Insurance, Acoustics, & AWCI Publications

Donald E. Smith, CCS

April 2008

We are policy holder of insurance for exterior insulation and finish work through the AWCI Insurance Company, Ltd., and I have a question about the exclusion for wood framing. The insurance Web site has the following statement under exclusions: "EIFS applications over wood-framed and/or wood substrate habitational structures.” We are currently bidding on two hotels with a total of 95,000 square feet of EIFS. The structures are wood framed. Does this exclusion apply to this type of project?

Because this involves AWCI’s insurance program, I went straight to the source. When dealing with insurance companies I discovered long ago that they use very precise language in writing policies. Sometimes the terms used are not quite clear to those of us in the construction industry. The key here is the use of the term "habitational structures.” An endorsement that clarifies the term states: "Habitational” means a structure where person(s) reside including single-family dwellings, multiple family dwellings, condominiums, apartments or any other place where a person(s) may reside whether occupied or unoccupied.”

Another interpretation of this term is the place where an individual receives his mail. After talking with our insurance contact, he said that a motel or hotel would not fall under this exclusion since people do not receive their mail there and it is used for a short duration. So sharpen that pencil and go for it.

Does your association have a recommended repair approach for water stained (non-painted) acoustic ceilings? We struggle with sealing and painting the acoustic texture versus scraping and retexturing. Those in favor of seal and paint argue that it is less invasive for the policyholder. Those in favor of scrape and retexture argue that it returns the homeowner to the pre-loss condition and a very easy undertaking since the texture just needs to be moistened. In addition, those in favor of scrape and retexture argue that painting a non-painted acoustic ceiling pretty much glues the acoustic in place making it difficult to remove later. Patching does not appear to be a viable option due to a difference in texture and coloration.

I am not aware of any industry recommendations for repairing water stained acoustical ceiling tiles. While we as an association do not normally get involved in residential construction, I can only speak from past experience. If confronted with this situation I would opt for simply replacing the damaged tiles. Water in any amount sufficient to cause a water stain on the surface of the tile has caused that portion of the tile to lose its ability to even support its own weight. Also, depending on the amount of time required for the damaged tile to dry out, there is the possibility for mold to start to grow. Since the exposed surface of the tile is factory finished, the field application of paint will in fact cause the degradation of the acoustical properties of the tile. Field application of paint either in the seal-and-paint or scrape-and-paint can never approach the quality of a factory applied paint finish. There is also the question of matching the exact color of white. I have seen some pretty bad touch-ups on ceiling tiles; even though they are very small in area, the touched-up tiles are obvious.

In an effort to find a one-hour fire-rated wall assembly, I came across your Web site. I would like to know what is included in the Single Source Doc. on Fire-Rated Portland Cement-Based Plaster Assemblies - 112. Will I find proprietary or general assemblies in this publication?

Most, if not all, of the assemblies are generic; however, there are a few that contain some proprietary products. Portland cement plaster is a generic material; the finish coat, in some cases, will be specific to a given manufacturer. The publication is a collection of assemblies that were derived from evaluation service reports first published by the legacy building code groups. Its purpose was to provide assemblies that could be used in restoration and retrofit of older buildings with an unknown rating of the existing walls. The assemblies in the Single Source Document can be used to determine the fire rating of the existing walls and ceilings and allow their reuse, with modifications, to meet current code requirements.

While a significant number of the evaluation reports are based evaluation service reports, there are others from Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., and other independent testing laboratories. The framing materials include wood, cold-formed steel and some solid plaster applications.

If you are using this document to evaluate existing construction for reuse, I suggest you consult with the local building officials and obtain their approval prior to putting the work out for bid.