Homeowners with a particular kind of stucco insulation on their houses can obtain money through a major settlement because the material was found to cause serious water damage.
The settlement will provide compensation to homes built using a Dryvit synthetic stucco substance, a kind of insulation that was later discovered to cause mold, leading to rotting and damage to the structural integrity of a home. The settlement could pay up to $8 per square foot of insulation, which comes to $22,400 for an average-sized home. Homeowners who have already removed the material can still get compensation of $4 per square foot.
It's unclear how many homes in Beaufort County are affected, but Finn Law Firm, the local firm administering the settlement claims, has already received two dozen claims since announcing the deal in January, attorney Tom Williams said. The material was used in home construction starting in 1997, but stopped appearing around 1998 when defects became apparent, Williams said.
The class action suit started in Tennessee in 2002, but lawyers locally got involved in 2005 by filing a claim on behalf of Hilton Head Plantation residents Timothy Treon and his wife Jane Treon.
The settlement's Web site, www.scstucco.com, has information on how to file a claim and how to determine if your home has the Dryvit exterior insulation finishing system, or EIFS. But Williams said the easiest way to determine if a home has the material is to look for the nylon blue mesh under the surface.
"If you have blue mesh on your house, you probably have Dryvit," Williams said. Attorneys will also send out an inspector to do a quick review of the home at no cost to the homeowner. An owner could opt for a full inspection, which could cost $300-$400, Williams said.
Claims need to be filed by Aug. 2, and checks could start being issued in July. All the attorneys fees are being covered by Dryvit as part of the settlement. A fairness hearing is scheduled for June 7 in Beaufort, where anyone can object to the settlement if they disagree with the amount. If there are no objections, payment will begin 30 days later.
The problems with the Dryvit system occurred because it traps water instead of letting it drain, according to the lawsuit. The system — more of an insulation than a true stucco — was designed to block water from entering. But it provides no means for any water to escape, meaning it caused hidden water damage, mold and other issues, including moisture permeating the sheetrock of a house.
"It causes rot, it's a barrier system," Williams said. "Once the water gets behind it, it rots, there's no way for the water to get out. It's not drainage system." The suit claims expensive inspections or removal work may be necessary to repair the damage and remove the EIFS, and says Dryvit was negligent and breached implied warranties of the product.