It’s not hard to see why stucco has become such a popular home building material. It’s aesthetically beautiful, energy-efficient, and is relatively low maintenance. However, if you live in an area with lots of precipitation, i.e. the Northeast, your home’s stucco may become susceptible to water damage, leading you to search for an expert in stucco repair or remediation. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about stucco and the remediation process, so you can make the right decision for your home.
What is Stucco?
Stucco has been used as an architectural and home building material in the United States since the mid-1800s. Typically found in drier climates such as the Southwest, stucco is a cement-based plaster traditionally made from a mixture of cement, sand, and lime. In modern applications, it uses Portland cement, sand, and water. Occasionally acrylics, lime, and glass fibers are added to improve the structural properties of stucco.
There are two main types of stucco installation commonly found in the United States: three coat stucco and one coat stucco. Three coat stucco is applied in three layers – the scratch coat, brown coat, and finish coat – over a wire meshing lath and weather barrier. The former helps to provide stucco with its structure and support while the latter aids in protecting the framing from rain and moisture. One coat stucco cuts the installation time, in half resulting in lowered costs. The flip side of this is that one coat stucco is thinner and generally more prone to damage.
Stucco became very popular in the late 1980’s till the late 2000’s in our region. Unfortunately, as many homeowners soon learned, it is not ideal for the Northeast climate.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Stucco
There is a reason why stucco has been used in home construction for over 150 years. Not only does it provide a beautiful look, the cement-based material is often a much more affordable option than brick. In addition to being cheaper, the installation process is much easier. As noted above, opting for one coat stucco can cut the installation time in half. Another benefit of stucco is that it’s incredibly energy efficient. Because stucco essentially encases a home in a concrete barrier, it acts as an insulator for both warm and cold air, making it a very popular choice for areas like Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas.
However, there are a number of disadvantages that homeowners should be aware of when considering stucco for their home. While typically cheaper than brick, stucco is more expensive than vinyl or fiber cement siding like James Hardie siding. It can also crack over time as a house expands, contracts, and settles. Most importantly though, especially for Pennsylvania homeowners, is that stucco is a porous material designed to allow moisture to transfer through itself. This isn’t much of an issue in drier climates like Arizona, but for areas with a lot rain and snowfall like southeastern Pennsylvania, it can trap moisture leading to damage.
When this happens, it can lead to very serious issues including the formation of mildew and mold, ugly discoloration on the exterior, and wall rot. The latter of the three being the most significant. If left untreated, wall rot can severely damage the structural integrity of your home’s walls costing you thousands of dollars in repairs.
What Are The Warning Signs of Stucco Failure?
As you can see, failing to address stucco related issues can have many undesirable outcomes. Fortunately, there are a number of warning signs which you can use to determine whether you should call a professional. The most obvious warning signs are exterior cracks and damages to your stucco. Have you noticed a staining (known as “stucco tears”) under windows, cracks, or missing pieces altogether? Be sure to also check the stucco around your fixtures. Dark spots, stains, and cracks that form around light fixtures often are signs of rotting wood.
Another sign of impending stucco failure is interior leaking. Assuming you can rule out damaged plumbing as the cause, leaking can indicate that moisture is trapped behind the siding. As a result, it seeps through a home’s walls and ceilings creating unsightly spots and marks on your walls. If you notice leaking, especially on an exterior-facing interior wall or ceiling, it’s best to get it checked out ASAP.
One sign that may not be as obvious as others is the state of the caulk around your doors and windows. Caulk is a material used to seal joints or seams against leakage. When a home succumbs to stucco failure, it lets air and moisture in, which can cause the caulking to dry, shrink, or lose its adhesiveness.
If you notice any of the above warning signs, you should contact a professional immediately as they can be indicative of stucco failure. At best, the cosmetic, outer layer of your stucco is damaged. At worst, your house could be rotting from the inside out. For more information on stucco failure, be sure to check out our stucco failure informational guide.
Your Home May Become Susceptible to Stucco Damage if:
- Your homes was built between late 1980’s to late 2000’s
- Your decks or patio was built above the foundation
Key Areas That May Indicate Stucco Damage
- Roof transitions
- Masonry & window sills
- Ground clearance
- Chimney & other open areas
Stucco Repair vs Stucco Remediation
When your stucco is damaged, you are presented with two options: stucco repair or stucco remediation. It’s important that you understand the pros and cons of each process as it could mean the difference between completely fixing an issue or simply putting a bandaid on it. The following information will help you make the right decision for your home.
The process of repairing stucco involves finding damaged areas and replacing or reapplying them with more stucco. While repairing stucco is often much cheaper than remediation, it does not solve the underlying issues causing the damage. Stucco repair is akin to patching a tire in that it provides a quick fix but does not address the root problem. Unfortunately, it will likely cause greater problems in the future by the virtue of having to cut into the stucco wall.
Partial repairs no longer meet the new stucco standards or 2015 building codes, meaning you could be putting your home at serious risk. Additionally, the newly repaired area will not match the existing stucci in color, texture, or thickness.
Stucco remediation, on the other hand, is a comprehensive solution wherein the underlying issues are addressed before dealing with the exterior. Generally speaking, this involves replacing the home’s entire stucco system before either applying new stucco or replacing with a better option, such as fiber cement or vinyl siding. We believe that remediation should ALWAYS be part of any repair or replacement process. All remediations must follow the local municipality permit and inspection requirements.
Stucco remediation is much more skill-intensive than stucco repair, meaning it’s both more expensive and time-consuming. That being said, stucco remediation is the better long term choice, especially for those living in the Northeast. Furthermore, damages cannot be fully assess until the removal of the stucco (Stucco inspection provides the moisture reading on specific spots).
- The damages can range from a minor rotted sheathing to significant house structural damages.
- Some damages can extend to windows/door frames which may require replacement or resetting.
Make Sure You Hire a Reputable Stucco Contractor
Whether you decide to repair your existing stucco or opt for stucco remediation, it’s important that you find the right contractor for the job. Be sure to look at testimonials as this will give you a better indication of a contractor’s workmanship and how they interact with customers. You should find a contractor that shows you respect by the way they treat you, the way they treat your property, and how they pay attention to details. A professional contractor won’t try to persuade you over with shady sales tactics. Instead, they will win your business with their professionalism and reputation.
Ready to Get Started?
The longer you wait, the more damage your home could endure. Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.