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Old 08-26-2008, 09:55 AM
 
7 posts, read 20,288 times
Reputation: 10

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Hi, I've been lurking around the boards for a while and seems like a great community resource, so hoping some of you can offer some advice on an issue that we have in our current home. Sorry, this might be a bit lenghty, but wanted to be sure I cover everyting.

We have an issue that we noticed with our window sill in two windows, one in the back of the house and one in the front. In the corners of the window sill on the inside, there is wood rot and a spongy wet feel when you push down on the corners of those windows, especially when it's recently rained. There is no noticeable water stains on any of the drywall above or below. The home was built in 2002 and we are the second owners, we moved in Oct of 2007.

We're thinking that it could be improperly installed windows/flashing and/or potentially an issue related to stucco installation/defect or something similar. With the recent rain from Fay, we noticed the spongy feel in the corners of the window sills in other windows as well.

Our initial step was to get a mold/moisture inspection. We did that in July and the report showed that the corners of those two windows in particular had high moisture readings and as a result, there could be water intrusion getting into the wall. However, without destructive investigation, the extent/cause of the issue is unknown at this point. If this is an issue with faulty window installation, faulty windows, faulty stucco, etc. it could be a costly repair, so we want to be sure we're going down the right road to get the repairs covered by preferably the original builder.

Armed with the report, we decided to first try filing a claim under the 10 year structural warranty. Their inspector came out, filed a detailed report documenting the issues and the end result was that they do not want to cover anything because the results "do not meet the structural defect criteria as defined in the warranty". Those key points are:

1) there must be actual physical damage
2) to a designated load-bearing element
3) the physical damage must be a result of the failure of that load bearing element
4) the load-bearing element function of that element must be affected to the extent that the home becomes unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unlivable.

All four portions must be met before the defect can be considered to be covered by the structural warranty.

The only option to proceed with THAT claim is to go to arbitration and argue the specifics of the wording of the warranty.

Since it doesn't seem like we'll get far on the structural warranty claim, we're trying to figure out our next method of attack. If we could prove that the window install/stucco installation was a latent defect or faulty in some way, we're thinking we could go after the builder that way. We're also wondering if we were to file a claim for wood rot/fungi/mold (of which our insurance has a specific clause for) if potentially the insurance company would go after the builder, and make things much easier.

Just trying to get some advice/opinion on the best way to proceed to minimize our out of pocket expense, hopefully avoid going to court and still get the issue taken care of in a timely manner. Not asking for much right? Thanks ahead of time for any info from folks that might have gone through similar experiences.

 
Old 08-26-2008, 01:36 PM
 
Location: St. Augustine FL
1,641 posts, read 4,518,986 times
Reputation: 2390
Since you have insurance, maybe you should just file a claim. They would then fix it, and if they choose to go after your builder, all the better. I would think though, your first priority would be to get it fixed. From what you've written it seems like the windows are improperly installed / flashed/ caulked to the frame, and if you don't stop that, you'll end up with a much worse problem down the road with the stucco.

You probably already know this, and I'm no expert, I have seen this sort of problem in a few condos that I've shown as a Realtor, where the entire front had to be taken off below the window and redone.
 
Old 08-26-2008, 01:44 PM
 
709 posts, read 1,944,713 times
Reputation: 294
I agree with agreatlife, your insurance company will go after whoever they need to and would be the quickest to get the repairs done.
 
Old 08-26-2008, 02:07 PM
 
7 posts, read 20,288 times
Reputation: 10
Thanks for the quick responses. An interesting issue comes up with the insurance. Within the last week we received our yearly policy renewal and one of the notices was that they're bumping up our coverage for wood rot/fungi/bacteria from 10,000 per incident to 25,000 per incident and max total from 20,000 to 50,000 over the life of the policy, for an additional $60 fee unless we want to decline that additional coverage. Obviously we would like the additional coverage, so we'll keep that, but the policy doesn't renew until the beginning of October. Since there is the potential of it being all windows/stucco/etc, it could be higher than 10,000 so it would seem to be highly beneficial to wait, assuming the issue would be covered.

I agree that we would like to get it taken care of and behind us ASAP, but I'm assuming that for the additional coverage to kick in we'd have to wait until the renewal goes into effect. Seem to make sense? Guessing it's been getting gradually worse over time and there wasn't any major additional noticeable damage from Fay, so would seem like it would be ok to wait until the day the new policy kicks in? Thanks again for your suggestions!
 
Old 08-26-2008, 02:12 PM
 
Location: St. Augustine FL
1,641 posts, read 4,518,986 times
Reputation: 2390
I would just make sure that if you hand over documentation to them it isn't dated. I really don't know if that would make a difference or not.
 
Old 08-26-2008, 09:22 PM
 
Location: Jax
8,204 posts, read 31,559,842 times
Reputation: 3378
If it were me, this is what I would do:

1) First, I'd talk to the builder again. Okay, so maybe this doesn't fall under a warranty for structural damage, but what kind of warranty was there on the windows and window installation? The windows are outsourced by the builder, so the builder can let you know what the warranty is/was on the windows and give you the contact info for the window installer. Even if you're out of warranty with the window installer, you might be able to get some assistance from them (or at least you know who to go after if you find them at fault).

2) Then I'd go from the inside of the house and open up a section of drywall under one of those windows to take a look at what's going on. Document the entire process with photos and maybe video as well (though if you'll be heading to court, photos will be easier to show a judge). A drywall repair from inside the house will be easier than a stucco repair from outside.

Also, how is your stucco? Do you have cracks? Water can get in under stucco and do some real damage.

Calling the insurer is always my last choice. I'll exhaust all other options first.
 
Old 08-27-2008, 07:21 PM
 
44 posts, read 143,445 times
Reputation: 38
Thanks Riveree, I always find you posts most helpful. That is a good point about the windows. I had initially done a little looking on my own to see if the specific window maker had any recalls or issues online, but didn't find much. The make on the windows is Milco. Anyone know anything about Milco windows?
 
Old 08-31-2008, 09:40 AM
 
1,688 posts, read 2,779,593 times
Reputation: 1731
Default More info...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaxman123 View Post
Hi, I've been lurking around the boards for a while and seems like a great community resource, so hoping some of you can offer some advice on an issue that we have in our current home. Sorry, this might be a bit lenghty, but wanted to be sure I cover everyting.

We have an issue that we noticed with our window sill in two windows, one in the back of the house and one in the front. In the corners of the window sill on the inside, there is wood rot and a spongy wet feel when you push down on the corners of those windows, especially when it's recently rained. There is no noticeable water stains on any of the drywall above or below. The home was built in 2002 and we are the second owners, we moved in Oct of 2007.

We're thinking that it could be improperly installed windows/flashing and/or potentially an issue related to stucco installation/defect or something similar. With the recent rain from Fay, we noticed the spongy feel in the corners of the window sills in other windows as well.

Our initial step was to get a mold/moisture inspection. We did that in July and the report showed that the corners of those two windows in particular had high moisture readings and as a result, there could be water intrusion getting into the wall. However, without destructive investigation, the extent/cause of the issue is unknown at this point. If this is an issue with faulty window installation, faulty windows, faulty stucco, etc. it could be a costly repair, so we want to be sure we're going down the right road to get the repairs covered by preferably the original builder.

Armed with the report, we decided to first try filing a claim under the 10 year structural warranty. Their inspector came out, filed a detailed report documenting the issues and the end result was that they do not want to cover anything because the results "do not meet the structural defect criteria as defined in the warranty". Those key points are:

1) there must be actual physical damage
2) to a designated load-bearing element
3) the physical damage must be a result of the failure of that load bearing element
4) the load-bearing element function of that element must be affected to the extent that the home becomes unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unlivable.

All four portions must be met before the defect can be considered to be covered by the structural warranty.

The only option to proceed with THAT claim is to go to arbitration and argue the specifics of the wording of the warranty.

Since it doesn't seem like we'll get far on the structural warranty claim, we're trying to figure out our next method of attack. If we could prove that the window install/stucco installation was a latent defect or faulty in some way, we're thinking we could go after the builder that way. We're also wondering if we were to file a claim for wood rot/fungi/mold (of which our insurance has a specific clause for) if potentially the insurance company would go after the builder, and make things much easier.

Just trying to get some advice/opinion on the best way to proceed to minimize our out of pocket expense, hopefully avoid going to court and still get the issue taken care of in a timely manner. Not asking for much right? Thanks ahead of time for any info from folks that might have gone through similar experiences.

If you could give me some more information I may be able to help you. I have done numerous redo's on homes that were built 3-5 years ago such as the one you descibed and in most cases, the homeowner had and attorney involved, and the builders, in some cases, had to completely redo the whole exterior of the home.

There are some common threads that recurr in the damage to these homes from 5 years ago.

1. In 2002, when your home was built, a Weatherization System (housewrap and window flashing as an integrated system) was not mandated by code. Also, in 2002, was when the first Weatherization System installation company was started in Jacksonville, and therefore, there were only a couple builders using them at that time.

What this means is that the builders who were using a system were typically having their framing and/or siding company do the install. These trades were not qualified or certified for these systems, and typically put their newest least qualified employees on it to do the job, since the higher paid guys were paid to get the house framed, not wrapped.

So in 2002, not every house was being wrapped and flashed, and the ones that were, were being done incorrectly, which can actually force water into the wall and cause more problems than not having any system at all. I can assure you that you are not alone in this scenario...and the lawyers will hire engineers to inspect the home, and chances are they will find defects that were done incorrectly and the builder, if they are still around, will be forced to deal with it.

I can tell you for sure that in 2002, the only builders that I can recall for sure that were installing a system by a certified installation company were CornerStone Homes, North Florida Builders (which is now Woodside Homes), Beazer Homes, and a handful of high end custom builders. As the moisture intrusion problems escalated, Builders quickly jumped on board and starting installing the systems, but many did not use trained installers.

This is probably the case with your home, and there is no way around getting this fixed probably without an attorney, or at least the threat of one.

2. The other common thread was no housewrap at all. A lot of the builders back then, and even some today still in Clay County, who for some reason thinks the Florida Building Codes do not apply to them, used only the felt backed lathe on the home with no moisture barrier at all. This felt is highly penetrable by water, and usually deteriorates to about the consisitency of wet newspaper after about a year of being in your wall system. However, it was code, and the Weatherization Systems were not required like they were starting in around 2004. This is what sparked the class action lawsuit against Arvida Homes for mold and moisture intrusion.

Here's the other aspect; in 2002, things were getting real busy, and many of the stucco contractors were subbing out there work, and there was no real quality control going on. I've seen homes where the stucco was only 1/8" in thickness in places. Control joints weren't flashing properly, etc etc.

If you wouldn't mind telling me where and who built your home, I could do some further research and possibly give you some ammo for what may have been done to your house.

As a final note....new homebuyers beware....with the meltdown in housing, a lot of builders are cutting corners with their Weatherization Systems....they are using inferior products, untrained and uncertified installers. There are 10 year warranties available on these systems if they use the right people and or products, so there is no excuse for this, other than they are getting it cheap, cheap, cheap. I will be glad to research and/or inspect for anyone on this board what their builder is doing or has done in the past, for free, period. People are getting snowed without knowing what is going on and it makes me very angry!

Best of Luck!!
 
Old 08-31-2008, 11:01 AM
 
1,688 posts, read 2,779,593 times
Reputation: 1731
Default Disclaimer

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShakenStirred View Post
If you could give me some more information I may be able to help you. I have done numerous redo's on homes that were built 3-5 years ago such as the one you descibed and in most cases, the homeowner had and attorney involved, and the builders, in some cases, had to completely redo the whole exterior of the home.

There are some common threads that recurr in the damage to these homes from 5 years ago.

1. In 2002, when your home was built, a Weatherization System (housewrap and window flashing as an integrated system) was not mandated by code. Also, in 2002, was when the first Weatherization System installation company was started in Jacksonville, and therefore, there were only a couple builders using them at that time.

What this means is that the builders who were using a system were typically having their framing and/or siding company do the install. These trades were not qualified or certified for these systems, and typically put their newest least qualified employees on it to do the job, since the higher paid guys were paid to get the house framed, not wrapped.

So in 2002, not every house was being wrapped and flashed, and the ones that were, were being done incorrectly, which can actually force water into the wall and cause more problems than not having any system at all. I can assure you that you are not alone in this scenario...and the lawyers will hire engineers to inspect the home, and chances are they will find defects that were done incorrectly and the builder, if they are still around, will be forced to deal with it.

I can tell you for sure that in 2002, the only builders that I can recall for sure that were installing a system by a certified installation company were CornerStone Homes, North Florida Builders (which is now Woodside Homes), Beazer Homes, and a handful of high end custom builders. As the moisture intrusion problems escalated, Builders quickly jumped on board and starting installing the systems, but many did not use trained installers.

This is probably the case with your home, and there is no way around getting this fixed probably without an attorney, or at least the threat of one.

2. The other common thread was no housewrap at all. A lot of the builders back then, and even some today still in Clay County, who for some reason thinks the Florida Building Codes do not apply to them, used only the felt backed lathe on the home with no moisture barrier at all. This felt is highly penetrable by water, and usually deteriorates to about the consisitency of wet newspaper after about a year of being in your wall system. However, it was code, and the Weatherization Systems were not required like they were starting in around 2004. This is what sparked the class action lawsuit against Arvida Homes for mold and moisture intrusion.

Here's the other aspect; in 2002, things were getting real busy, and many of the stucco contractors were subbing out there work, and there was no real quality control going on. I've seen homes where the stucco was only 1/8" in thickness in places. Control joints weren't flashing properly, etc etc.

If you wouldn't mind telling me where and who built your home, I could do some further research and possibly give you some ammo for what may have been done to your house.

As a final note....new homebuyers beware....with the meltdown in housing, a lot of builders are cutting corners with their Weatherization Systems....they are using inferior products, untrained and uncertified installers. There are 10 year warranties available on these systems if they use the right people and or products, so there is no excuse for this, other than they are getting it cheap, cheap, cheap. I will be glad to research and/or inspect for anyone on this board what their builder is doing or has done in the past, for free, period. People are getting snowed without knowing what is going on and it makes me very angry!

Best of Luck!!
Disclaimer for riveree....I am not selling anything. I work for the builders, not homeowner, homebuyers or the general public. I will truly do this out of the kindness of my own heart, because I believe in old school integrity and this type of information is readily available to the builders, but not the general public. Plus, it will be a feather in my cap if I ever decide to run for President. LOL!!
 
Old 08-31-2008, 12:48 PM
 
Location: Jax
8,204 posts, read 31,559,842 times
Reputation: 3378
Quote:
Originally Posted by ShakenStirred View Post
Disclaimer for riveree....I am not selling anything. I work for the builders, not homeowner, homebuyers or the general public. I will truly do this out of the kindness of my own heart, because I believe in old school integrity and this type of information is readily available to the builders, but not the general public. Plus, it will be a feather in my cap if I ever decide to run for President. LOL!!
.......and members can DM the info to you, right? I know some people might not be comfortable posting their builder/neighborhood on the public forum if they plan to sell their home down the road, etc.

That's really good info above, Shaken, I learned a lot. I know when my house was being built (mid-2003), I made them redo the stucco front and I made them use a different worker to do it. We purposely chose to do hardiboard sides because today's stucco is not like stucco of the past...the less stucco the better we felt .
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