Experts have labeled Pennsylvania the epicenter of an industry wide epidemic that has affected sprawling suburban houses, starter homes, and luxury Philadelphia townhouses alike. Properties constructed with materials other than stucco had problems, too.
Rushed production, under trained workers, lower-quality materials, and lax oversight by builders and code inspectors have left more than 650 homeowners in at least 55 zip codes in houses so damaged by water that each requires tens of thousands — and sometimes, hundreds of thousands — of dollars in repairs.
The problem has caught the attention of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which have launched independent investigations.
Underneath seemingly unblemished exteriors made of different materials — brick, stucco, vinyl siding, stone, fiber cement board, and more — water has damaged everything from window sills to insulation that once puffed like pink cotton candy. In some cases, wooden sheathing is so saturated that it now flakes easily, crumbling into mulch-like chips. Mold, termites, and phorid flies have infested some walls.
Experts say the damage cannot be seen in 80 to 90 percent of cases — meaning other homeowners may unknowingly have the same problem behind their walls. And with roughly 90,000 new single-family homes constructed in Southeastern Pennsylvania since 2001, the extent of the damage in the region may not yet be fully discovered.