Stucco Crack Repair
Interested to learn about stucco crack repair from stucco professionals? Or about stucco repair in general? Let’s get into it…
What Is Stucco? Stucco is one of the most used stucco siding options in Florida. The reason it is one of the most popular options for home’s exterior is because it is one of the most durable, very long lasting and very low maintenance siding options for any residential or commercial constructions.
Stucco has been used by Roman empire for centuries and has proven itself as one of the best exterior siding options that will protect your home or business for years to come. Even though every property owner will have to deal with stucco crack repair issues sooner or later. In order to take care of your home for so long stucco mix has to be prepared correctly and it has to be installed properly.
If all of the details are done right stucco brings certain look to your home or commercial structure. Due to nature of stucco it increases property values. It is also possible that your property will sell a lot faster if stucco is properly cared for and taken care of.
Stucco is a mix of Portland cement, water, lime and sand. Like anything else that has cement as its main ingredient it is very rigid. Even though stucco is expected to protect your home for over 50 years it is possible for it do get damaged.
Cracks In Stucco: Reason For Stucco Crack Repair
There are a few different factors involved in developing stucco damage. Over time, due to settling of a structure that is covered by stucco, Florida climate changes in general, stucco can and will crack, chip or bubble. Cracks in stucco can also appear due to improper stucco installation, wrong stucco mix. In our opinion every property owner with stucco exterior will eventually have to deal with stucco crack repair issues. Homeowners have to understand that even what seems to be minor stucco damage like hairline crack needs to be taken care of promptly.
Immediate stucco crack repair is always the best way to prevent stucco water damage which is a lot more costly to fix. It would be wise to contact your local stucco repair contractor right away to assess severity of any cracks you notice on your home or business stucco exterior. Preventing further stucco damage will save you a lot of money and headaches in the future.
There are a lot of homes and commercial properties in Florida that have hairline cracks in stucco exterior. Luckily for their owners most of the stucco cracks that appear on exterior wall can be fixed very easily and inexpensively.
Why does stucco crack?
Why stucco cracks? It has come to our attention that today’s homeowners and business owners are getting information about cracks in stucco that is incorrect. And our Realtor friends tell us that a lot of potential buyers show signs of great concern. This is one of the reasons for this article.
We would like to talk about cracks in exterior stucco walls. Some of it is what we would call normal wear and tear and some stucco cracks actually should raise your concern levels. Exterior stucco, with cement as its primary ingredient is susceptible to cracks and tears.
Cracks in stucco should be expected and should be budgeted for by homeowners or property managers. If your stucco is not cracked now it will crack at one point or another in the future. All cement based construction options are prone to cracking on occasion. Likely most of hairline cracks in stucco are cosmetic in nature and are not case for great concern.
Types Of Stucco Cracks
Stucco cracks develop for quite a few reasons, as we mentioned above. It is our opinion that major cause for cracked stucco is improper plywood installation during stucco installation process. Professional stucco repair contractor can always recognize stucco cracking originated by plywood because of the different crack directions.
There are a few types of stucco cracks. There are quite a few reasons why each of these different types of cracks happen. Most common exterior stucco cracks that we get to deal with on almost daily basis are:
Hairline Stucco Cracks:
These cracks are usually about 1/16 of an inch wide or sometimes even thinner. They do not pose any serious problems. Stucco gives in to stress and movement and it is a normal occurrence.
Stucco Foam Trim Cracks:
The reason for foam trim cracking is usually because stucco installers did not use fiberglass mesh tape on the seam, where two foam pieces connect. So these types of cracks are due to improper installation. You would have to deal with these issues because of contractions and expansion which are caused by fluctuating temperatures and moisture… You know, usual Florida climate.
Spider Stucco Cracks:
These types of stucco cracks usually are caused by stucco drying too fast, or stucco installation was done during wrong weather conditions. Or it could also be because of poorly mixed stucco.
Cracks Which Follow Patterns In The Wall:
Stucco usually cracks mimicking exterior wall pattern when stucco lath below was not nailed down correctly during stucco installation or loosened up because of settling of foundation or soil movement.
Diagonal Stucco Cracks:
Stucco that cracks diagonally most often has to do with movement of structure or shifting. When several of diagonal stucco cracks are present and/or if these cracks are wide, property owner is advised to hire experienced inspector who can make sure that the integrity of building is still sound before they perform any stucco repairs necessary.
In the article Why Stucco Cracks written by Jabuka Home Inspections in Bakersfield, CA they state:
They [stucco cracks] do not always occur at joints in plywood, simply because stresses radiate through the stucco membrane and find relief by forming cracks at inherent weak planes that may be located away from the edges and ends of plywood.
Contrary to long-standing American Plywood Association (APA) recommendations, most plywood sheathing is installed today with ends and edges butted together, when there should be a minimum of 1/8” space between panels at ends and edges. The adhesive used in plywood depends upon a hydrogen bond for its effectiveness. The slightest amount of moisture can adversely affect the hydrogen bond.
Since the only adhesive exposure is at the ends and edges of plywood, moisture exposure caused the plywood to delaminate. Without a space between panels to accommodate the swelling, the deflection is outward. It is for this very reason that two layers of building paper over wood based sheathing became a code requirement. The installation of two layers of building paper helps to keep the plywood dry while wet stucco is on the wall.
Another major reason for stucco cracks are improper stucco mixing, poor sand quality and thickness variation. As we talked about in the beginning of this article it is very important that stucco installation should always be performed by licensed stucco contractors because of their experience and knowledge of the process. These are very important things and should be done right correctly the first time.
Our friends at Parex wrote a post about this exact subject matter. In their Cracking in Portland Cement Plaster Base Coats article they put it like this:
Mixes: Excessive water used in mixing the plaster affects the cements ability to bond and bind the aggregate; it also evaporates resulting in shrinkage. Plaster is a two part composition, the two parts contract at different levels, with the cement shrinking more than the aggregate. Avoid cement rich mixes stay within ASTM recommendations. Cement shrinks and sand does not. Some plasterers like a cement rich mix because it is “stickier” and works easier. Unfortunately, it also shrinks more. Sand volumes must stay up to standard to minimize shrinkage.
Poor Sand Quality: Sand with excessive fine materials, clay or too much dirt can all lead to volume loss of material (shrinkage stress). The clay absorbs excessive moisture and in turns shrinks more. Sand should have good gradation (variety of sizes) and be angular in shape. Example, round marbles don’t grip as well as triangular shaped particles.
Variation in Thickness: Out of plane and out of plumb substrate walls can lead to excessive variations in stucco thickness as the outer face of the stucco is brought to a uniform, plumb plane. Where stucco thickness changes abruptly, stress concentrates and can cause cracks.
As you can see stucco will be cracking and actually a lot of the cracks are out of our control even if we follow manufacturer’s direction for stucco installation and maintenance. Time, settling and nature will essentially dictate when stucco crack repair will need to be addressed.
Misconceptions About Stucco Cracks
Image Credit: www.2-10.com
Did you see some stucco cracks on your building last time you walked around? Or may be you have actually done a little inspection to see the condition of your exterior stucco wall of your home or place of business? Are you concerned? Well, as they say, it is always better to be safe then sorry… Stucco cracks when to worry…
We believe that there are two main types of stucco cracks. They both need stucco crack repair services. These are cosmetic stucco cracks and structural stucco cracks. There are a few degrees of severity of these cracks in stucco. There are cracking issues that are minor or “trivial”, and issues that pose a serious problem which have to be taken care of as soon as possible. How can you tell which ones are your stucco cracks?
Walt Keaveny, MS, PE, PG, a specialist in risk management for 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty talks about this issue in one of his blog posts about Misconceptions About The Common Crack. Mr. Keaveny shares with readers following thoughts…
Cracks are more likely to be a structural concern if accompanied by other indications of structural distress, such as inoperable doors and windows, or excessively sloping floors and surfaces. Cracks with significant vertical displacement across the face of the crack may indicate a structural concern. Cracks in basement walls, especially horizontal cracks, accompanied by bowing or leaning of the wall are cause for concern.
Keep Your Stucco From Cracking
It is very simple to avoid stucco cracks in your exterior walls and eliminate the need for stucco crack repair. Most likely you will not be able to prevent your stucco exterior wall from cracking 100% of the time, but it is possible to keep your stucco wall from unnecessary cracks that are caused by human error. Recently we came across an article by Derek Alvarez from ProBuild who shared his knowledge with his readers. His post is about how to avoid cracks in your stucco. There he mentions Two Simple steps To Keep Your Stucco From Cracking. Derek writes:
Typically, stucco cracks show up in the corners, windows and doors, large areas of stucco walls, and above the foundation. Even so, builders can ward against these potential problems by taking the steps necessary to relieve stress on stucco exteriors.
If you’re building a home or remodeling and would like a great stucco look on the exterior with as few cracks as possible (I’m not going to say “crack-free” because we are talking about a cement-based product after all), then there are two simple steps you need to take…
- Buy a quality stucco products.
- Hire a professional stucco installer that knows what they’re doing.
Buying a quality stucco product will give your installer some margin for error and hiring a trusted professional means they will know all the “tricks of the trade” when installing your stucco.
Is it possible to have crack-free exterior stucco wall? Well, we are dealing with Portland cement which is not flexible at all. Temperature changes and foundations settling will always take their toll on your stucco exterior. But, proper stucco installation and adding reinforcing mesh should prevent over 90% of stucco cracks.
In that same article we mentioned above Mr. Alvarez goes on and talks about exactly that:
Another product and step I would recommend in the installation of the Diamond Wall stucco system is to embed a reinforcing mesh just below the surface of the base coat prior to applying the finish. When properly installed, this mesh reinforces the stucco and helps to reduce the appearance of cracks.
With stucco cracking continuing to be one of the most common complaints from building owners, this is a cost effective way to eliminate the appearance of over 90% of hairline cracks that drive homeowners crazy.
It is now clear that it is almost impossible to prevent cracks in stucco 100% of the time. They could happen even if your stucco installation contractor did a fantastic job doing everything properly. Settling of your home of commercial structure will happen and over time, after some movement you will have to deal with some types of cracks in stucco. Most likely you will be dealing with some form of stucco crack repair in the future.
To do your best to prevent avoidable stucco cracks your need to take the advice of our friend Derek Alvarez and hire licensed and experienced stucco contractors who will always use top quality stucco products.
But even then you could be confronted with a flock of angry woodpeckers and will be looking for woodpecker stucco repair professionals. Yes, it is real and does happen. And yes we are woodpecker stucco repair contractors you will be looking for.
You can see the stucco crack repair process or how to repair stucco cracks by watching the video below: