Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manufactured Stone - Is there another storm brewing?

(Revised June 4, 2010 links updated October 25, 2014, links updated and revised March 19, 2017)

Today is Sunday March 19, 2017 as I look back on this article I wrote in November of 2009. Interestingly, the brewing storm has been slow progressing but trust me it is whirling around us. The past few weeks I have inspected two townhouses side by side. When I inspected the first the builder walks up, as I am writing up the issues addressed in this old article, stating that he doesn't agree with how inspectors are writing these issues up and that he doesn't see any difference in this and brick veneer.

About a week later as I am inspecting the adjacent townhouse a resident of a third townhouse constructed next door three years previously is present. On bringing up the stone issues she asks if I will step next door and look at hers. As I walk in she explains that a windy downpour came up shortly after their occupancy and water was pouring in over her large living room window in the stone veneered wall. I inquired what the builder did about it. She said that they removed all of the stone and replaced it. Same builder!

Recently, I received a call from a client who has been transferred and a relocation company is buying his home I inspected as a new construction in 2008 before I was fully aware and addressing these issues in my reports. He said that the relocation company had found elevated levels of moisture inside of the manufactured stone veneer walls and asked what should he do? I recommended he call his builder.

A few months ago I received an email from a client who's newly constructed home with manufactured stone I had inspected in April of 2012. He expressed concern over water coming through their walls. I requested photos which clearly showed wet drywall on the inside of the stone wall. I inquired if he had addressed issues with the stone addressed in his home inspection report. He apparently listen to those who advised him that my opinions were over the top and chose to do nothing. What advice could I offer at this point. Only that I told you so.

Fortunately, a few builders have taken this issue seriously, changed their ways but not completely, and far from 100%. One contractor confronted me on one of his homes and stated to do it the way we are writing this up cost $1.50 a square foot more and he isn't going to pay for it. Unfortunately, many improper installations are in place and the only way you may know they are leaking and damaging your home is to conduct an interior wall moisture test.

Now to the original article from 2009: 

Raise the storm flags, batten down the hatches, prepare the bilge pumps and rain suits there appears to be another real estate storm brewing. Storm clouds are forming on the horizon and you need to be aware, not caught by surprise, when the force of this storm hits the market place.

Do you recall the issues with asbestos, hardboard siding, synthetic stucco (EIFS), polybutylene water pipe, radon, mold?

Do I have your attention?

If you have been around for a fraction of the time I have you have noted a major shift in the architectural appearance of newer homes. Drive through almost any newer upscale neighborhood and you can’t help but observe the change. What is this growing architectural detail? Manufactured Stone or more properly stated Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer. This wonder is cropping up on homes in all price ranges. Why? Buyers love it! The problem with fast expanding usage of a newly popular product is that proper installation practices often lag far behind the demand for the product. So it is with this product.

Put bluntly the issue is similar to the Synthetic Stucco (EIFS) situation where lack of proper installation practices allows for moisture damage to the wood components of the wall system. A repair contractor familiar with both repair of EIFS systems and Manufactured Stone systems makes this comment in the Journal of Light Construction: “With cast stone veneer, leaks and rot often show up sooner, progress more quickly, and cause more severe damage inside the wall.”

Ouch, that smarts! Are you paying attention?

Sooner or later the growing demand for a product and lack of skilled installers aware of proper installation procedures reaches a state of crisis where action is required to correct shortcomings. For this product the time is fast arriving. If you haven’t experienced this issue on a home inspection report, you will shortly. Local home inspector associations and The North Carolina Home Inspection Licensure Board are in the process of addressing this issue with its licensed home inspectors. Many are already on the band wagon and others will be quickly climbing on board as the board makes its recommendations for how this issue is to be addressed in our reports. They may call it a “recommendation” but don’t take that lightly because the board doesn’t look down with pride on those who fail to adhere to their “recommendations”. Most home inspectors will take heed and begin addressing this issue if they haven’t already. Be prepared, you will be reading about this in reports soon. Here is a preliminary look at how this is shaping up. Soon something of this order is how inspectors will be addressing this issue:

Manufactured stone veneer has been installed on the (list areas) of this house. An inspection of the visible components has revealed that the stone veneer has not been installed in compliance with installation guidelines provided by the Masonry Veneer Manufacturer's Association (MVMA). A PDF copy of the installation guidelines is available at:

Specific problems noted with the visible components include, but may not be limited to: (list all that apply)
  • Weep screeds are missing at the base of wood frame walls.
  • Weep screeds are missing at the tops of window and door openings.
  • There is no caulk between other materials and the masonry at windows, doors and adjacent trim.
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with the ground
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with paved surfaces
  • The masonry veneer is in contact with roofing materials
  • Kick-out flashings are missing where roof eaves meet the masonry veneer
  • Metal lath is visible between stones, indicating that the proper base coats of mortar were not applied prior to installation of the stone.
The lack of proper detailing and flashing may result in water penetration behind the siding, resulting in structural damage. The installation of the manufactured stone veneer should be evaluated, compared to the specific installation requirements of the stone manufacturer and the MVMA, and repaired as deemed necessary by a licensed general contractor or masonry contractor.

Please note that because the water resistive barrier, metal lath and basecoat of cement stucco are completely concealed behind the manufactured stone veneer, they cannot be evaluated by a visual inspection.
How will this affect homeowners, Realtors, homebuyers and sellers? That’s the interesting component. You will be hard pressed to find any installations of this product in the state of North Carolina installed per the “Installation Guidelines for Adhered Concrete Masonry Veneer”. Most likely the code enforcement authorities will follow behind addressing this issue in new codes as they are introduced. In the meantime you should be aware that all products installed in this state are “required” to meet manufactures recommendations. Therefore, although this may not be clearly addressed specifically in the current code it is implied and can be enforced at any time.

For detailed information on this issue check out the December 2004 issue of Journal of Light Construction article titled “Manufactured-Stone Nightmares”. For a copy of the guidelines provided by the Masonry Veneer Manufacturer's Association (MVMA) a PDF copy of the installation guidelines is available at: