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VOL. 40 | NO. 9 | Friday, February 26, 2016

Siding with siding in misinformation battle

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Dryvit by any other name is EIFS, or exterior insulating finishing system, and remains one of the most misunderstood materials in real estate.

It resembles Styrofoam with paint on one side and was created as a cladding for structures that is less expensive than stucco but with the visual appearance of true stucco, as the original is now known.

The manufacturers feel that the EIFS, or synthetic stucco, has some qualities that surpass those of the concrete-like material it has replaced. While stucco has a tendency to crack and discolor, EIFS will not crack as it is as uncrackable as the ice chest it could have been had the Styrofoam been shipped to a different plant.

It holds its color well as the pigment is applied during the manufacturing process.

Commercial developers have been cladding their buildings with EIFS skin for decades and with little or no negative consequences.

However, when the product hit the residential side, the EIFS hit the fan.

The problem arose when the material was applied to the houses in such a way that the EIFS was often covered by dirt, similar to how brick houses are constructed.

During the construction of residential homes, there is either a foundation or a slab upon which the house is constructed.

In Nashville and the surrounding areas, the foundation has been the favorite choice as the terrain is hilly and sloping and not flat enough in most areas to allow the slabs.

These foundations are constructed with concrete blocks atop a concrete footing. The bricks often go to the foundation and in many cases, and the homes are designed with “brick to grade,” meaning the brick goes to the grade of the house.

As is so often the case with descriptions, the “brick to grade” term is backwards since the house is bricked first, then the dirt is graded or pushed up to the house to cover all of the concrete block leaving only brick above the grade. So it is actually grade to brick, but it matters not.

With the application of the EIFS, the builders often took the synthetic stucco down over the foundation blocks, and then had the dozers cover it allowing an “EIFS to grade” look.

In this case, a few inches of the EIFS were underground, and that is where the trouble began. EIFS can absorb moisture, moisture attracts termites, and termites eat wood.

There is an urban myth that EIFS has a “wicking” tendency, that it soaks moisture from the soil as a wick pulls the gas into a gas lamp. The experts say that is an exaggeration.

Along with the wicking myth is a myth that hundreds of houses across the land have fallen to the ground due to EIFS. In fact, there was a class action suit in North Carolina, and there have been a few others.

In the most well-known case, the one in North Carolina, it was alleged EIFS caused hundreds of homes to have faulty windows that eventually had to be replaced. According to representatives for Dryvit – the most popular brand of EIFS – the same builder had the windows of his non-EIFS houses experience the same phenomenon.

Commercial developers and builders have used billions of dollars of EIFS products with no issues reported.

The problem is that the EIFS must be cut 18 inches above the grade and sealed. Windows require sealing with caulk, and all of the joints and cuts should be monitored.

To recap, EIFS requires more maintenance than bricks or stucco, but it will age better than true stucco.

Even the 60-foot Sewanee Memorial Cross is clad in EIFS now. It has not been struck by lightning since its application, so it has passed the test.

Sale of the Week

Since the late 1990s, the Sterling Oaks neighborhood in the Nippers Corner area has provided affordable, exceptional housing for those not fixated on attending Williamson County schools and are happy with the options that Metro has to offer, with its superb public schools in the area.

The traditional architecture blended with the manicured 50-by-150ish-foot lots has continued to attract the masses to this suburban setting.

The homes are zoned for Granbery Elementary, William Henry Oliver Middle School and John Overton High School, all schools that score well on the tests and provide nurturing atmospheres for their students.

Renae Voda, no stranger to the real estate jungle, listed the house at 212 Sterling Oaks Drive and gave the seller the benefit of the doubt – as she is prone to do – and listed the home for an aggressive $425,000.

Her strategy worked as she was able to sell the home for $399,900 with the house resting a mere 52 days on the market. Nick Cambron of Keller Williams represented the buyer and managed to have the seller pay $5,000 of his client’s closing costs.

The house was described by Voda thusly: “From the luxurious kitchen with farmhouse sink, granite counters and stainless steel appliances to the walk out basement and prime location just south of Music City, this is a stunning home you don’t want to miss.”

With its 3,529 square feet, four bedrooms, two full baths and one half bath, the price per square foot is only $113, and that is a number on the rise.

The sellers paid $329,900 in 2013, so they fared well in the transaction, as did the new buyers who will no doubt experience the appreciation that so many Oaks dwellers have in the past 17 years.

Richard Courtney is a real estate broker with Christianson, Patterson, Courtney, and Associates and can be reached at Richard@richardcourtney.com.

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