1. What is the most common cause for stucco damage?
2. Can the stucco damage I noticed be repaired with a new coat of stucco or by filling in the cracks?
3. How is the extent of damage(both obvious and out of sight) determined for repairs?
4. What do I need to know about assessing damage?
5. How do I understand different types of stucco products?
6. When is total replacement necessary?
7. Stucco has been around for a long time - what different textures are available?

What is the most common cause for stucco damage?
There is no question in that stucco’s “arch enemy” is water - and thus, moisture. Most stucco deterioration and resulting infrastructure damage is the result of water infiltration. What areas of the home are most susceptible to stucco damage? Moisture intrusion and the resulting damages most often occur through the roof, around chimneys, window and door openings, or excessive ground water or moisture penetrating through, or splashing up from the foundation. Potential causes of deterioration include: ground settlement, lintel and door frame settlement, inadequate or leaking gutters and downspouts, intrusive vegetation, moisture migration within walls due to interior condensation and humidity, vapor drive problems caused by furnace, bathroom and kitchen vents, and rising damp resulting from excessive ground water and poor drainage around the foundation. Water infiltration will cause wood lath to rot, and metal lath and nails to rust, which eventually will cause stucco to lose its bond and pull away from its substrate.

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Can the stucco damage I noticed be repaired with a new coat of stucco or by “filling in the cracks”?
No! After the cause of deterioration has been identified, any necessary repairs to the building should be made first before repairing the stucco. Such work is likely to include repairs designed to keep excessive water away from the stucco, such as roof, gutter, downspout and flashing repairs, improving drainage, and redirecting rainwater runoff and splash-back away from the building. Horizontal areas such as the tops of parapet walls or chimneys are particularly vulnerable to water infiltration, and may require modifications to their original problem. Often, the problem is the result of poor installation of the flashing and the flashing along with other vulnerable areas can be modified easily by Advanced Stucco Repair, Inc.

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How is the extent of damage (both obvious and out of sight) determined for repairs?

Before beginning any stucco repair, an assessment of the stucco should be undertaken to determine the extent of the damage, and how much must be replaced or repaired. This assessment should be conducted by a QUALIFIED stucco inspector. Testing should be carried out systematically on all elevations of the building to determine the overall condition of the stucco. Some areas in need of repair will be clearly evidenced by missing sections of stucco or stucco layers. Bulging or cracked areas are obvious places to begin.

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What do I need to know about assessing damage?
Most stucco deterioration is the result of water infiltration into the building structure, either through the roof, around chimneys, window and door openings, or excessive ground water or moisture penetrating through, or splashing up from the foundation. Potential causes of deterioration include: ground settlement lintel and door frame settlement, inadequate or leaking gutters and downspouts, intrusive vegetation, moisture migration within walls due to interior condensation and humidity, vapor drive problems caused by furnace, bathroom and kitchen vents, and rising damp resulting from excessive ground water and poor drainage around the foundation.

Water infiltration will cause wood lath to rot, and metal lath and nails to rust, which eventually will cause stucco to lose its bond and pull away from its substrate.

After the cause of deterioration has been identified, any necessary repairs to the building should be made first before repairing the stucco. Such work is likely to include repairs designed to keep excessive water away from the stucco, such as roof, gutter, downspout and flashing repairs, improving drainage, and redirecting rainwater runoff and splash-back away from the building. Horizontal areas such as the tops of parapet walls or chimneys are particularly vulnerable to water infiltration, and may require modifications to their original design, such as the addition of flashing to correct the problem.

Before beginning any stucco repair, an assessment of the stucco should be undertaken to determine the extent of the damage, and how much must be replaced or repaired. Testing should be carried out systematically on all elevations of the building to determine the overall condition of the stucco. Some areas in need of repair will be clearly evidenced by missing sections of stucco or stucco layers. Bulging or cracked areas are obvious places to begin. Unsound, or soft areas that have lost their key will echo with a hollow sound when tapped gently with a wooden or acrylic hammer or mallet.

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How do I understand different types of stucco products?
There are many contemporary stucco products on the market today. Many of them are not compatible, either physically or visually, with historic stucco buildings. Such products should be considered for use only after consulting with a historic masonry specialist. However, some of these prepackaged tinted stucco coatings may be suitable for use on stucco buildings dating from the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth century, as long as the color and texture are appropriate for the period and style of the building. While some masonry contractors may, as a matter of course, suggest that a water-repellent coating be applied after repairing old stucco, in most cases this should not be necessary, since colorwashes and paints serve the same purpose, and stucco itself is a protective coating.

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When is total replacement necessary?
Complete replacement of the stucco with new stucco of either a traditional or modern mix will probably be necessary only in cases of extreme deterioration-- that is, a loss of bond on over 40 to 50 percent of the stucco surface. Another reason for total removal might be stucco has been so compromised by prior incompatible and ill-conceived repairs that patching would not be successful.

When stucco no longer exists on a building there is more flexibility in choosing a suitable mix for the replacement. Since compatibility of old and new stucco will not be an issue, the most important factors to consider are durability, color, texture and finish. Depending on the construction and substrate of the building, in some instances it may be acceptable to use a relatively strong cement-based stucco mortar. This is certainly true for many late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century buildings, and may even be appropriate to use on some stone substrates even if the original mortar would have been weaker, as long as the historic visual qualities noted above have been replicated. Generally, the best principle to follow for a masonry building is that the stucco mix, whether for repair or replacement of historic stucco, should be somewhat weaker than the masonry to which it is to be applied in order not to damage the substrate.

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Stucco has been around for a long time - what different textures are available?
Most of the oldest stucco in the U.S. dating prior to the late-nineteenth century, will generally have a smooth, troweled finish(sometimes called a sand or float finish), possibly scored to resemble ashlar masonry units. Scoring may be incised to simulate masonry joints, the scored lines may be emphasized by black or white penciling, or the lines may simply be drawn or painted on the surface of the stucco. In some regions, at least as early as the first decades of the nineteenth century, it was not uncommon to use a roughcast finish on the foundation or base of an otherwise smooth-surfaced building. Roughcast was also used as ah overall stucco finish for some outbuildings, and other less important types of structures.
A wide variety of decorative surface textures may be found on revival style stucco buildings, particularly residentialarchitecture. These styles evolved in the late-nineteenth century and peaked in popularity in the early decades of the twentieth century. Frank Lloyd Wright favored a smooth finish stucco, which was imitated on much of the Prairie style architecture inspired by his work. Some of the more picturesque surface textures include: English Cottage or English Cotswold finish; sponge finish; fan texture; adobe finish,and Spanish or Italian finish. Many of these finishes and countless other regional and personalized variations on them are still in use.

The most common early-twentieth century stucco finishes are often found on bungalow-style houses, and include: spatter or spatterdash (sometimes called roughcast, harling, or wetdash), and pebble-dash or drydash. The spatterd ash finish is applied by throwing the stucco mortar against the wall using a whisk broom or a stiff fiber brush,and it requires considerable skill on the part of the plasterer to achieve a consistently rough wall surface. The mortar used to obtain this texture is usually composed simply of aregular sand, lime, and cement mortar, although it may sometimes contain small pebbles or crushed stone aggregate, which replaces one-half the normal sand content. The pebble-dash or drydash finish is accomplished manually by the plasterer throwing or "dashing" dry pebbles (about 1/8" to 1/4" in size), onto a coat of stucco freshly applied by another plasterer. The pebbles must be thrown at the wall with a scoop with sufficient force and skill that they will stick to the stuccoed wall. A more even or uniform surface can be achieved by patting the stones down with a wooden float. This finish may also be created using a texturing machine.

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