief (TPR) valves at water heaters, I learned that this particular issue seems to completely befuddle folks.  In the two years that I allowed comments, that post received 245 comments, including my own.  The majority of the comments were questions from readers who were trying to troubleshoot their own leaking TPR valves.

I spent so much time responding to questions on that one blog post alone that I finally disabled comments on blog posts over 90 days old.  Responding to reader comments on old blog posts was turning into a part-time gig for me.

The good news is that while answering reader questions, I ended up doing a fair amount of research to help myself understand problems that people were having, and to make sure that the advice I was giving was correct.  The purpose of this blog post is to give some troubleshooting advice to people with leaking TPR valves.

A Quick Primer

All water heaters are equipped with a temperature and pressure relief valve.  This valve will allow water or steam to escape from the water heater if the temperature or pressure gets too high; these valves are set to open when the pressure reaches 150 psi, or when the temperature reaches 210 degrees fahrenheit.  This prevents water heaters from exploding or turning into missiles.

Troubleshooting

The rest of this blog post is going to be about troubleshooting a leaking TPR valve.  If a TPR valve leaks, either it's defective or it's not.  If it's not defective, it's leaking because the temperature was too high or the pressure was too high.  In other words, a leaking TPR valve indicates one of these things: a defective valve, excessive pressure, or excessive temperature.

1. Verify the right valve is installed.

As I mentioned earlier, the TPR valve on a water heater is set to go off at 150 psi, or 210 degrees Fahrenheit.  These numbers will be printed right on the valve, or on a tag attached to the valve.  See below.

Tag on Relief Valve

If a pressure relief valve  for a boiler is accidentally installed on a water heater, it will leak like crazy from the start.  These valves may look identical, but they're set to go off at 30 psi, not 150 psi.

If the proper valve is installed and it leaks, go on to step 2.

2. Replace the valve

As I mentioned in my original post about leaking TPR valves, an easy troubleshooting step is to replace the leaking valve.  TPR valves cost less than $15 and they're fairly easy to replace.  If you're not sure how to go about doing this, hire a plumber.  If you're trying to do this on the cheap because you can't afford a plumber, search YouTube for videos of "relief valve replacement".  You'll find a ton of 'em there.

If a new, proper TPR valve leaks, it's probably just doing its job.  It's relieving excessive temperature or pressure.  The next step is to figure out which one it is.

3. Check the temperature.

This one is pretty simple.  Run some hot water at a plumbing fixture and take a temperature reading with a meat thermometer.  Make sure there are no tempering valves installed between the water heater and the faucet; whole-house tempering valves are typically installed at the water heater, and look like the type shown in the photo below, which I used in my blog post about safe water temperatures.  If one of these valves is installed, the temperature you'll get at the faucet will be less than the temperature inside the tank, by design.

Tempering valve function

New single handle bath tub faucets installed in Minnesota since 2013 also require tempering valves (http://www.structuretech1.com/2013/04/new-safety-requirements-for-bath-tub-faucets-in-minnesota/).  Those valves are typically installed below the bath tub, but can sometimes be found near the water heater. Dangerously Hot Water

For the record, a safe temperature for water coming out of faucets is 120 degrees.  Temperatures in the 150 degree range are downright dangerous and in need of attention, but still wouldn't explain a leaking TPR valve.  Temperatures really need to approach boiling to set off a TPR valve.  This is extremely unlikely, but I suppose it is a possibility.

4. Check the Pressure

Pressure GaugeIf the pressure in the plumbing system exceeds 150 psi, the TPR valve will leak.  Getting to the bottom of this issue should be quite simple and straightforward.  Buy a pressure gauge with an extra indicator to show surges, and connect it to the plumbing system.  It doesn't matter if it's connected to a hot or cold water pipe, because both will be at the same pressure.

The easiest way to do this is to get a gauge with a garden hose thread, connect it to an outside garden hose faucet (sillcock), and open up the faucet.  You should expect the pressure to be somewhere in the 40 - 80 psi range, with no other water running.  If the pressure is over 80 psi, it should be corrected.  The solution is to have a pressure regulator installed.  Get a plumber to do that.

If the pressure is within the acceptable range, you play the waiting game.  Once the temperature and pressure relief valve at the water heater leaks, go check the pressure gauge.  If the 'surge indicator' shows something at or near 150 psi, the problem is excessive pressure.  Excessive pressure is typically the result of a closed system; the water heats up and expands, but it doesn't have anywhere to go, so the relief valve does it's job and relieves the pressure.  The solution, as I mentioned in my original blog post (http://www.structuretech1.com/2012/01/leaking-relief-valve/), is to install an expansion tank.  If an expansion tank is already installed and there is still a problem with excessive pressure, either the expansion tank is not installed properly or it's not charged properly.

I may write another post later this year on solving excessive pressure, because that seems to be the most common problem that people deal with.

Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

          

Testing Water Flow at Old Houses, Problems with Galvanized Water Pipes

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman under Real Estate, Home Improvement, Real Estate Updated: May 15, 2014 - 2:09 PM

If you're buying an old house, beware of old water pipes; specifically, galvanized steel.  These pipes build up with sediment on the inside, making the inside diameter of the pipe smaller and smaller over time, eventually to the point where water flow is unusable.  These pipes also corrode at the joints, which can lead to leaks. 

Leaking galvanized pipe 

The mere presence of galvanized pipes doesn't constitute an immediate action item, but it does mean that the water distribution pipes in the house should be looked at and tested more thoroughly during the home inspection, especially if there is any evidence of past leaks. 

Duct tape repair on galvanized pipe

Galvanized Water Supply

The water supply piping is what brings water from the street to the house.  To identify the type of material, take a look at the water piping where it comes into the basement before the first shutoff valve, which should be located right before the water meter.  If this water piping has a threaded fitting, it's probably a galvanized supply pipe.  This is always bad news.  The other types of water supply pipes are copper, plastic, and lead.  Copper and plastic are good news, lead is not. 

If you see a thicker pipe coming up out of the basement floor with threads on the end, it's probably a galvanized  supply pipe.  Galvanized or lead water pipes were installed in Minneapolis homes exclusively up until 1928, and in Saint Paul homes up until 1925.  Minneapolis' transition to copper water supply pipes was complete by 1932, and Saint Paul's transition was complete by 1926. 

Galvanized Supply Pipe 

Most Minnesota homes with galvanized supply pipes have such poor water flow that doing laundry and taking a shower at the same time is not possible.  If the home is in Minneapolis, take a look at item #19 on the Truth-In-Sale of Housing evaluation report; this item asks if the water supply piping is copper.  If the piping is copper, this item should be marked as "M".  If the piping is something else, such as galvanized steel, lead, or plastic, this item should be rated "C" for comment, and there should be a comment stating the water supply piping was not copper.

Item 19 on Minneapolis TISH 

A better description for item #19 would probably be "Copper or Plastic Water Line Visible on the Street Side of Water Meter", but these reports have a lot of old language in them that takes a lot of effort to change. 

If the water piping coming into the home can't be found, access is blocked, or the main valve is located too close to the floor to determine the type of water supply piping, one option is to call the municipal water works department to find out what type of water supply piping the house has.  This is easy to do in Minneapolis, as they keep detailed records of exactly what type of water supply pipe was installed, and when it was installed.  The two photos below show a home with a galvanized water supply; all that can be seen is copper, but the piping below the earth is actually galvanized. 

Copper tubing  Galvanized supply pipe buried 

I've had a couple of inspections in Minneapolis where the water flow throughout the house was quite minimal, yet all of the water piping looked great, and there was a copper water supply entering the house.  In those cases, my curiosity got the best of me and I called the water works department to get the history on the water supply.  Apparently, the water supply piping didn't always get replaced entirely.  In some cases, there would only be a partial replacement out to the street.  The fix is to have the yard / street dug up again and have the rest of the water supply replaced. 

An easy way to determine a problem with the water supply pipe is to quickly turn on an exterior faucet.  If water comes out with a burst but the flow drops noticeably after a fraction of a second, it's almost certainly a problem with the water supply for the house.  In most cases, this indicates an old galvanized supply pipe, but could also indicate a problem with an old lead supply pipe. The video clip below shows an example of this, but it's not very easy to see. There is only a slight change in flow, but it was enough for me to know there was a problem.

Drop in water flow

For a more obvious example, check out the clip below. When the water is turned on at the garden hose it bursts out, then the flow drops down dramatically. This is because there is plenty of pressure, but insufficient flow.  A common concern that home buyers express is for the home inspector to make sure the home has "good water pressure", but what they really mean is "good water flow."

Major drop in water flow

The clip shown above was also the first clip in a compilation of 47 home inspection video clips in under 3 minutes that I put together, which I have featured at the top of our home page.  I've received a number of requests to explain some of the problems in that video, and I'll be attempting to do that through blog posts over the next year or two.

If the water supply pipe to a house needs replacement, plan to spend several thousand dollars.  The yard will need to be dug up and the water supply pipe replaced out to the street.  The homeowner pays for this.  If the city water line is on the opposite side of the street, it's more expensive.  To determine which side of the street the water supply is on, look for fire hydrants. 

If the home has a lead supply pipe, water flow may be restricted because of a damaged pipe, but I've inspected plenty of homes with lead water supply pipes that still had acceptable water flow.  The other obvious concern with a lead water supply is with lead leaching into the drinking water for the home.  In these cases, the water can be tested for lead.  Visit the EPA for more info on lead in water.

Galvanized Water Distribution Pipes

Galvanized steel water distribution pipes were used almost exclusively in Minnesota homes up until about 1950, when copper tubing began to replace galvanized pipes.  Copper gradually replaced galvanized piping during the 1950's, and was about the only thing used for water pipes in homes by 1960.  CPVC and PB tubing gained some popularity during the 90's and early 2000's, but today PEX is pretty much the only thing used for water distribution piping in new Minnesota homes. 

To identify the presence of galvanized pipes, start by looking in the basement. As soon as the water supply pipe enters the house, there will be a shutoff valve, a water meter, then another valve.  After that, the water distribution pipes will branch off to the rest of the house.  If the home has been re-piped or partially re-piped, it will probably have been done with copper or PEX tubing.  It's easy to tell the difference between copper tubing and galvanized pipes because galvanized pipes have threaded fittings, while copper tubing has soldered joints. 

If the home has been partially re-piped, there will typically be newer copper tubing in the basement, and the water lines will transition to galvanized piping at the basement ceiling just before disappearing into the walls.  The photo below shows an example of a partial replacement by some complete hack. 

Hack repairs to galvanized pipes

Testing Water Flow

Sometimes, houses can have galvanized pipes that are still in acceptable condition, and water flow is still acceptable.  To help determine if water flow is acceptable, try this test that I've adopted from the Minneapolis Truth-In-Sale of Housing Evaluator Guidelines.   Start by running hot and cold water at the laundry sink faucet, then run upstairs to the highest plumbing fixture, preferably a shower, and verify there's still water flow.  If there is no water flow or insufficient flow to take a shower, it's a major concern.

Minimal water flow 

In most cases, no flow at the upper fixtures under these conditions indicates a problem with the water supply pipe, or old galvanized water distribution pipes in need of replacement.  A couple of other possibilities would be a main shutoff valve that's partially closed, or a problem with a water softener that restricts water flow throughout the house. 

There are too many variables for me to cover every possible scenario, but hopefully these tips give enough info to conduct a basic test for water flow on old houses. 

Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections 

          

Home Improvement Financing- Many Options, Even If You're Underwater

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman under Home Improvement Updated: May 9, 2014 - 4:44 AM

This is a guest blog post by Ryan Carey, of My 3 Quotes.

Tell me if you can identify with this scenario- You bought your house before 2008, when values were at their most inflated. Your credit isn't bad, but you still don't have any equity since your house value plummeted 30-40% after you bought it. Now you're looking around the house and notice that the wood windows are turning black where the glass meets the wood. You finally go outside after this awful winter to see your masonite siding deteriorating where the s.now sat up against it. When you go back inside, you are reminded that the last time your kitchen was in style there was a kid sitting in it eating Frankenberry and watching "The Great Space Coaster" on a TV with a big knob to change the channels.

You need to get work done, but you don't have a pile of cash sitting in the garage. A home equity line of credit may get you the best house under waterinterest rate, but that doesn't seem possible with no equity. Don't worry. There are more financing options than you think to get started on your much-needed improvements, even if the journey of your home's equity reminds you of a certain movie about a doomed ship with Leo and Kate on board.

Unsecured Options-12 month no interest Nearly every contractor that comes to your house will have a number of unsecured financing options that are not secured by the home's mortage, but rely on your credit score. They will have options like Wells Fargo, GE, or Ennerbank to get your project moving. One of the most popular programs is "12 Month No Interest." This is a great plan if you actually plan on paying it off before the year is over. If you don't, interest will come back to day one at an obscene interest rate like 24.9%. You are better off locking in to one of their loans with a fixed rate if you won't have it paid off in time. With an unsecured loan (not secured by the home mortgage), the interest rates are typically in the 7.99% to 9.99% range.

There is one important thing to know with any of these plans, however. The contractors have to pay a fee each time they get used. You don't get interest-free money from any bank in any situation, so there is a fee that the contractor pays to use it. It could be in the 5% range, which can add up fast on a larger job. Therefore, if a contractor offers interest-free financing and you WON'T be using it, it is a very fair question to ask "Do I get an extra discount if I don't use your financing, since that costs you money?" You could ask the same about a cash discount vs credit card use, since contractors have to pay a fee to use credit cards as well.

MHFA and CEE If you need improvements done on your house, you should get to know these initials well. The MHFA (Minnesota Housing Finance Agency) and CEE (Center for Energy and Environment) are great places to look for home improvement financing. The MHFA also is involved with many other programs, such as first-time home buyer loans. They show a list of lenders that administrate their loans, so there is always one close to your area. They work with the Fix Up Fund, which allows loans of up to $50,000 at 5.99% interest rate for households with less than $96,500 of yearly income.  There is also an unsecured option at 6.99% up to $15,000.

The MHFA and CEE also deal with Energy Conservation Loans for improvements that help with energy bills, which has NO INCOME CAP and has an interest rate of 4.99% for up to $15,000 of loans. This includes windows, insulation, air sealing, furnace, A/C, water heaters, etc... This loan has been expanded to include "accessibility" improvements for the disabled, such as ramps, widening of halls or doorways, adding hand rails, bathroom fixture modifications, and moving outlets or switches.  There are secured and unsecured options for this loan.

For those of us who are a little short on home equity but would like the secured option- The Fix Up Loan has a secured loan option at 5.99%, but the loan can be based on %110 of the house value AFTER the improvement. Usually, they can approve about half of the value of the home improvement for the home appraisal. These are VERY general terms, some projects may get more immediate value, and some may get less.

CEE The CEE is one of the lenders that works with MHFA programs, and they have some of their own as well. They have a customer friendly website that allows you to see what they have available for your city. Click on the "Find Financing" tab, and it will ask you to enter your city. It will then show all programs available for you. Some cities have funds available at different times, but residents may not have heard about it. Some funds end up being an up-front loan that homeowners don't need to pay back until they sell the house.

The CEE also has the Home Energy loans that have no income cap and attractive financing rates. They have applications you can download from the site and send in to their loan officers for processing. The nice thing about home energy loans is that you are doing improvements that should cut down on energy bills to help offset your monthly payment.

City Websites With some of the bigger cities, it is also a good idea to check out the city website and look up "Home Improvement" programs. The city of St Paul is currently offering loans to people in two neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates. They don't have to be paid back until the house is sold. Funds like that are available for a certain time, then they're gone.

I hope you find this helpful. As always, you need to be able to afford your improvement and saving up beforehand and paying cash is the best way to avoid fees and interest. However, if your house is in dire need of improvement and financing is needed, there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat. As always, I'm available for questions through the website below.

Ryan CareyRyan Carey has 15 years of experience in exterior remodeling for Twin Cities Homeowners and Property Management Companies. He is the owner of “My 3 Quotes,” a company that provides the free service of collecting 3 competitive home improvement bids for customers. For more information, visit www.getmy3quotes.com for free home improvement estimates on window replacement and more.

How to Prevent Basement Water Intrusion

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman under Home Improvement Updated: May 1, 2014 - 5:24 AM

Flooded Basement

After all of the rain we've had this week, there are wet basements all over the Twin Cities.  The most common question we get when it comes to wet basements is "how can I fix it?"

While installing drain tile, a sump basket, and a sump pump is nearly a guaranteed way to prevent basement water intrusion, the most important part of preventing basement water intrusion is to control water at the exterior of the home.  There are two very basic things that will prevent basement water intrusion in at least 95% of houses: grading and gutters.

By the way, I say 95% conservatively.  The number is probably closer to 99%.

Grading

Grading is the first thing to look at if there are water problems at a house.  I know this sounds very basic, and it is, but I inspect a ridiculous amount of houses that have poor grading at the exterior.  This means that the ground slopes toward the building or allows water to pond next to the building, rather than away.  The fix for improper grading is to change the landscaping.

Changing the landscaping to get water flowing away from the house is sometimes as easy as bringing in some dirt next to the house and getting the ground to pitch away from the house.  The slope of the dirt away from the house doesn't need to be anything dramatic - it just needs to be enough to prevent water from sitting next to the house.  Just be careful not to pile the dirt too high against the house, because this could lead to rotting at of the wood framing.  Try to keep the grade at least 6" below the top of the foundation wall.

In cities like Minneapolis and Saint Paul, houses will often be too close to each other to allow for proper grading.  In these cases, one option is to create a swale in the yard, which will allow for water to go around the house in a type of trench.

Swale between yards

When a swale isn't practical, an underground drain system can be installed in the yard.  This system consists of large plastic tubing installed underground that directs surface water to a more desirable location, such as the street.  I did this at my last house in Minneapolis many years ago, and it solved my basement water problems.  I rented a trenching machine and ending up burying about seventy-five feet of corrugated plastic drain tubing in my yard, and terminated the tubing at the street.

Yard Drain Installation

Side note: while the trenching machine made it quick and easy to dig the trench, it took all summer to repair the nasty scar left in my yard.  I've discovered that a better way to do this is to cut the sod with a flat shovel from underneath and just fold it over for the entire trench length, and use a skinny shovel to dig out the trench.  Once you're done, just fold the sod back down. It takes a lot more time and it's a lot more work, but the healing process for the yard is very short.

Gutters and Downspouts

The other basic thing to look at when a house has basement water problems is the gutters and downspouts.  Without gutters, rainwater can often be concentrated from many different areas on a roof to one single location next to the house, like what's happening in the photo below.  All the highlighted areas dump water in to one single spot next to the house.  That's bad news, and in my opinion, bad design.  I covered this type of situation in a post last year titled "Have Your Builder Plan For Water Management."  Gutters would really help to keep water away from the house here.

Poor Water Management

As I mentioned in the post above, downspouts and downspout extensions are just as important as gutters.  I've told many clients that it's better to have NO gutters at all than gutters with improper downspouts.

Why?  A house with no gutters will typically disperse water along all of the roof lines.  A house with improper downspout extensions will end up concentrating water next to the house.

Downspouts discharging next to house

Again, this is bad news.  Proper downspout extensions bring water well away from the house - ideally six to ten feet. Of course, gutters need to be cleaned as well.  Dirty, overflowing gutters are worse than no gutters at all and can actually cause roof leaks.

Large plant growing out of gutter

Sump Systems

If you have a properly functioning sump basket and sump pump in your basement, just make sure the system stays functional.  Another home inspector here in Minnesota, Tim Walz, wrote a nice blog post a couple of weeks ago discussing sump pump troubleshooting and failures: http://homeinvestigator.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/is-your-sump-pump-ready-for-spring/ .

At the end of that post, there's a recommendation for installing a backup sump pump if the system runs all the time, which is certainly a good idea.  In fact, it's probably a good idea to have a backup system even if the pump only runs occasionally.  Click this link for more information on different sump pump backup systems.

Conclusion

If you end up with a wet basement this spring, go outside and take a look at how water is being managed at the exterior.  Ideally, take a look while it's raining to make sure the gutters and downspouts aren't leaking, and to make sure that water isn't ponding near the building.   If this all looks good and you still get water in your basement, the solution might be to have drain tile installed.

If you already have drain tile installed and you're still getting water in your basement, check for cracks in your foundation walls that could be allowing bulk water through the cracks, which basically bypasses the drain tile.  Any such cracks should be repaired.   If you've checked all this stuff and still can't figure out the cause of basement water problems, the next step would be to contact a basement water specialist.

To close, here's a quick news clip that Milind and I did with KSTP News on wet basements in 2011.

Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

          

Stucco repairs: Three case studies

Posted by: Reuben Saltzman under Real Estate, Home Improvement, Real Estate Updated: April 24, 2014 - 4:39 AM

This blog post is a compilation of three blog posts written by Reuben, which originally appeared at the moisture testing web site www.PrivateEyeMN.com.

Moisture testing on relatively newer stucco houses (mid 1980s - late 2000s) has become standard practice when buying a home in Minnesota, and a lot of those tests reveal problems with moisture intrusion.  Water intrusion is never good news, but there are several options to consider when exploring a repair strategy for a home with water damage.

Remediation protocols range from retrofit, which consists of partial repair and maintenance, to full tear off and replacement, which consists of removing all of the stucco and replacing with an alternate cladding material, such as James Hardie HardiePlank® or LP Smartside®.  

Today we'll be taking a closer look at all three repair strategies, all of which were performed by Sunset Construction Group (SunsetCG), a Minnesota company that specializes in repairing stucco houses with moisture intrusion problems.  

When SunsetCG is contacted to perform stucco repairs on an existing home, there are four basic steps that take place; a review of the moisture testing report, removal of the stucco at the affected areas, repair of the affected areas, and maintenance on the rest of the stucco.  

Case Study #1: Retrofit Repair

Review the Moisture Testing Report

The first thing SunsetCG wants to see is the moisture testing report, which is what we provide.  This report will contain photos of the home along with moisture readings, which helps to determine the scope of the work and offers professional guidance to the buyer and sellers of a property. From there, a bid is put together on stucco repairs and various repair strategies are explored.

Reviewing this retrofit-level case study, we first performed moisture testing at this home in 2006, and found several areas with high moisture levels, but no repairs were conducted at that time.  We performed moisture testing again in 2013, and many of those same areas showed high levels of moisture, so SunsetCG was contacted to perform repairs.

Here's an excerpt from our moisture testing report, showing exactly which areas of the wall sheathing had elevated moisture levels; our results from 2006 and 2013 are documented right next to each other on the report for comparison. Moisture Testing Report  

To keep this short, I'm only focusing on a small portion of the house.

Partial Stucco Removal

As you can see from the moisture testing report above, the big area of concern was directly below the first floor window. The next step was to have a minimal amount of stucco removed around the window, to expose and give access to the water damaged areas.  Click the photo for a larger version.

Water damage below window

Stucco Repair

After the stucco was removed, the source and severity of the moisture intrusion were confirmed.  The sheathing, framing, and insulation of the impacted areas were repaired or replaced as needed.  The impacted areas were then redesigned using improved materials and installation methods, to highly reduce the potential for future moisture problems.

Examples of new materials and methods would be new head flashing above the window and new pan flashing below the window.

Stucco Repairs below window The stucco color and texture were then patched and matched as closed as possible, and then the front of the house was painted with a high quality, breathable stucco paint to give the front of the house a uniform look.

Stucco Maintenance

While existing stucco homes may not have been constructed with the same details that a new stucco house would be built with today, the areas that have proven to perform over the years are maintained in their current condition with a quality caulk/seal effort.  Some areas of particular attention will be the window miters, mullions and perimeter of windows, and vertical transitions between stucco and other surfaces, such as windows and doors.

The theory/risk proposition with a retrofit repair is that the areas that have performed over the past ten to fifteen years will probably continue to perform, even though it may not be an ideal installation.  The main benefit with this type of repair is cost; these types of repairs will typically cost 30% - 40% of what a full tear off and redo would be.

When a retrofit repair is performed, a follow-up moisture testing inspection should take place three to five years after the repairs have taken place.

Along with the lower cost of repairs comes a limited warranty on the work.  A ten year warranty (per MN State Statute) is not likely to apply under most (if not all) retrofit repair strategies, as the contractor is only touching part of a wall.  If a ten year warranty is a must, the next two repair strategies would be good options.

Case Study #2: Wall-to-Wall Repair

The photos below show a house that had missing kickout flashing at a roof end, which led to extensive moisture damage at the front wall, including sheathing and minor framing repair.

Stucco repairs 1 After the stucco was removed and the damaged sheathing replaced, new plywood sheathing was installed, the window was properly flashed, and the first of two layers of building paper were applied to the exterior wall.

Stucco repairs 3 Proper kickout flashing gets installed at the roof end, and a quality drainage plane was installed to create an air gap.

Stucco repairs 3 Finally, new stucco is installed, the old stucco is caulked and sealed, and everything is painted with a high-quality, breathable stucco paint to give the entire front of the house a uniform look.

Completed Stucco Repairs The repaired areas are covered by a 10-year warranty, and the cost of the job was approximately $20k. Follow-up moisture testing can be conducted between three and five years after the repair work as a health check-up, as well as to provide documentation to any future home buyers that the repairs are performing as they should.

Case Study #3: Full Stucco Tear-off and Replacement

As is standard practice when buying a newer stucco home in Minnesota, the folks buying a stucco-clad home in Plymouth had invasive moisture testing performed as part of their purchase agreement.  Despite the fact that there was no visible evidence of moisture damage inside or outside the home, the moisture testing report showed high levels of moisture in many locations throughout the home.

The home seller contacted SunsetCG to verify the results of the moisture testing, and the results were confirmed by cutting exploratory holes into the stucco; this helped to confirm the problem and determine the extent of the water damage.

Exploratory Hole in Stucco

Side note: If you ever happen to see a stucco home with caulked squares of stucco, you're probably looking at a home that has had exploratory holes cut.  The photo below shows what these exploratory holes look like after they're patched.

Stucco Patch

After the home sellers were shown the extent of the moisture damage inside the walls, they decided to have the stucco completely torn off and the home resided with a different product.  They decided to go with James Hardie® fiber cement siding, which has become a very popular product on new homes throughout Minnesota.

Photos

The photos below show the home before the stucco was torn off, while it was being repaired, as well as the finished product.

Stucco home with concealed moisture damage stucco water damage stucco water damage repairs window flashing Re-sided home

Benefits of a Full Tear-off and Redo

While a full tear-off and redo is the most expensive option when it comes to stucco repairs, there are plenty of benefits to this method.  Instead of having only the areas with damage / water intrusion repaired, everything is opened up and redone.  For example, pan flashing gets installed at all of the windows, proper kickout flashing gets installed at all of the roof ends, and the deck is completely re-flashed at the ledgerboard.  At-grade or low wall plate lines that are too close to grade can be exposed and re-designed at the same time.  All of the siding is now covered under a full 10-year warranty per MN Statute 327A, which can be a very attractive feature for potential home buyers.  Finally, the stigma associated with newer stucco homes is removed.

For a full stucco tear-off and re-do, the cost can go into the six-figure realm, but of course this price involves all of the stuff that happens under the siding; it's not just about replacing existing siding.   It's also about figuring out and repairing all of the items that caused water damage in the first place.  

Special thanks to Matt Roach of SunsetCG for providing the photos and information about the repair process for these three case studies.

Author: Reuben Saltzman, Private Eye Moisture Testing

          

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