DEAR BARRY: My neighbor recently insulated his home in an unusual way. A contractor installed thick foam panels on the outside of the building and then applied a stucco finish. I’m thinking about doing the same thing to my house. Is this something that you would recommend?
DEAR WALTER: The installation you are describing is known as EIFS: exterior insulated finish system. There is much information about this online because EIFS has been the subject of controversy and complaint. When installed properly by a competent professional who complies with all of the installation requirements, there may be no major problems. Unfortunately, many contractors have made significant installation errors, causing moisture penetration, rotted framing and sheathing, and infestation by termites or carpenter ants.
Another problem with EIFS is that the stucco application over the foam paneling is very thin, as compared with a conventional three-layer stucco installation. This means that the surface can be damaged with moderate impact, such as being hit with a baseball.
If you are considering this type of exterior on your home, proceed with caution. An error by any of the workers doing the installation could cost you a fortune in future repairs. It could also become a serious disclosure issue when you eventually sell your home.
If the exterior of your home is not insulated, you can have insulation injected into the wall cavities.
If you want an exterior stucco finish, a traditional three-coat stucco application is the safe and solid way to go.
DEAR BARRY: We have a manufactured, wood-burning fireplace in our home and have converted it to gas logs, that is, cement logs with a gas flame. To complete this upgrade, we'd like to put a new granite face on the wall around the fireplace but are unsure whether it is OK to cover the air vents at the top and bottom of the fixture.
Is it safe to do this?
DEAR PAUL: The air vents on the front of a manufactured fireplace have two functions. First, they allow some of the heat from the fireplace to warm the air in the room. Second, and more importantly, they prevent overheating of the metal casing that surrounds the firebox. If that casing becomes too hot, the wall framing behind the fireplace could potentially be ignited. Now that you are burning gas, the fireplace may not become as hot as when you formerly burned wood. Therefore, professional evaluation of the unit is essential before making further alterations.
You should contact the fireplace manufacturer to see what they recommend. In nearly all cases, they void their warranties when a fireplace is altered in any way. Therefore, covering the vents would probably not meet with their approval.
You should also hire a certified chimney sweep to evaluate the condition of the fireplace and chimney, as well as the gas-log conversion. A qualified chimney sweep is familiar with most fireplace products and can advise you in making alterations that will not pose a fire hazard in your home.
To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com.
Action Coast Publishing