Common Problems with Stucco Homes

Southeastern Pennsylvania homeowners are facing an epidemic. Stucco homes are failing at an alarming rate due to the region’s harsh wet winters, shoddy workmanship practices, and a lack of available information for homeowners. For some homes this might mean the cosmetic, outer layer of its stucco is damaged. But for many others, homes could be rotting from the inside out.

Warning signs of stucco failure

There are a number of warning signs that can indicate stucco failure. If you notice any of the following common stucco problems with your home, you should call a stucco contractor immediately. 

Lasting water spots, staining, and discoloration

While stucco is designed to naturally retain some moisture, lasting water spots on the exterior of your stucco home can indicate serious problems. Stucco water spots, commonly referred to as staining, can be seen as either white hazy streaks or as dark blotches in the color. When left untreated, trapped moisture can lead to the formation of black mold, rotting wood, and the compromisation of your home’s structural integrity. Often times this is caused by poorly installed, or flat out missing, flashing.

As a homeowner, you should pay close attention to the areas around your doors and windows. They are typically the most common problem areas for stucco homes. However, staining can appear anywhere. While lasting water spots don’t always indicate problems with your stucco, it’s in your best interest to call a professional when you notice one on your home.

Cracking in your stucco

Stucco homes can develop cracks overtime for a myriad of reasons. Shifting land, the wrong mixing proportions, and poor workmanship are a few possible causes for your home to develop cracks. Not only does this look bad, but cracks going deeper than surface level can lead to significant issues for your home.

Unfortunately, cracking isn’t a singular issue. More often than not, stucco cracking will spread as the house foundation settles. Cracks smaller than 1/16 of an inch are common and typically aren’t a cause for major concern, assuming you address them in a timely manner. However, larger cracks can result in water being trapped and leading to issues like those mentioned above. While you may be tempted to simply repair the cracks, all that really does is provide a temporary solution. If the cracks are deep enough, there’s a good chance water’s already seeped through.

Extending below grade

This has less to do with the actual stucco and more to do with improper building practices. Stucco that extends below grade can cause significant issues for your home. When we say “below the grade” we are referring to stucco being applied below where the home’s foundation meets the ground. There needs to be at least two inches of clearance to allow the stucco to properly drain. When a home’s stucco doesn’t have the necessary space or is below the grade, it can trap water and moisture leading to the formation of mold, rotting, cracking, and crumbling. Additionally, the stucco will begin to soak up even more moisture from the ground.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a stickler for details or a home inspector, you likely would have no reason to check your home for this. Unlicensed contractors and shoddy building practices have plagued Southeastern Pennsylvania for years. If you have concerns that your home’s stucco is below grade, it’s best to contact a professional immediately.

Caulking and other waterproofing sealants

Caulk is a material used to seal joints, seams, and cracks against leakage. It’s commonly found along the trim of your home’s doors and windows. When caulking becomes dried, shrunken, or appears to be missing altogether, your home can become susceptible to water intrusion, leading to many of the issues previously mentioned.

Doors and windows aren’t the only areas you need to be aware of though. Many stucco homeowners will experience issues around exterior fixtures such as lighting, decks, and other objects protruding from a home. It’s important for homeowners to monitor these areas to ensure that sealants are in good condition to protect from the outside elements.

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Does homeowners insurance cover stucco damage?

Well, the answer is that it depends. For example, if you’ve had homeowners insurance for a number of years, your home’s stucco was installed by a licensed professional, and you only recently became aware of stucco damage, you’re likely going to be covered. However, if you’re missing even one of those three, you may not be so lucky. In fact, stucco damage claims are one of the most denied homeowners claims by insurance companies.

Most insurance companies won’t cover insurance claims for work done by an unlicensed professional. Also, insurance is unlikely to cover the cost if the stucco damage was discovered prior to purchasing a policy. Unfortunately for many homeowners, this is something they don’t find out until it’s too late.

Stucco Repair vs. Stucco Remediation

Whether or not your insurance company will cover your claim, the issues causing stucco failure need to be addressed. At this point in the journey, you’re left with two options: stucco repair or stucco remediation? While both options have their pros and cons, one offers a complete solution whereas the other offers merely a temporary fix.

Stucco repair

The process of repairing stucco involves finding damaged areas and replacing or reapplying more stucco. If your issues are minor or purely cosmetic, stucco repair may prove to be an effective solution. While repairing stucco is often much cheaper than remediation, the major issue with this option is that it fails to solve the underlying issues. As noted above, when the underlying issues aren’t addressed it can lead to a bevy of more significant and expensive problems.

Stucco Remediation

If stucco repair is akin to patching a tire, stucco remediation is like having your tires replaced, brakes checked, and your fluids topped off. Stucco remediation addresses the underlying issues before replacing the home’s stucco exterior. Typically, a home going through the stucco remediation process will opt for a better siding option, such as fiber cement or vinyl siding. These materials are better suited to deal with the harsh conditions faced in the Northeast. Although stucco remediation is more expensive, it’s the better long term choice.

Why choose MHX?

We are a trusted advisor and provider of residential exterior remodeling and renovation projects in Eastern PA. Our mission is to serve homeowners, our employees, our partners, our local community, and people in need around the world. We do this by committing to deliver the highest quality home exterior remodeling and renovation services with honesty, transparency, dedication, passion, and value. See some of our most recent reviews here!

Stucco Failures

Inadequate sealing around windows, doors, and surface joins can result in water getting into the wall system. This penetration gradually causes the material to fail. Poor stucco application practices can also introduce fundamental instabilities into the wall system.