A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Oh, For A Beautiful Exterior, Part 2: Looking at some design elements of exterior walls

How do I look today? She asks if her makeup is alright, before we enter the doctor’s office. First impressions are important. My wife has also been contemplating the image that our house presents. She has decided that we need a paint job of the wood elements to our home. Most of our exterior is brick though, but we could color that too. We talk this over while waiting for the doctor. I mention that I want the garage doors painted the same color as the trim, because they stand out now as a focal point, and I want the eye to be drawn away from them.

I did help to create more of a focal point by applying a stucco finish to some of my brick. I have a small courtyard created by a low wall in the front entryway of the home. I used a cement based stucco to highlight the window sills and the top of the half wall. It helps focus the eyes on this section (with some help from some flowering vines). I like my brick, so I have no intention to completely cover it up.

There are paints which can do a great job at making brick exteriors look better. In the past, painting bricks was not something that I would have recommended, but new epoxy paints are said to last. There are even paints that are said to help with energy efficiency. In the picture below, the homeowners bumped out a room from the house, using a light colored stucco wall. This is a fresh coat of paint on the exterior brick. The color contrast appeals to me. This is when painted brick can look at its best.Painted brick with stucco

Letting features standout is pleasing to see, but we do not always consider how we can create an effect. I remember looking at these gorgeous cedar window trim pieces in the stucco homes on Bermuda. The rich looking wood caught my attention. I do not see that consideration to detail on many homes. I am sure that the tradition on Bermuda developed due to practicality. Creating trim pieces from stucco is difficult, and cedar was available. Now, many stucco homes will have a cement stucco for the body of the home, but they will use a synthetic stucco called EIFS (pronounced ee-fus) for trim elements. Look at this photo.

Stucco with EIFS trim

You can see a line framing the window, ending with a keystone below it.
Keystones actually are meant for arches; they are the piece that keep arches in place. In this case, the trim is made from EIFS, and it was intended to add a little drama to the surface of this townhome. I found it close to a home that I was inspecting today, and thought it was good for illustrating my point. The trim helps the window pop out at you, but I think that this element should have been painted a different color. Your eye would have been immediately drawn to that feature of the home, but looking at the entire house, my eyes wandered a bit over the surface.

A brief view of some elements to be sure, but I hope that you will ponder on where you want the eye to focus when someone is looking at your home, and how you can use elements to make your house stand out. EIFS is not really a bad material. It can create some fascinating sculptural work for a stucco home. As for using it on the main body portion of your home, make sure that it is installed well. Most problems with stucco and EIFS have come about due to poor installation. If you are stuccoing over brick, make sure that moisture can escape by not covering the weepholes in the brick wall. These are the holes running along the base of the wall. Good luck with your home.

Your Houston home inspector,

Frank Schulte-Ladbeck



  Mint wrote @

Thank you for good information~~*

Please comeback to visit my blog too : http://about-garagedoors.blogspot.com/

I’m sorry , If you think this is spam. but may i thank you again.


  frankschulteladbeck wrote @

Mint, it looks like a good site, so I will allow it.

  John D. wrote @

Hey Frank,
Great article, I’m always telling people styrofoam-core mouldings are easy to install and really, really enhance focal points. I agree with your point that the trims should be a different color — and this can even be achieved after the final coat is placed. Most EIFS manufacturers provide a paint-like product that goes directly over the finish coat.

There are tons of architectural elements made of the same styrofoam-based product, columns, pilasters, quoins, you name it. Check some out at http://www.decoramould.com/shop

  frankschulteladbeck wrote @

I like your website John. When this post was written, the code was 6″, but it is currently 8″. I was just inspecting a house that used EIFS for the trim last week, and some truly great designs can come from it.

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