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Envelope study in 70?s stucco building


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The 16 unit stucco clad wood frame condo building I am involved with here in Seattle may have water intrusion problems particularly in relation to the original aluminum frame windows. The architect consultants have stated the only way to get a clear understanding of possible hidden problems would be to remove stucco.

As a building inspector with over 25 years? experience, I have argued that adequate information could be obtained through removal of the plasterboard on the walls and the ceilings inside the building. The architect?s claims evaluation from the inside will not provide sufficient information.

Removing portions of the stucco practically guarantees the need for a complete replacement of the siding regardless of what is found underneath. Removing and patching the plasterboard is relatively easy and cheap.

Am I my missing something? Any opinions?

Thanks, Terry

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They're going at it like forensic architects, which is to say, like someone that doesn't know what they're doing.

Let's see....stucco, aluminum windows, leaks.....hmmmm....gee, what could it possibly be....(?)....

If someone isn't able to get right at the main issues in about 11 minutes by just looking and poking a few places, I wouldn't let them anywhere near my building.

In short, the stucco is wrong, the windows lack flashing, the drainage plane, if there is one, isn't integrated into the flashing that isn't there, etc., etc. These things are always wrong in all the same ways. It's like choose one from column A and two from Column B, or vice versa. It's always the same half dozen defects in different calibrations and configurations, but it's always the same stuff.

How do I know this? We started a "leak repair" business back in '08 trying to keep revenue flowing. We've opened up more crap than anyone I know. It's always the same stuff. Over and over.

Don't take stucco off the building. It's be cheaper to fly Cramer in to give an analysis that to dink around with a couple goofy architects that can't see the nose on their own face.

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Yes, it will.

I'd just not start that way to satisfy a couple individuals that are behaving like this is a mystery. If they have a clue about what seems to be a building tsunami wave in this business, they'd at least be talking about the likelihoods and cut to the chase.

Most of the forensic guys I've worked with are nerds. We had a leaking vinyl siding job one time, and when I said it's probably the WRB and flashing, it's always about the WRB and flashing (what else can it be...?), they actually got downright snippy w/comments along the lines of "one can't know that without doing step by step invasive etc., etc...."

Of course, it took them a week to figure out it was the WRB and the (lack of) flashing.

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I agree with what Kurt said. You often can find damage opening drywall, but not always. I do prefer to remove some stucco when the purpose of the investigation is to prove what is wrong. If litigation is involved you need to have that evidence. Assuming remediation is not needed it is possible to patch the stucco. Usually when I am opening up stucco it is almost a given that remediation will be needed.

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-16 year old wood frame building/peak of building boom mania


-leaks around aluminum frame windows

If those 3 things are present, what would you think?


I admit to being premature in my dismissal of the forensic guys, but I wouldn't waste money on forensic architects taking stucco off the building to figure out what nearly any good carpenter or contractor could tell you. I'd find a building envelope guy that would open a few small select areas to verify what anyone that's done work on these things already knows.

Few stucco applications are done correctly. Cramer's got a couple really good articles on stucco failures in the ASHI Reporter. Read these.....

http://www.ashireporter.org/HomeInspect ... rt-1/14847

http://www.ashireporter.org/HomeInspect ... rt-2/14877

After that, look into window installation details for stucco. You probably don't have any. If all you find is caulk, you're onto something.

Save your money for the repairs that you're very likely going to need. We see dozens of homeowner's associations spending huge dollars on forensic guys, then more money pushed into repair options, then more money to the contractors that are going to do the work.

Your problem can only be a limited number of things. Find a contractor that understands those things. Get them to help you figure out a plan. After getting a plan, double check with a few other guys, just like you'd get a second opinion from another doctor to make sure your surgery is necessary.

I said it would be cheaper and better to fly someone like Cramer in (or Parlett) because they're boots on the ground types; they've done the work. There's gotta be someone (or several someone's) in Seattle. It's Seattle for God's sake....call Meiland, he's out there isn't he?

My premature take on this is predicated on seeing dozens of building associations go through unnecessary motions and waste a lot of dough that could be spent wisely on repairs. The forensic guys complicate relatively simple operations.

If litigation is in the wind, yes, forensic guys have their place in developing an argument for the plaintiff. On a 16 unit building (relatively small) they usually get in the way.

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I guess that's what I'm saying. There's so much literature and credible reference about this topic, it's hard to move in any direction without stepping in it.

How can anyone in the biz not know at this point?

Get a contractor that knows how to fix this stuff. The architects are just another layer that gets in the way.

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I'm with Kurt. Wet Windows and 99% chance no drainage plane. Even Hardi sold a drainage plane with the siding nearly 20 years ago and no one bought it. Although it's required on commercial buildings above 2 stories. Marvin Windows sold a plastic pan flashing ... It's not seen anymore. We remove sections of these buildings only for the sake of bringing customers to stage 5 of the depression cycle - ACCEPTANCE!

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