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And The Builder Said…..

By: Fred Willcox
Copyright ©2013
All Rights Reserved.

The issue is the drainage of stucco clad walls. One of the major issues is always the drainage of any exterior cladding (wall covering) system. In almost all houses built in the Greater Houston area, cladding systems are not drained. The lack of drains cause rot in the structural framing and mold inside the house.

This morning I met with a builder and his mason on a house under construction. The builder requested that I meet with his mason as I had already raised the cladding system drainage. The builder was present when I arrived. He immediately started questioning me about the drainage issue and the “code”. The builder stated that he didn’t understand anything about wall drainage but that his only requirement was to meet the “code”.

When the mason arrived, he and I had a brief discussion of the wall drains that I wanted and the mason completely understood that I was talking about.

The builder asked his mason: “Is what we have been doing on all our houses code or is what Fred is talking about the code?”

The mason replied that what I was saying was the requirements of the building code.

The builder said: “You mean all the houses I have built do not meet the code?”

The mason replied: “That is correct.”

“Why haven’t we been building our houses to code?”

“Because nobody likes the way it looks” replied the mason.

The truth is, you can tell from the street or from even being fairly close to the house that proper wall drains have been installed. There are no real concerns over the “look” of the house.

I saw a realtor recently who told me that she had always considered me a zealot on the issue of wall drainage. In fact, I inspected the house a builder had built for her last year and I had a fit about the lack of drainage in the stucco cladding. She believed the builder when the builder said that I was out of my mind and that nobody builds houses the way I described. She then told me that she and her husband are now spending $300,000 to repair the damage from the water that has been in their stucco veneer. She said that she will believe everything I have to say from now on.

That is nice but it was a $300,000 lesson.

Water trapped in a cladding system, be it brick, stone or stucco or anything else, is going to make its way into a house as water vapor. At the very least, this raises the humidity level inside the house. This makes the house uncomfortable to live in. Comfort cooling is the temperature and humidity level. If the relative humidity is high in your house, you will continue to lower the thermostat because, although it is cool in the house, you are not comfortable.

Water will ultimately destroy almost anything. In houses made of wood and wood fibers, molds and rot will almost always result from the presence of water.

The manufacturers of masonry and masonry supporting materials such as plywood have long recognized the need for proper wall drains. Information on the minimum requirements for wall drainage can be found at industry websites such as the Brick Industry Association, Inc. (www.bia.org) and the American Plywood Association, Inc. (www.apawood.org). Both websites have tremendous information on the reasons for the necessity of proper wall cavity drainage.