LESLIE: Don in Pennsylvania is on the line with a question about stucco cracking. What can we do for you today?
DON: My house was built in 2001. It’s about 5,000 square feet. And it’s a lot of cracking in the stucco. And what they tell me – it was not applied properly back then and so water got behind it. And as a result – we’re in a cold-temperature area – it would crack.
And so, anyways, I was wondering if there’s a low-cost solution to repair it. I’ve received estimates anywhere from $80,000 to $125,000, which is a big price spread between putting Hardie board on or ripping all the stucco off and applying new stucco with a different application.
TOM: This is a masonry stucco? This is not an EIFS stucco: an exterior insulated-foam siding system? This is a masonry-stucco system?
DON: Yeah, it’s a masonary (ph) stucco system with lath. And I think it was Dryvit at the time, as far as the stucco. But I understand it doesn’t matter if it’s Dryvit or not. I guess that was something that was smooth that you could paint on it.
But I’ve also heard there’s been problems with Hardie board, too, that really doesn’t solve the solution or it doesn’t solve the problem. So I’m kind of wondering what the best application is.
TOM: I’m still not convinced, by the way, that I understand fully what you have. Because you said Dryvit and Dryvit is a product that’s used on foam siding – on foam insulating boards – that looks like stucco but it’s not real stucco. It’s a synthetic stucco. If it’s a masonry stucco, it’s basically – you know, it’s lime and mortar mixed up and troweled on and textured over a wire mesh.
DON: That’s exactly what it is. The trouble – what’s behind it is OBS plywood, I guess, or not a plywood but …
TOM: Yeah. OSB, you mean. Yeah.
DON: Yeah, OSB. And what happens with it behind – they tell me that they did not put either a drip seal or something where the water would fall down. I had a stucco house in Florida but it was concrete block.
TOM: Right. That’s different, yeah.
DON: And I never had any problems with it because the moisture would just go right in. I guess what happened behind this is moisture got behind it. And then, as a result, with the temperature change with freezing, there’s a tremendous amount of cracks all over, through the house.
DON: And other builders in the area, like Toll Brothers and Pulte and some of the other major builders, have stood behind it and they’ve actually redone the stucco on some of these houses. I have a different local custom builder that built the house. And I had him out probably about 8 or 10 years ago. He told it was my problem on maintenance, that I should have maintained the house better. So, that was his solution.
But I found – subsequently found out that there’s been a lot of problems. A lot of houses in this area have the same problem.
TOM: So here’s what I would be cautious about with this stucco cracking. It does sound like you’re not going to be able to put lipstick on a pig here. You’re not going to be able to do anything to this that’s going to make it any better. You’re probably already caulking it and sealing it and using the appropriate products for that.
TOM: And it sounds like there might be an adhesion issue between the stucco and the wall or a water-resiliency issue causing stucco cracking. So you probably are going to end up having to take that stucco off.
But here’s what I would not do. I would not hire a contractor that says they can do this job without first hiring an architect or a structural engineer to design the job that they are to do. Because there’s a lot of contractors that just think they know what they’re doing but they don’t.
And if you have an engineer involved, I think it’s good for you for two reasons. Number one, you can document the condition of the property now and you can document the fix. Because you’re going to want to sell this house at some point in the future. And if a question came up about this work, there’s nothing better to show a potential buyer than the fact that you had it examined by a professional, they specified the repair and then you had contractors that basically executed that exact specification. They built it, they corrected it, they fixed it exactly like the engineer recommended it be done, so you have that sort of pedigree on the success of the repair modification in this case. And secondly, you can rest assured and sleep well at night that it was done properly.
So, I just don’t want you to go to the first contractor that gives you a price you like and talks a good game without having a spec done first for the stucco cracking, because repairing stucco cracking is a big and expensive job. And the money that you’re going to spend on an engineer is going to be a very small but well worth piece of it. Does that make sense?
DON: Yes, it surely does. And I know a lot of people are doing that, as far as having the house inspected before it goes for sale, to show that there’s no stucco damage on some of these other houses. And they have an engineering report where they write 8 or 10 pages on examining the house and doing things like that.
TOM: Well, yes and no. But let me clarify that for you. So they have a home inspection report. And I was a home inspector for 20 years, so I know what that looks like. I’m not a structural engineer. I’m telling you to get a structural engineer, not a home inspector, to spec this out for you or an architect, one of those two professionals.
TOM: And yes, if a home inspector comes in and sees the work is done – and that question can come up and you can present the history at that time. But I don’t want you to hire a home inspector; I want you to hire a structural engineer or an architect to spec this stucco cracking out for you.
DON: OK, good.
TOM: Because once you have that document, then you have contractors that come in. It’s not like, “How are you going to fix it?” And one guy says he’s going to do X and the other guy says he’s going to do Y. This way, you say, “Look, you’re going to all going to bid on this document. This is exactly how I want it fixed.”
And you have all of those discussions with your professional and you decide what material you want as a finish and all of that. You give them all the specs. They’re all bidding apples to apples and then you have the engineer or the architect reinspect it, either even during the time, even maybe when the old stucco is pulled off to see if there’s damage. But you have partial inspections done or periodic inspections done and you have a final and then a final report. So, you know, if you have to spend a couple extra grand doing that on professional fees, that is a drop in the bucket and well worth …
DON: Oh, that’s good. I appreciate it. That’s good advice. I truly appreciate the help.
TOM: Alright. Sorry that happened to you. Let us know how you make out, OK? Take care.