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Stucco Repair – How to Spot and Fix Stucco Repair Issues

Stucco is a beautiful material that can add much to your home’s aesthetic. But over time, it can also get damaged and need repair. Stucco Repair Philadelphia is a straightforward process that can bring many plaster surfaces back to life. Here are a few things to remember when addressing damage to your stucco.

Stucco ServicesWhile stucco is a durable material, it is vulnerable to water damage. If left untreated, water damage can lead to mold, rot, and structural problems. As a result, the sooner you can spot and fix water damage in your stucco, the less costly your repair will be.

Stucco is a mix of lime and cement-based plaster that is applied in three coats to ensure proper setting, sealing, and insulation. As a result, stucco is not as thick as many other exterior wall finishes. This can sometimes make identifying and repairing problems with the material more difficult.

Fortunately, there are several warning signs to look out for. The most obvious is staining. Since stucco becomes darker when it’s wet, stains can be the first indication of moisture problems. You should also check around windows for dark blotches and cracks that can form when drywall behind the stucco becomes saturated. If the drywall feels soft to the touch, this is another sign of water damage.

While surface moisture is the most common cause of water damage in stucco, moisture can also occur behind the wall if the siding isn’t properly installed. If the installer fails to add proper drainage or seals, it’s likely that water will accumulate in and around your windows and doors.

If you’re unsure what the source of your problem is, you can call in a contractor to take a closer look. A professional can use a moisture meter to determine the extent of the problem, and then perform a complete remediation to address it.

Fortunately, most hairline cracks in stucco can be fixed with paintable caulk. It’s important to choose a caulk that matches your stucco or at least comes close so it blends in with the existing color. You should apply the caulk and let it dry according to manufacturer’s instructions before touching up with paint. If you have larger cracks, a masonry patching compound can be used to fill them. This is much more durable than caulk and can withstand some weathering. This type of patching compound can be found at hardware and home improvement stores.

Loose Caulking

Stucco’s durability and long life make it a popular choice for home exteriors. But it doesn’t mean that homeowners are off the hook when it comes to maintenance. In fact, stucco cracks and holes should be repaired promptly to prevent water intrusion which can lead to costly (and unsightly) problems like paint peeling and wood rot.

As with any home improvement project, it is essential to know your home’s construction materials and how to proceed with repairs. Kirk explains that it’s important to distinguish between newer Portland cement-based stucco and traditional lime-based stucco. You can check by submerging a piece of chipped stucco in water, says Kirk, “If the chunk of stucco softens and dissolves, it’s made with traditional lime, not Portland cement.”

Before beginning to repair a hole or crack, you should always clean the surface, he advises. A small automotive wire brush works well for this task. Using the brush, you should try to get into and around the hole or crack and clear away any loose debris that could adversely affect the bond of the patch material and the surrounding stucco.

For smaller holes, Kirk recommends using a premixed stucco patch compound. For large cracks, he uses a premixed stucco caulking. Once you apply the bead of caulking, use a trowel to feather in the edges so that the patch blends with the existing stucco. Let the caulking set for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

Once the patch has cured, you can paint it as directed by the product instructions. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to match the color of your existing stucco. And be sure to use a water-based paint, preferably a latex.

While a professional should be hired for jobs requiring a ladder, stucco repair can be done by the do-it-yourselfer. And with the right tools and knowledge, your stucco can last for years to come. And don’t forget to wear safety glasses and a dust mask! See our article How to Paint Rough Exteriors for more information on painting stucco and other rough surfaces.

Surface Moisture

Stucco, being highly porous, allows moisture to penetrate the surface. Moisture penetration is not only unsightly and can lead to serious problems such as mold, mildew and wall rot but it can also be costly and difficult to repair. Stucco experts recommend that you inspect your stucco exterior regularly to spot moisture damage issues, especially if you’ve recently painted your home.

Hairline cracks are common for stucco but if they’re more than 1/16″ wide they could be an indicator of moisture. If you do notice cracks, call a professional to have them repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Another sign of moisture damage is efflorescence. Efflorescence is a white crystalline, powdery or fluffy coat on the surface of your stucco walls caused by water seeping through the stucco and dissolving salts in the process. Typically, these salts are deposited on the surface of your stucco and if left unattended can cause serious blistering.

One of the most effective ways to test for moisture penetration into your home’s stucco is through an exterior probe test conducted by a stucco specialist or an independent home inspector. A contractor will drill a small hole in the wall to actually measure the moisture content of your stucco, providing more accurate results than using an interior probe test which requires drilling through the plumbing, electrical and insulation material in your home’s walls.

If you do have a leak, it’s imperative to have your stucco professionally evaluated and repaired as soon as possible. Water leaks into the space between the outer layer of stucco and the inner framework can lead to structural damage, mold growth and even more severe blistering if left unattended.

Stucco remediation is the complete repair and replastering of your stucco wall system to address the underlying issue causing moisture penetration into your home’s structure. This service requires a much more in-depth level of skill and is best performed by a fully licensed, experienced stucco specialist.

Cracks

Stucco can be prone to cracking. In some cases, this is a sign that there’s a serious problem with the building. In other cases, it’s simply normal. When hairline cracks less than 1/8 of an inch appear, contractors generally consider them to be a part of the normal maintenance on stucco homes. The exception to this is if the cracks form at a door or window corner and are racked, meaning the corners are not at a true 90-degree right angle. Racking is a sign of a larger issue and should be dealt with immediately.

The cracks that form in stucco can be caused by a few different factors. Some are natural occurrences, like changes in the weather or shifting soils. Other causes may be man-made or the result of poor installation or materials. For example, the cement, sand and water used to make stucco must be mixed and applied correctly. If it’s not, it can cause a lack of consistency which leads to cracking. Other factors include hydration, expansion and contraction of the building due to temperature changes, structural problems, seismic activity or settling.

When dealing with cracks in stucco, the first step is to identify them. Then, decide if the cracks are worth fixing and how to go about it. In general, it is best to repair cracks in stucco as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the structure. Cracks can be filled or patched, but if the cracks aren’t fixed, they will likely reappear.

One option is to skim coat the surface of a crack with new stucco. This will prevent further deterioration of the existing material and help it look aesthetically pleasing. However, this method is only effective for hairline cracks less than a quarter of an inch wide.

Another method for repairing cracks in stucco involves applying an elastomeric caulking. This type of caulking can be smeared over the cracks and is flexible enough to accommodate movement of the substrate and weather. It can also be painted to match the existing color of the house.