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The Skins Game Once the damage hunt is complete, we cover any landscaping near the house with canvas tarps, put up the necessary pipe scaffolding, and begin the tear-off. It took us about a week with seven men to complete the tear-off on this home. First, we removed the mesh and finish coat to reveal the foam underneath (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. To remove the EIFS cladding, the author’s crew first cuts 1/4-inch-deep kerfs in the stucco skin, using a 4-inch masonry grinding wheel (left). The 3x5-foot sections or "skins" are then peeled away, exposing the underlying foam (right). Using a circular saw or a side grinder with a 4-inch masonry grinding wheel on it, we cut about 1/4 inch deep, slicing the mesh and finish coat into 3x5-foot squares for easier handling. After removing the sections — we call them "skins" — we use them instead of dropcloths to protect the driveway, sidewalks, and any decks.

Removing the Foam

We try to choose a relatively wind-free day for removal of the foam; otherwise, we end up in the neighbor’s yard collecting it. Typically, five workers pry away at the foam on the house while two cleanup workers handle pickup on the ground (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. Large sections of foam are pried off with flat-faced shovels; smaller pieces and detailing are removed with spatulas or trowels. A crew is stationed on the ground during tear-off to clean up.

We rake back any mulch or decorative stone to about 3 feet out from the house before we start — it’s hard to pick foam out of mulch once it falls. A leaf blower is helpful to get the foam to one corner where laborers can pick it up, and we use leaf rakes to pull it through the grass. Any tiny particles trapped between deck boards or in the grass are picked up with a shop vac. Weather is a big factor at this point. You can’t leave any work in progress exposed if it’s going to rain, especially flashing details where roof and sidewall meet. These areas have to be felt-papered immediately, as do studs or other structural members that are scheduled for replacement.