One of the reasons water is getting behind EIFS
is that a surprising number of
"good" windows leak, and some window designs do
not integrate well with EIFS.
By Robert Thomas
The other day, I got an interesting phone call.
An EIFS contractor was asking
where he could get insurance so he could
continue to do EIFS work. The renewal
cost for his insurance, he said, if it were to
continue to be available, was
going to be so high that he would have to stop
doing EIFS. He was frustrated.
Not being in the insurance business but having
some clue to his situation and
being sympathetic, I listened to him some more.
He went on to explain that he
could not even get insurance to do repairs on
EIFS projects. Where does this
end? Are even insurance agents not going to be
able to get insurance to allow
them to insure EIFS contractors? This situation
is getting out of hand.
Rather than moan about this sad state of
affairs, here are some thoughts about
doing something about it. This list is the
result of bits and pieces I have
heard over the last year or so from insurance
people about things they'd like to
see done by the EIFS industry to help them feel
good about issuing insurance.
Perhaps these insights can be used in
discussions with insurance carriers to
piece together a program that would make
insurance available sanely priced.
First, insurance people like paper. Whatever
the solution is going to be, it is
going to have to be in writing. It needs to be
detailed, like an insurance
policy. Verbal assurances and requests from
clemency will not work. Whatever
the EIFS industry might propose to the
insurance industry, it needs to be a
comprehensive program, not a series of
unrelated efforts. The insurance
industry needs to be convinced that the program
will work, so that its industry
is sure that its risk will be rewarded.
Next, this is an EIFS industry problem. Make no
mistake about this. The
solution to the EIFS insurance matter needs to
be an industry effort, not one of
individual companies. Insurance companies do
not see a distinction between
Joe's band of EIFS and Fred's. To them, EIFS is
EIFS, and it's all suspect.
They do not want to have different programs for
insuring quality that depend on
whose product it is. This means that the EIFS
manufacturers would have to get
together and propose something as a group.
Doing such a group effort will be a
big step for an industry that is known for the
independence and competitiveness
of its manufacturers.
Third, the program needs to have teeth in it.
This is not a time to be timid.
It's time to cut the wheat from the chaff. Let
the contractors that care
continue to prosper and let the other ones find
other work. If some people
cannot get insurance because they won't sign in
to a rigorous program that
assures a quality, finished project, then so be
it. This is period when
conservative behavior and discipline is needed,
not fairy tale verbal
Some type of independent verification that the
EIFS is being installed properly
is needed. It's not enough to have the GC or
EIFS contractor self-certify that
it's being done right. The process of attesting
that the EIFS is installed
right needs to be done by someone who doesn't
care, in a sense. They need to
report independently to the owner, and get paid
regardless of whose ox gets
Whatever the program is that ensures quality of
the completed EIFS installation
in terms of the on-site verification process,
that program needs to be
reasonable. What is not needed is someone who
is relentlessly crawling all over
the contractor and whining about every booger
that gets into the basecoat. The
inspection process needs to be just enough to
be sure that it is being done
right. Similarly, the level of inspection needs
to be tailored to the nature of
the project. A lot of inspection may be needed
to ensure the job is done right
on a fancy boutique on Rodeo Drive, but is any
inspection at all needed on
Jessup's used-once-a-year duck blind?
Continuous inspection is not only
expensive, it's unnecessary.
There needs to be a national database of EIFS
contractors that have been
trained. It needs to indicate who and where
they are, and what EIFS systems
they are trained to install. The public needs
access to the database, in order
to be able to find qualified people. This is
something that could be easily
implemented on the Internet: Just type in the
zip code, and a list of the
nearest trained contractors appears.
There needs to be a national EIFS training
program that covers the common basics
of all EIFS, that is also coupled with training
offered by the EIFS
manufacturer. This is needed to ensure that
contractors understand the
idiosyncrasies of specific EIFS products,
especially the various EIFS with
drainage systems. Periodic retraining should be
part of the program. The
training should be for the individual person,
not for company. Thus, as the
trained person stays with him, as it should be:
people install EIFS, not
companies. Every job should have at least one
such trained person on the site
at all times.
A set of industry standard EIFS construction
details need to be developed for
all the basic conditions that happen repeatedly
on almost every building.
Confusion currently reigns as to how even basic
details should be done. This
does not help the inspector.
Earnest dialogue needs to occur between the
EIFS industry and industries that
make products that come into contact with EIFS.
In particular, the window
industry comes to mind. One of the reasons
water is getting behind EIFS is that
a surprising number of "good" windows leak, and
some window designs do not
integrate well with EIFS. As an example, having
to cut off the nail flange at
the sill of a window does not do wonders for
the window warranty. But how else
can one get a decent flashing back into the
wall where it can do some good? One
would think the window people would do
something about this, since EIFS is
hardly the only product affected by the nail
Whatever training program is developed needs to
be required by statue. In other
words, the building codes need to require it.
This will get around it being
optional, and therefore influenced by the whims
of individual contract
circumstances. It's the only way to put real
teeth in the enforcement process.
Lastly, there needs to be a national "road
show" of presentations that explains
to the contractors and designers, as well as
the insurance industry, the
presence and details of this program. Making
noise about it on the Internet is
not enough. It needs to be done in person on a
large scale. This would take a
year or more, if done at all the major metro
areas. The program should be free,
to eliminate excuses for not attending.
If the above suggestions sound like a
conglomeration of some existing programs,
with some new twists put in, it is. What we
have now is a series of separate
programs that do not address this insurance
issue as a whole, but rather, deal
with parts of it. The insurance people want an
overall integrated solution.
Arriving at such a solution will require
getting a lot of people with differing
interests to one table, and coming together as
a group. This will be quite a
feat but the prospect of decreasing
availability of insurance makes overcoming
the obstacles to intra-industry cooperation
Robert Thomas, president of rgTHOMAS in
Seattle, is a nationally known EIFS
consultant and author of the "EIFS Design
Handbook" and "The EIFS Homeowner's