WRAL Investigates

Melted, warped, bubbled: Homeowners stuck with damaged siding

Posted May 14, 2018 12:38 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:16 a.m. EDT

— The siding on her home is melted, warped and bubbled.

"What do you say when your house is melting right in front of your eyes," asked Stephanie McEwen.

The issue she's battling is in neighborhoods all over the state and country. It's a problem WRAL's 5 On Your Side has reported on for years.

Energy efficient windows, called Low-E windows that reflect the sun's heat. They're good for the environment and your power bill, but it some cases, bad for the outside of the home.

The intense reflections from the windows are causing problems for homeowners.

For Stephanie McEwen, they've melted siding on her townhome at Shearon Farms in Wake Forest. The damage is so severe, siding is pulling away from the framing.

"Our neighbor...said what in the world happened to your house..." she said.

It's the second time in a year it's happened, and McEwen's home is NOT the only one with damage.

The reflections show up in the form of an X.

When 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte was there, the temperature measured as high as 180 degrees.

"I had passed my hand past it, and it actually burnt me, it scared me," McEwen said.

The reflection is strongest from south facing windows in late fall, winter and early spring. That's when the sun is at a low angle.

The intense reflections have also melted hard plastic on vehicles, and the most serious fallout -- they've started fires.

As a result of our 5 On Your Side's investigation, State Building Code changed to allow builders to swap out problem windows.

That hasn't happened in Stephanie McEwen's neighborhood. She wants a permanent fix.

Last fall, her HOA paid to replace the first round of melted siding on her home. They also paid to have a mirror-like film installed on the windows of the neighboring townhome.

McEwen says the coating actually made the reflections worse.

"Now it's a horrifically awful problem," she said. "Within just a few months, it's just everywhere."

The HOA has since installed white plastic on two windows that seemed to reflect the most, and now calls the damage "...a construction defect." The association told McEwen to contact her builder about getting repairs.

"The HOA is pointing to the builder, the builder's saying it's not us," said McEwen. "When I call window and siding companies, sometimes they say, `Oh we don't know about that' or they'll say `Hmmm, we'll have somebody call you back' and I don't get calls back."

The finger pointing now has the HOA and the builder in a legal battle.

The neighbor even contacted her extended warranty company.

She was told the windows are not a major structural defect, and therefore the damage is not covered.

Fixing the siding at McEwen's home would be a huge expense.

"I'm a little petrified over that," she said. "I would hope that people would step up and do the right thing. Something could not just melt, but catch on fire."