Environmental Factors in Home Building
The report below is an example of how much detail and care go into the construction of a custom home. It is not as simple as designing a home then going in to build. As we discussed in the last blog, there are many factors to consider when building a home. The location, the environmental threats, height, size, and geographic location are just a few factors that must be taken into account when building a home. It is also always important to remember that while cutting costs may save you money now, it can cost a great deal more in the long term. The damage cutting corners causes can often times lead to families having to take out a mortgage, sell their homes or worse, go into foreclosure because the fix becomes too great a burden. The following is an (edited) report authored by Richard Wodehouse, Principal of West Coast Project Management. This home most likely had faulty stucco used at the time of the build. This coupled with the wind is starting to cause some potentially costly issues.
This residence is a three story contemporary design with large glass fenestrations facing the direction the winter storms attack this site from. It is located in such a way that it catches the full brunt of wind and rain. In the winter of 2018/2019 the San Francisco area receive unusually frequent and strong storms with record amounts of rain. There have been an unusually high number of failures in homes resulting from the rains, landslides, and leaks. West Coast Project Management Inc. has been called to investigate and repair other weather related problems in the area. Roofing and waterproofing contractors are booked for the entire season.
I observed that most of the north facing windows and doors had failed in that the dual glaze panels exhibited a “rainbow effect” which is caused by the two panes of glass touching each other. The cause of the collapsed glass is typically the result of the perimeter seals on the dual glazing failing and the gas encapsulated in the space between the two pains of glass escaping allowing the glass to bend towards each other from wind pressure.
As I will elaborate on in the discussion on stucco following, it is possible that moisture allowed to come into contact with the edge seals of the glass panels has exacerbated the rate of deterioration of the perimeter seals allowing the gas to escape.
I observed that the stucco on this residence was the synthetic type that was popular during the time this home was constructed. The dominant product name at the time was Dryvit, a type of EIFS wall system that used foam insulation panels with a thin coat of an acrylic coating that mimics stucco in appearance.
There were extensive lawsuits regarding moisture problems related to the use of this EIFS system. If there are any areas where water can enter behind the acrylic coating it is trapped as this coating is non-breathable and therefore the moisture stays inside the wall potentially and probably causing damage to any surface it is touching.
The home showed signs of white discoloration around stucco cracks which is evidence of water that entered elsewhere exiting at various locations on the North facing wall.
DECK WATERPROOFING FAILURE
There is evidence indicating that the deck extending out on the north elevation allowed water to penetrate the building. I did not attempt to find the cause of this leak as the owner at the time had extensive plastic tenting covering the deck. (end of report)
It is likely that the owners of this home were not the one to have the stucco put in, but they will be the ones to pay the price. This is why it is so important to have an experienced and knowledgeable project manager or owner’s rep helping you build your home. A good project manager knows which corners are ok to cut and which ones you cannot.
San Francisco is windy and damp year round, but the Bay Area is filled with micro climates. Marin, for example, is substantially warmer and sees a great deal more sun than San Francisco. The beach areas have the added difficulty of salt in the air which has its own set of challenges to consider. Sonoma county and Napa are considerably hotter and drier. Richard Wodehouse at West Coast Project Management Inc. has over 45 years of experience building custom homes, in many different climates. He is passionate about building custom homes and cares about homes being built to last, and built with the most recent technology in energy efficiency.