EIFS: The legal fine print, or covering your own…
Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems are a great product, and if this wasn’t common knowledge throughout the industry, it would not be so widely used if all EIFS brought to those who installed EIFS were headaches, frustration and legal problems.
That said, there are a few misconceptions about EIFS and when problems with any element of contracting arise, the person who installed it is generally the first to be blamed regardless if that is where the blame should truthfully lie. This article is not legal advice, but instead offers a few common sense guidelines with regards to avoiding undeserved litigation as an EIFS contractor.
Do it right
The easiest way to avoid future litigation is by doing the job properly and installing the EIFS as per any instructions put forth by manufacturers, suppliers and distributers. Many of the problems with EIFS that eventually turn into legal headaches for the contractors are due to the improper installation of EIFS, not the use of the product itself. Your side of a court case will generally flounder if you maintain you did something the way everyone else does, especially if that way tends to fail.
Have the expectations of the project and your duties in writing before you begin, and as with any contracting or other job, undertake all of your responsibilities as required. Obviously this is a no-brainer with regards to all construction jobs, but when you do everything expected of you as per the original contract, you’ve fulfilled your obligations as specified.
Caution should be taken with regards to going above and beyond – not within the scope of your own responsibilities, but by encroaching on the responsibilities of others. Don’t act as a designer or an architect if you are there as a contractor or are neither, as this can be turned around on you or backfire if something is botched or if there is a problem with one of the design or architectural components.
It’s mentioned above, but it bears so much repeating. Do not divert from the manufacturer’s instructions or requirements without permission or written authorization from a proper authority who can back you up if something goes amiss.
EIFS is a relatively new product when compared to other wall-cladding systems, and because each EIFS component and the method in which they are constructed differs among manufacturers, each set of specifications must be followed. The requirements for each layer and each material have been designed a certain way for a reason, and EIFS shouldn’t be altered without checking with the manufacturer.
If the manufacturer has published instructions for certain factors involving the use of their EIFS that need to be altered to fit the scope of your job or project, then they are the proper authority to check with. It is not unheard of to go back to the manufacturer with such questions or concerns and have them approve of these changes in writing.
Building owner and homeowner requests
A situation may arise in which you’re asked to do something that is not up to industry standards. While building codes are laws and are not flexible, industry standards are a large grey area determined by people within the industry, not politicians or lawmakers.
If a building owner or homeowner requests such a thing, they may not fully understand the implications as they are not in the field of construction and don’t often know any better. It is the contractor or installer’s obligation to explain the implications, ensure it is legal when compared to building codes, and get the request in writing incase this alteration leads to problems in the future.
This article breaks down into three very simple ways of protecting yourself and your reputation as an EIFS installer.
- Don’t deviate from the instructions, regulations or specifications the manufacturer or supplier has put forth with regards to their EIFS product.
- When asked or required to do something not in the contract, or doesn’t sound right when run by your contractor’s common sense, get the request in writing by both whoever is asking (homeowner or building owner) and an authority (preferably the manufacturer of the EIFS themselves).
- Retain all paperwork, notes, letters and other information as much as possible to use as a reference later, or as proof for a lawyer if it ever comes to that. He said/she said arguments don’t hold up very well in court.