Reuben Saltzman

Stone veneer, major failures

I recently had an informative email exchange with a past client that highlighted the discovery of some especially nasty water damage behind the stone siding at her townhome. I was curious about the events that led up to the discovery, and it all came down to one person being very curious and very persistent. I thought she had such a great story to share that I invited her onto our podcast, which you can listen to below.

I won’t retell the whole story here, but this ties in very nicely with last week’s updated blog post on problems with stone veneer siding.

Age: The affected townhomes were built in 2004 or 2005. This neatly fits within the timeline of some of the most problematic stone veneer that we come across, which is the stuff installed from about 1990 up through today.

Quantity: There wasn’t a lot of stone veneer in use. It was mostly used as decorative accents in various areas. You don’t need to have full walls with stone veneer to have problems.

Penetrations: The most notorious locations for water intrusion are at exterior penetrations in the siding, such as around windows and roof/wall intersections. These buildings had none of those. There were just small areas with no penetrations that failed so horribly.

Evidence: There was no evidence of water intrusion or rot at any of the units. No staining at the stone, no stains inside the buildings. The important point here is that stone veneer is very good at concealing damage. It’s usually impossible to determine if there is water damage without intrusive testing.

Townhomes:  Many people who buy townhomes are under the impression that exterior portions of the townhomes aren’t something to be concerned about because after all, it’s owned by the association. But who owns the association? The association members! In other words, everyone. When there are nasty, unknown problems on the exterior, this affects everyone.

I cannot discuss any of our moisture testing results, but here are a few of the before and after photos that were shared with me. As you can see, large portions of these walls are mush. I’ll let you connect the dots.

Original wall.jpg
Damaged substrate.jpg
Damaged wall.jpg
Damaged wall 2.jpg

Key Takeaways: There are two main takeaways here. First, it doesn’t matter how much stone veneer is present. When it’s not installed properly, you can end up with major water problems. And the vast majority of stone veneer is not installed properly. Second, townhomes can have major problems, just like single-family homes. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because the exterior is managed by an association. You own the association.

Author: Reuben SaltzmanStructure Tech Home Inspections

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