"There's a lot of rot in this town."
So said general contractor, Jon Connette, of water intrusion problems with vinyl
siding, T-111, EIFS, and most claddings.
that his company has been performing repairs on several wooden framed
complexes in New
which have suffered extensive damage due to water intrusion getting behind
the cladding and not escaping. Because of improper flashing details, and a
lack of house wrap, Connette said many
residential structures are suffering, too.
Even though Connette
has water intrusion repairs ongoing in both EIFS and T-111 siding, he spoke
mostly about his experience with vinyl-clad homes and townhomes
in New Hanover County.
"This town is wrapped in vinyl and
nobody's watching it. You can't even buy stucco products unless you're a
certified applicatoróthey'll sell vinyl products
to anybody," Connette remarked.
He is currently repairing a four
year-old, 100-unit townhome complex in Wilmington which is
vinyl-clad and has sustained an estimated $500,000 in damage. He stresses
that he does not believe wood rot problems are caused by or exacerbated by
the type of cladding that is on the structure.
"It's the application of the vinyl
itself," he said, adding, "When they install the Amicorboard (foam insulation board), they don't tape
the joints properly. It acts as a channel for water to run into the
In addition, he said no one is flashing
properly. He provided photographs to illustrate the improper flashing
techniques used by builders and vinyl installers. Basically, they flash on
top of the Tyvek or Amicorboard,
which allows water to flow behind the flashing and into gaps in the paper
or insulation board to the sheathing. Once it gets to the sheathing, the
wood rotting begins.
In the townhome
complex (which Connette did not want named
because of legal issues), Connette said he had to
get an emergency building permit from the county because a wall was on the
verge of collapsing.
"The wall was getting ready to
collapse. It was worse than any stucco (situation) I've ever seen. I
reached my hand up to feel the sheathing (and) the OSB was like mushy
cardboard," said Connette.
he spoke with New
chief building inspector, Grady Hobbs, about the situation.
"I told Grady this would be the next
epidemic in this town," said Connette. He
added that the epidemic would be at least as bad as the EIFS controversy.
said that Hobbs
informed him that house wrap was not required behind vinyl siding.
In an interview with Hobbs, he said that house wrap not being
required behind non-EIFS buildings was a weakness in the North Carolina
Saying that no builder had complained to
him about water intrusion problems in buildings clad with products other
than EIFS, Hobbs
added, "If there are problems, they are due to the building code. The
building code could do a better job with flashing requirements."
When asked to give examples of where he'd
like to see requirements improved, Hobbs
answered, "Wrapping the openings around windows and doors and
requiring house wrap on all sidings."
admitted that the county had seen wood rot in claddings other than EIFS
but, "Certainly not to the extent of EIFS." (In earlier
interviews, the NHC Inspections Department has admitted that it has not
inspected buildings for water intrusion that were not clad with EIFS).
Saying that he had not heard of any
recent problems in other claddings, Hobbs
said that most problems in other sidings are due to "poor flashing, no
flashing, or excessive rain water that has not been accounted for."
When asked if any problems with
vinyl-clad buildings 5 years-old or younger had been observed or reported
to the Inspections Department, Hobbs
When asked if there had been many cases, Hobbs replied,
"I wouldn't want to say."
When asked if there were records this
reporter could go through to obtain that information, Hobbs said, "Don't have records of
Upon further inquiry, Hobbs said that records were not kept
according to particular claddings; they were kept according to the permit
He did say that the problems seen mostly
in vinyl siding were where "the siding is abutted to dissimilar
"You can't caulk vinyl and expect it
to hold for very long," said Hobbs.
At the end of the interview, Hobbs admitted that
he had spoken with "several" builders about "vinyl
he knows what the problem with vinyl siding is. "The components of
vinyl siding were not constructed to be waterproof. If you don't waterproof
systems behind it, you've got a problem."
In a T-111 repair he is currently doing, Connette said he has seen the same problems. It is a 12
year-old condominium complex with 87 units on the ocean at Carolina Beach. The repair is estimated to be
$300,000 and it has the same problems Connette
has seen in EIFS and vinyl siding.
"There are improper watershed
techniques used in the system. They used silicone caulk on wood," said
To add emphasis on his contention that
water intrusion problems are not discriminating, Connette
added that he was currently repairing an EIFS structure on Figure 8 Island
in New Hanover County.
"There were no returns on
flashings," he said.
Another area general contractor told the
Hawk & Trowel that he has also witnessed wood rot behind vinyl siding.
Saying that he wished to not have his name published, the contractor said
he found fungus growing behind the vinyl siding in a 2 year-old house. The
contractor was pointing out water intrusion problems in vinyl-clad homes to
Mike Bain, the Vice President of Field Services for Zurich US (formerly known as Maryland
Casualty, the insurance company which represents most builders in
litigation concerning EIFS). He said, "I reached up under the vinyl
and pulled out two handfuls of mushrooms."
"There was no kickout
flashing," the contractor said.
The general contractor explained that
since flashing adds expense to the home building process, most general
contractors don't use it. He admitted that it is ultimately the
responsibility of the general contractor to ensure that flashing details
are done and that they are installed correctly.
that sells houses...flashing adds $1,000 to the price of the house.
Contractors just won't do it. Anybody who has been in this business long
enough has discovered it's price that sells. If
not, you won't he in this business long," said the contractor.
Additionally, in his opinion, the OSB is
causing a wood rotting problem.
The contractor remarked, "Vinyl
siding is as air-free a product as you can get and it's still having wood
rot problems behind itóit's the OSB that's
The contractor (who had claims involving
wood rot behind vinyl siding) said that he drove Bain around and showed him
several vinyl-clad houses which were experiencing water intrusion problems
due to improper kickout flashings.
After the contractor repeatedly remarked
that this reporter was wasting her time following up on leads of water
intrusion into buildings clad with sidings other than EIFS, this reporter
The contractor said, "You'll never
win. And if you keep on pushing the insurance company like you're doing,
they'll pull out of here and won't insure any contractors and then we'll
all be left high and dry."
When contacted on voice mail, Bain did
not return this reporter's call. Instead, the Associate General Counsel for
Al McComas, called.
At first, McComas
denied that Bain had been to the Wilmington
area. Only after this reporter called the general contractor's insurance
agent, Dan Reynard of AA Wiley & Associates in Wilmington, to confirm
that Bain had visited Wilmington to inspect water intrusion problems in
vinyl-clad homes on May 6, 1999, did McComas
admit that Bain had come to Wilmington.
"Mike didn't tell me anything about
that when he called this morning," said McComas.
"Somebody took him on a tour of several houses in Wilmington."
acknowledged the houses which were "toured" were clad with vinyl
"He (Mike Bain) reported it back to
the people here in claims," said McComas.
explained that Bain was not an engineer or an expert in tracking water
"He would not be knowledgeable about
that sort of thing. He's an underwriter," McComas
As far as McComas
was concerned, though, the problems were few and separate from any water
intrusion problems associated with EIFS. According to him, these were just
routine claims placed by a general contractor.
It was so routine
that Bain (a corporate VP) treated Reynard and the general contractor to
lunch at the Bridgetender Restaurant, an upscale
restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway near Wrightsville Beach
in New Hanover County,
on May 6.