Like most people, I consider stucco a very stable building material. So I am wondering how long stucco can withstand the weather and time. I have done my research and here is what stucco home owners should know.
Most new houses can easily last 50 years if it’s made of stucco. Well maintained stucco with acrylic-polymer finish will cross 100 years. However, it may take as little as two years for damage to occur in case of extreme conditions. Below I’m pointing out the signs you need to look for to assess your stucco building.
Should you replace or repair?
A common question I hear from house owners. If you’re worrying about the cost, this is a valid question. Stucco replacement can cost a huge amount of money. Instead, you can repair it to extend the lifespan of your house. Of course, some buildings are beyond repair. But that’s not usually the case. You’d be surprised to know how long repairs can go.
The common issues stucco users talk about are cracks. Small cracks are okay. These occur because of seasonal and mechanical changes in the structure. We suggest repainting the cracks with an elastic layer. Use a fabric mesh to hide the cracks.
Deep and long cracks are worrisome. There may be underlying issues. Moisture is a common one. But some of you use EIFS on your house. In that case, it’s waterproof. But head to the EIFS section for more on this. Trapped moisture causes deeper issues like large chunks falling off, loose attachment of stucco to the lath etc. If you guess that’s the issue, please jump to this section.
Lath is the binding structure between your stucco wall and the main frame of your house. In case we suspect that your stucco wall has lost attachment to the lath, we advise to get a contractor and fix the attachment as soon as possible. Usually plaster buttons are used to fix the attachments. Then refinish and repaint your wall.
Identify need for repair
Of many signs that are common, your first concern should be the perimeters of the doors, windows and pipes. These are very obvious and often neglected signs of issues. Check if the sealant used to caulk around the windows is functioning. Is it dry, fragile or peeling off? Is it applied at all? These joints are basically the heaven for moisture. Proper filling should be used in other joints too, most importantly, between dissimilar materials. Look for any damage of the fillers. This is crucial.
Always seal the deal.
Take a walk around your house and look for damp sites. Dark sites will do. Touch it. Does the wall feel wet? It may be because of water intrusion.
We have seen pipes, electrical components, grills, sheds and all kinds of features that are situated in the stucco structure display signs of failure. These are often the weak points of the whole structure. Take a careful look.
If you have a chimney made of stucco, you should definitely be concerned. This combination is dangerous and often leads to failure, especially if the wall is built on wooden lath.
Will painting my wall save the day?
Painting stucco sidings is a great way to seal the house from weather conditions. It can easily last 5 to 10 years. Elastomeric paintings are very popular because of their sealing qualities. Often small cracks can be effectively repaired by repainting the wall. Polymer based coatings can expand or contract according the new demand of the situation. However, a well sealed stucco wall doesn’t the protection of paints. If you prefer the texture of stucco, then seal the deal and keep it naked. Make sure to maintain your house once in a while.
What if I’m an EIFS user? (Read signs of EIFS problems)
Synthetic stucco systems are very popular now. EIFS buildings are meant to be waterproof and last longer than usual materials. It’s generally true as the coasting used in EIFS prevents water from entering the structure. But EIFS is especially susceptible to damage due to water trapped. Due to heavy cracks or underlying leaks, water can enter EIFS and damage the structure. Usually stucco systems can better handle water since it can pump out the moisture. Stucco has pores. That’s why conventional stucco structures can sustain rain and moisture very well. EIFS is waterproof but has no effective way of losing water once it gets in.
So EIFS users can enjoy a long life span of their structure unless water gets in.
Trapped Water: enemy of stucco houses
Water inside stucco will show a few signs. If you find a missing chunk or layer on your stucco structure, chances are that your building has absorbed water in. And most stucco buildings are capable of extracting water on their own. But due to poor drainage or just unavoidable reasons, you may find water inside your stucco. Unless extracted, these water molecules will damp your wall and cause consequent damage. Another way to detect water is to look for dark lines and areas on your building. These are the results of wet stucco for a long time.
What if my stucco has cracks?
Hairline cracks are often visible even in new stucco homes. As the structure gets comfortable with new stresses, cracks will form to accommodate little conflicts. You may need to worry if the cracks get bigger. Usually cracks below 1/16 inch width are innocent. These should be dealt with caulking and water based paint later. Unless attended, these cracks can lead to bigger cracks. Usually acrylic polymers are applied. These can expand and contract according to the need. So the small cracks are well taken care of.
If you notice large cracks however, it’s usually a sign of underlying issues. And it’s better to call an expert.
Should you buy that stucco house?
Stucco is popularly known to be resistant to fire, mold, heat, cold, damage and time. Some stucco house will easily last 100 years. Stucco seems to do well with moisture too. It’s EIFS that is often called stucco and a common victim of moisture. If the house is supposed to withstand rain and moisture, it’s better not to be made of EIFS. However, EIFS offer excellent energy efficiency around your house if you’re living in a hard condition. So well maintained stucco will outlast you. It’s the unprofessional installation that can cost you money in future. I advise you to bring a professional with you to inspect the house’s condition. Read above to learn more about stucco houses.