EIFS: How Synthetic Stucco Can Cause Huge Damage to Homes Across America

November 8, 2008

The acronym “EIFS” stands for “Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems.” Most people call it “stucco,” although it’s not true stucco. It’s synthetic stucco. In this article, the terms EIFS, stucco and synthetic stucco will all be interchangeable.

There was an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on November 4, 2008 about Post Properties, headquartered in Atlanta. Post owns apartment complexes all across the USA. Post will spend $40 to $45 million dollars repairing over 11,000 apartments that have water damage due to improperly installed EIFS.

“This is a construction method that was prevalent in the 90s. We don’t use it anymore,” David Stockert, Post’s CEO and president, told analysts Tuesday. Stockert also said that very little of the damage will be covered by insurance.

$45 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the damages to single family homes across America that are covered with synthetic stucco.

Over the last twenty years, MILLIONS of single family homes were built using stucco as the exterior finish. Stucco looks great, is easy to install, has great energy-saving features and can be made to look like stone and other masonry finishes.

However, in my own experience as a claims adjuster, I’ve seen very little residential stucco that has been installed properly. Nearly every EIFS-clad house I’ve ever inspected had water, mold and termite damage behind the stucco. Sometimes the damage is so extensive that the houses have to be condemned and torn down.

I spent lots of time handling claims for Construction Defect liability that involved stucco. I don’t know of any single building material that has been responsible for more builder bankruptcies in America than stucco. And, as the stucco product ages, more and more home damages are being discovered.

I remember inspecting a huge, three story wood framed, stucco exterior home in a golf course community in Athens, Georgia a few years ago. The owners discovered the damage when the wife walked over to a dining room bay window and her foot fell through the wood floor.

There was water damage on all four sides of the house, and around every door and window opening. Worse, the water behind the walls made the perfect breeding ground for termites that had been eating the house for a long time. The estimate I wrote was for $439,000, and the home was valued at about $500,000. The house was demolished and rebuilt on the foundations. The builder’s liability insurance paid the claim. The new house DID NOT have a stucco exterior.

EIFS manufacturers issue shop drawings that builders are supposed to use when installing EIFS. They specify that flashing must be used around ANY door or window opening. “Flashing” are formed metal pieces that keep the water from getting behind the stucco. But in millions of homes, the builder simply butts the stucco up against the outside of the window or door, smears on the stucco finish, and seals the joint with caulking.

It doesn’t take too many months for exterior caulking to crack and separate. Once that happens, water gets behind the stucco every time it rains.

So, when water gets behind EIFS, it gets trapped. Lots of homes have a layer of “housewrap,” or plastic sheeting as a vapor barrier under the stucco. But vapor barriers that keep moisture out also keep moisture in. When water gets trapped behind the EIFS, it creates the perfect habitat for termites…food and water. They’ll stay until the food and water run out.

Termites can destroy a home unprotected by pesticides. However, termites can also damage or destroy a protected home. Termites only need THREE THINGS TO THRIVE:
1. Access…a way to get in.
2. Moisture to drink.
3. Food…which in an average house is wood. Walls, floors, plywood, trim, windows, doors…all wood products are on the termites’ menu.

The other big problem for stucco is that builders ran the product down the side of the exterior wall and then landscaped up to it. Stucco that comes into contact with the ground makes it super easy for termites to invade without detection.

Why am I telling you this about your stucco-covered home? Because your damage will likely NOT be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Wet Rot is excluded in your homeowners policy. The standard HO-3 policy also has exclusions for damage caused by insects. The policy also excludes damage caused by mold and mildew, commonly found where the water damage is.

I urge you to have a home inspector or contractor inspect your home. Look carefully at the outside trim around your doors and windows. If you cannot easily see a metal flashing between the stucco and the door or window trim, your stucco was improperly installed by the builder. The chances are overwhelming that you have interior water damage all over your home.

The final insult is that you likely can’t sell your home without making the repairs first.

If you find damage, and your insurance company denies coverage for your damages, you’ll have to notify the builder who built your home that you’re making a claim against his Liability insurance policy. I recommend that you consult an attorney as you begin the process.

EIFS, improperly installed on ANY building, causes nothing but nightmares and financial ruin. Don’t be a victim…find out your rights and fight hard!

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Electronics Insurance: Are Your Electronics and Computers Covered by Your Insurance?

November 8, 2008

There is a lot of misinformation today about consumer electronics and how it is treated by insurance companies. Most people I talk to think that if they have homeowners or renters insurance, their consumer electronics are covered.

But they usually find out that their assumptions aren’t true…at claims time.

Sure, some of the property is covered. But there are a bunch of limits and exclusions that will surprise you if you have a loss and file a claim.

Don’t wait until claim time to learn about this important coverage. Read this article carefully and make good decisions about your coverage.

Twenty years ago, consumer computer usage and ownership was not all that common. If you owned a cell phone, you carried it in a bag the size of a small purse. There were few home fax machines. Answering machines were pretty common, but voicemail was still on the horizon. Scanners were non-existent. Printers and copiers were huge and expensive, and you didn’t see them in most homes. If you were the rare person who had satellite TV, the dish was about eight feet across and sat out in the back yard. And Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and MP3 players had not been invented yet.

But today….

In our home we have:
• two desktop computers with monitors
• four laptop computers
• four printers
• one stand-alone fax machine
• one combination fax, scanner, copier
• three TVs
• two VCRs
• one digital video camera with tripod for our home recording studio
• one audio mixing board, one microphone, one amplifier, two external soundcards, and a 500GB hard drive, all for our home recording studio
• two DVD players
• two cell phones, one smartphone, each with voicemail
• one satellite TV system with a 24” dish on the roof
• two Ipods

Your home may not have that amount of electronics, but then again, you might have more. The way that consumer electronics prices have tumbled over the years makes ownership much easier for more and more people.

But…is it covered? Does your homeowners or renters insurance cover your electronics?

We run three separate businesses out of our home. Most of our electronics are used in our businesses.

Do you have a home business? There are millions of home businesses…everything from home daycare to a service business to multilevel marketing businesses. Many times, those entrepreneurs own office electronics for their home business. Do you use your computers and other electronics for any kind of home business? Even if you’re answering office email on your home computer, it could be considered “business use.”

Are they covered by YOUR homeowners policy?

Are they covered if they are business-related?

What happens if your desktop or laptop computer is stolen, either from home or away from home? Is the theft covered by your homeowners insurance policy?

If you’re carrying your laptop through an airport anywhere in America, your laptop is at huge risk for theft. (See more below) What if your laptop is stolen while you’re in the airport?

Here is the answer to those questions…

MAYBE!!!!

In the Homeowners or Renters Policy, Coverage C, Contents, there are special limits of $2,500 for “property, on the residence premises, used primarily for business purposes.” The policy says there is a $500 limit for “property away from the residence premises used primarily for business purposes.” Of course, you will have a deductible to pay first, so if your deductible is $500 or more, you won’t get ANY money from the insurance company for this loss.

Are your personal electronics covered? Yes, but only for the following perils:

• Fire or lightning
• Windstorm or Hail
• Explosion
• Riot or Civil Commotion
• Aircraft (not in aircraft, but if aircraft fall on your stuff.)
• Vehicles (not in vehicles, but if vehicles crash into your stuff.)
• Smoke
• Vandalism or Malicious Mischief
• Theft
• Falling Objects (stuff falling onto your stuff)
• Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet
• Accidental Discharge or Overflow of Water or Steam
• Sudden and Accidental Tearing Apart or Bursting (of a steam or hot water system).
• Freezing
• Sudden and Accidental Damage from an Artificially Generated Electrical Current
• Volcanic Eruption

As I said above, the policy limit for business electronics at the residence is $2,500.

If your laptop or other portable electronics are stolen from your car, there is no coverage under your Auto insurance for the theft.

Also remember, that under Coverage C, Contents, payment is made on an Actual Cash Value basis, not Replacement Cost Value. The only way to get RCV is to add the Contents Replacement Cost endorsement to your policy. It’s not automatic, you have to request it.

How about other kinds of damage that your computer might sustain?

• Accidental damage, such as dropped equipment, falls, liquid spills and auto collisions.
• Water damage

Those kinds of damages are not covered under your homeowners or renters policy.

And what about the software and sensitive data in your computer? Is that covered, too?

Not likely. In the Homeowners and Renters policies, under the “Property Not Covered” section, “business data, including data stored in computers and related equipment” is not covered.

So, to be fully covered, you’ll need to buy some additional coverage.

COMPUTER AND PERSONAL ELECTRONICS INSURANCE

The leading company in the world for computer and portable electronics insurance is Safeware Insurance. They have programs for students, individuals, small and large businesses and schools at very competitive rates.

Let me take a few minutes and tell you about their outstanding insurance product.

If you own:

• Desktop or Laptop Computers
• Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
• Smartphones
• Digital cameras
• MP3 players
• Scanners/Faxes/Copiers
• Printers
• DVD players
• Flash drives
• Servers
• External hard drives
• Digital camcorders
• Peripherals that connect to your computers through an USB port, Firewire, PCMCIA or another input

All of these electronic products need special insurance coverage not provided in Homeowners or Renters policies.

Did you know these facts about computers?

• Accidental damage is the number one cause of loss
• Theft is number two cause of loss
• Power surge is number three
• Manufacturer warranties do not protect your computer from accidental damage or theft
• Even though some manufacturers do offer special “damage only” coverage, they do not offer coverage for theft, power surges, natural disasters or vandalism.

You already know how easy it is to have electronics with replacement value in excess of $2,500. There are loaded desktops and laptops that easily exceed $2,500 EACH.

So, you have some choices:

1. Call your agent and buy a Personal Property Endorsement to add coverage to your homeowners or renters policy. Downsides to this choice are (a) many endorsements only pay the Actual Cash Value of the damaged property, not replacement cost, and (b) perils like Accidental Damage, Drops, Falls, Cracked Screens, Liquid Spills and Auto Collisions are not covered.
2. Buy a custom policy that just adds special coverage for your computers and other electronics, like:

• Desktops
• Laptops and notebooks
• Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
• Smartphones
• Digital cameras
• MP3 players
• Scanners/Faxes/Copiers
• Printers
• DVD players
• Flash drives
• Servers
• External hard drives
• Digital camcorders
• Peripherals that connect to your computers through an USB port, Firewire, PCMCIA or another input

Safeware’s policies cover Accidental Damage, Drops, Falls, Cracked Screens, Liquid Spills and Auto Collisions.

Business Electronics

In May 2006, burglars stole a laptop from the home of a data analyst at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The laptop contained the sensitive personal information of over 26 million veterans and military personnel. The FBI said that the laptop was recovered after an informant “snitched,” motivated by a $50,000 reward.

But it’s not just organizations that deal with consumer data that are concerned about thefts. Companies whose employees have laptops are naturally concerned with the value of the computer when it is the company that owns the laptop.

The Ponemon Institute, a privacy risk management think tank, released an extensive study in June 2008 entitled “Airport Insecurity : The Case of Missing and Lost Laptops.”** They studied laptop security at 106 American airports and found that there is an average of 12,000 laptops lost, missing or stolen at American airports PER WEEK! The airport with the worst record is Los Angeles International, with about 1,200 per week. The nation’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield, was in eighth place with 450 per week.

Further, the study found that only 33% of the laptops within the airport’s Lost and Found Departments are ever reclaimed! That means that the remaining 67% of unclaimed laptops are either sold or disposed of by airport authorities. Can you imagine the amount of sensitive personal and business data contained in those laptops? No one knows what happens to that data, but it is ALL at risk. The Identity Theft risks are astronomical.

Safeware’s policy covers business electronics for the hazards the homeowners, renters or business insurance policy does not cover.

Education Coverage

Students face a higher risk of damage or theft than a normal adult user. Students can experience accidents when they’re putting their stuff into their locker, or accidentally get bumped in a busy hallway, or when they’re running to the bus. A soft drink could be spilled on the keyboard, or they could sit their laptop bag down somewhere and later find it missing.

This policy protects students’ computers against Accidental Damage, Theft, Vandalism, Power Surge, and Natural Disasters at any location within the USA, Canada and while in transit.

Small Business Coverage is for any sized business with electronics property values up to $49,999, covering Accidental Damage, Theft, Fire, Vandalism, Power Surge and Natural Disasters.

Commercial Coverage is a group plan for organizations that have electronics property values in excess of $50,000. Coverage can be one of the following: Comprehensive (Accidental Damage, Theft, Fire, Vandalism, Power Surge, and Natural Disasters); Theft ONLY, or Accidental Damage ONLY.

The Commercial policy can benefit organizations such as:

• Schools and colleges that want to make their student’s notebook computers more safe and less at risk.
• Corporations issuing notebooks and laptops to their workers, and wishing to minimize their risk of capital loss.

In these organizations, the equipment is owned by the corporation or school and used by the employee or student. Experience has shown that if an individual does not own the computer, he or she is likely to take less care of the item than if they owned it themselves. Schools and businesses need to insure their equipment against the perils that could turn their expensive equipment into unusable junk.

Safeware Insurance policies do not depreciate for age and condition of your electronics. If you have a claim that requires replacement of your equipment, they pay for like kind and quality of the equipment you had. That’s a HUGE difference from the Homeowners and Renters policies, and could mean thousands more dollars to you in a claim.

Worldwide Coverage is an endorsement that adds global coverage to your policy for a very low price. Standard coverage is for the USA, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Mobile Advantage insures PDAs and smartphones. You likely purchased your unit at a big discount when you signed up for a service plan. If your device is damaged or stolen, you’ll have to pay full retail for another unit. However, with Mobile Advantage, you’re only responsible for the $50 deductible per incident to get a brand new device.

For more information about Personal Electronics Insurance for your student, yourself, your business or your school, contact Safeware Insurance at: http://www.safeware.com

LAPTOP RECOVERY COVERAGE

Can you get your stolen laptop back?

There is a way that you can protect your laptop, and then retrieve your laptop after it’s been stolen.

Three burglary suspects were arrested on February 1, 2008 by Albuquerque police, thanks to a stolen computer loaded with tracking software. The software is called LoJack for Laptops™, developed by Absolute Software. The tracking software told the police exactly where to find the suspects. The police were also able to recover thousands of dollars in other stolen property at the location.

Absolute Software is the leader in Computer Theft Recovery, Data Protection and Secure Asset Tracking™ solutions. It works this way: You install the LoJack for Laptops™ software and register it at the LoJack website. If the laptop is stolen, you notify your local police and notify the LoJack Recovery Team. The next time your computer is connected to the Internet, the laptop secretly notifies the Monitoring Center of its whereabouts. The Recovery Team can track its location, and provide police with the information they will need to get a search warrant and recover your laptop.

Pricing for LoJack for Laptops™ starts at only $39.99 per year.

My friend here in Atlanta, Cole Harrison, had his laptop stolen from his car recently. He had the Lojack system on the laptop, and notified them immediately when he discovered the theft. Lojack located the laptop the next day…in Thailand.

If you want protect your laptop so you can get it back after it’s been stolen, check out: http://www.lojackforlaptops.com Lojack boasts a 90% recovery rate for stolen laptops.

CONCLUSION

For only a small price, you can have the proper coverage you need to protect all your personal and business electronics. Be the smartest person on your block with the right protection. Be the hero to your business with the best coverage. YOU CAN DO IT!!

** To read the entire study, go to: http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/services/dell_lost_laptop_study.pdf


Deer-Vehicle Collisions: Top Seven Ways to Avoid Hitting A Deer

November 8, 2008

Fatalities from vehicle crashes with deer and other animals have more than doubled over the last 15 years, according to a new study by an auto insurance-funded highway safety group.

The National Highway Loss Data Institute found that there are approximately 1.5 million Deer/Vehicle Collisions resulting in over 300 human deaths (the deer nearly always die) and 30,000 injuries. Texas has the highest number of deaths, followed by Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The damages cost the insurance companies over $1 Billion each year.

“Urban sprawl means suburbia and deer habitat intersect in many parts of the county,” said Kim Hazelbaker, of the Highway Loss Data Institute. “If you’re driving in areas where deer are prevalent, the caution flag is out, especially in November.”

November is the beginning of the mating season for deer, and they’re moving around a lot during this season. Insurance claims for crashes are three times higher in November than from January through October.

I lived the first 37 years of my life in Michigan, a state with a huge deer population. We learned as teenagers to always be alert for deer along roads and highways. We all knew someone who had hit a deer with their vehicle at some time. I remember driving back from Traverse City to Whitehall one fall evening, which was a trip of about 100 miles. I counted 46 times I slowed when seeing deer standing near the road on that one trip.

So make sure that, no matter what state you live in, you are aware that animals can be a serious danger when you’re driving.

About a month ago, I handled a claim for a trucker in Pennsylvania who swerved to miss a deer, lost control of this rig, and overturned onto his right side. His tractor, trailer and his cargo were all total losses, costing the insurance company over $100,000. When the police officer arrived on the scene, he gave the driver a ticket because there wasn’t a dead deer at the scene! I recommended to the driver that he fight that ticket.

Here are the Top Seven Ways to Avoid Hitting a Deer When Driving (per the National Safety Council)

1. Be vigilant in early morning and evening hours, the most active time for deer.

2. Use your high beam headlights, which reflect in the deer’s eyes, to see the deer better. Remember, it normal to see reflectors along roads on mailboxes and fences. But if a reflector moves, it’s likely a deer’s eye.

3. Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.

4. Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path. Do not swerve. It can confuse the deer as to where to run. It can also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.

5. Be alert and drive with caution when you are moving through a deer crossing zone. Highway departments don’t put those signs along roads just for decoration.

6. Always wear your seatbelt. Most people injured in deer/vehicle crashes were not wearing their seatbelts.

7. Look for other deer after one has crossed the road. Deer seldom run alone.

There is a small, bullet-shaped device called SAV-A-LIFE Deer Alert, that can be easily mounted on the front bumper of a vehicle. As the vehicle reaches a speed above 30 mph, air rushing through the device emits an ultrasonic signal up to a quarter mile away, literally stopping animals in their tracks. The sound emitted by the device cannot be detected by passengers in the vehicle and not perceptible to people on the roadside.

The SAV-A-LIFE Deer Alerts have been in use for over 30 years, and are used by individual drivers, truck fleets, State Troopers and wildlife agencies. It costs less than $25.00 in stores all over America, or go to: http://www.sav-a-life.com/Deeralert_intro.htm

If you are one of the unfortunate people who experience a deer/vehicle collision, you’ll need to know how to handle your insurance claim so that you maximize your recovery. You will need to know how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, check out the website shown below in the Resource Box.

Stay Alert and Stay Alive!!


Daytime Running Lights: Why Should Your Car Have Daytime Running Lights?

November 8, 2008

“I never saw that car. It came out of nowhere!”

Have your ever said those words after an accident?

Have you ever said that after a near miss of a collision with another vehicle?

I know how you feel, but that car was likely there all the time. You might have been momentarily distracted. But what can you do to make sure that the other driver is not saying that about YOU?

You can make your vehicle more visible, and therefore safer! When it comes to being on the road, VISIBILITY means SAFETY!!

But how? Put a strobe light on the roof? Paint the car fluorescent orange or green?

No! Use Daytime Running Lights (DRLs). When DRLs are sufficiently intense, they make your car easier to see when you’re driving.

Research shows that without your headlights on during the daytime, your vehicle is visible at a distance of only 2200 ft. But with headlights on, you can be seen as far as 4700 ft away! That’s more than double the distance… much more time for the oncoming driver to see your vehicle and make the driving decision that might save your life!

In 1993, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued Rule 108, which allowed auto manufacturers to add DRLs as standard equipment. GM and Ford are now featuring DRLs as original equipment. That action follows the European auto manufacturers, where DRLs have been mandatory for decades.

Tests done by the Society of Automotive Engineers showed a 38% reduction in collisions in the first year of installation. Test results by Avis Rent-a-Car showed a 64% reduction in car damages, and a 69% decrease in repair costs for cars equipped with DRLs.

My Chevrolet Corvette has Daytime Running Lights. Even though the car is white, which is the most visible car color, it’s very low to the ground. I appreciate the DRLs because they help make me more visible out on the road.

You already have the ability to have DRLs on your car. Simply turn on the headlights every time you drive the car. The problem with this simple solution is our memory. We have to remember to turn the headlights on, and then remember to turn them off when we shut off the car.

So, what if you make a mistake and forget to turn on your headlights, and you have an accident because the other guy didn’t see you? You don’t have to rely on your memory.

There’s a product available for cars that do not have DRLs as standard equipment. It’s called SAV-A-LIFE DRL. The company offers a cost-effective and mistake-proof way of upgrading your vehicle to the latest safety standard. When installed, the DRL functions just like the manufacturer equipment. The lights automatically come on when you start the car, and shut off when you turn the car off.

You can call SAV-A-LIFE at 1-800-654-3337 or email at: sales@sav-a-life.com to find out if they have a model for your car’s year, make and model. The units work on cars, trucks, buses, RVs, vans and pickups.

Daytime Running Lights can SAVE YOUR LIFE!!

If you are one of the unfortunate people who experience a deer/vehicle collision, you’ll need to know how to handle your insurance claim so that you maximize your recovery. You will need to know how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, check out my website at: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com