Stucco is an incredibly popular way to insulate, fireproof, and provide an attractive finish to your home. Unfortunately, applying a good stucco finish is an art even though it’s easy to identify. A good stucco job will have no cracks, a solid texture throughout, and will be one uniform color.
No cracks mean the stucco was applied correctly, while the uniform texture and color mean that there’s no water damage and that any patching that did occur was well repaired. Homeowners might not always know when they have a bad stucco finish, but here are a few ways you can identify them and fix them.
Signs Of A Bad Stucco Job
While stucco is water-resistant, weather can work its way through a bad application easily. Thermal expansion and shrinkage can make the stucco crack, exposing the house to the elements. Knowing what problems to look for can be the difference between a quick fix and a big, expensive project. Identifying cracks in stucco is fairly straightforward. However, there are several types of cracks, many of which can speak to their underlying symptoms. Below are a few of the more common cracks that can occur:
- Hairline cracks: The most common form of crack, caused by normal stresses or vibrations around the home. Joint compound should work, but if the crack is larger than 1/16th of an inch, the cause might be something else, requiring a more elaborate fix.
- Cracks on foam trim: This is when two pieces of stucco meet and the seam was not properly connected. In this case, the problem lies under the stucco, so using joint compound won’t work as thermal expansion and contraction will crack the wall again.
- Spider cracking: This happens when the base coat of stucco under the top layer did not cure properly for a variety of reasons. Bad weather conditions the day it was applied, an improper mixture in the stucco recipe or the mix drying too quickly are all possible culprits. This problem needs to be addressed from the ground up, so to speak, a total reapplication of the affected area is necessary.
- Wall patterns: Cracks in either horizontal lines, vertical lines, or both. In this case, the lath the stucco rests on wasn’t properly secured, so the stucco needs to be broken off and the lath secured with roofing nails to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- Diagonal cracks: Mostly the result of house shifting or seismic movements, this can also occur around door and window frames as a result of vibrations from opening and closing them. Depending on the intensity of the crack, a simple application of compound can fix the smallest ones while a new coat of stucco might be necessary for bigger ones.
Addressing Water Damage Issues
Water damage isn’t as straightforward or dramatic as a crack of the wall to your home, so here are a few signs to look out for when trying to identify water damage and its effects on the stucco:
- brown streaks/stains under the corners of your windows
- brown streaks/stains at the intersection of roofs and walls
- a smell of mold in the house
- damp or wet carpet/flooring
- discoloration at the base of your window
- leaks in windows and doors
Unfortunately, the best way to fix water damage is to ensure that you’re taking all the steps necessary to prevent it from happening in the first place. When it’s discovered, there’s often nothing to do other than replacing the affected stucco.
Preventing Problems In The Future
One of the best ways to prevent these problems is to have your stucco treated. Acrylic-polymer coatings are used to minimize the damage caused by expansion-contraction cycles, and with care and luck, can last up to 50 years.
While stucco does present its own challenges in maintaining it, it’s important to note that when cared for and maintained with the help of a team of dedicated professionals, stucco exteriors can provide decades of effective, beautiful, and sturdy protection for your home.