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Inspecting Stucco on Old Homes


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I'm curious how others go about inspecting and describing defects when it comes to stucco on old homes. In my area, hardcoat stucco is generally only found on older structures. Obviously these homes won't have casing bead and sealant at windows and doors, control joints or weep screed as these are modern features. These homes are also likely to lack kick out flashing and proper clearances to grade and pavement. It wouldn't make sense to hold a home built in 1929 to modern standards. So what should be said of stucco on these homes? Moisture intrusion is likely due to the stucco application techniques that were common at the time of construction? Is it unreasonable to recommend consulting a competent contractor to discuss upgrading the installation to include casing bead, control joints and weep screed?

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It is perfectly acceptable on older wood frame homes on the West Coast. The wood is likely Douglas fir and hard as rocks. Tar paper, chicken wire, stucco, maybe paint.

The key there is the roof overhang and the gap between stucco and the dirt layer. We don't want to see the flower bed up over the lower edge of the stucco, that needs to be concrete. Stucco comes down over the wood sill plate and stops there.

Call it out for rot if some goof has pushed soil up against stuccoed wood skirting.

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The more I see old stucco installations in our area, the less I like them. There's a reason why we developed rules for things like casing beads, weep screeds, and proper sealant joints - because the venerable old ways rarely worked well. 

When we come across a 100 year old house with its original hardcoat stucco intact (which is rare, by the way, most of them have been extensively repaired), we're looking at an exercise in survivor bias - the rare exceptions. What we should be doing is cataloging the 100-year old houses where the stucco has been replaced or extensively repaired, and we should be looking at why that happened. Doing so gives you a leg up on inspecting the seemingly unscathed ones. 

That said, I inspect them as I would anything else: applying my knowledge as far as it will go and refer to someone else to go farther when I think it's necessary. 

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  • 1 year later...
On 11/18/2020 at 3:01 PM, Jerry Simon said:

In my opinion, unless there's obvious resulting damage, it would be unreasonable to suggest such.


I'm with Jerry on this one. There is a lot of traditional three-coat stucco here in Richmond that is very old and still performing with no significant moisture intrusion and structural damage. Cement stucco does absorb moisture, but the moisture evaporates out of it well too. And, most traditional stucco around here has been painted. I can't really think of any home with traditional three-coat stucco that I've inspected over the past twenty-eight years that suffered any significant structural damage due to moisture intrusion through the stucco.


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