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Stucco Failure: Causes, Signs & Remedies

Stucco is a common, low maintenance, and popular exterior finish for buildings due to its durability and aesthetic appeal. Despite the durability of stucco, with time and being exposed to harsh weather conditions such as wind, snow and rain, stucco can fail. This can then lead to various health hazard issues such as water damage, mold growth, and structural damage.  

Stucco failure happens often and can be caused by several factors, including water damage, poor installation, structural movement, poor maintenance, and much more. It is crucial to address any signs of stucco failure promptly to avoid further damage and costly repairs, and to remediate and replace the stucco problem if necessary. Knowing what causes it, the signs to look for, and how to remedy the issues are all something that homeowners should keep in mind!

What causes stucco failure?

While overtime stucco can begin to deteriorate just like any other building material, there are a few things that can cause stucco failure to happen quicker:

  1. Water Damage: Exposure to water is one of the most common causes of stucco failure. Water can infiltrate the stucco through cracks or gaps, causing it to become saturated and eventually crack or crumble. Over time, water damage can also lead to rot, mold growth, and dangerous structural damage.  
  1. Improper Installation: If the stucco was not installed correctly, it may be more prone to failure. This can include issues such as insufficient bonding, inadequate reinforcement, or improper curing. Improper installation can also cause the stucco to crack or peel away from the building, allowing for more moisture to intrude.  
  1. Structural Movement: Any movement or settling of the underlying structure can cause the stucco to crack or separate. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including soil movement, seismic activity, or changes in temperature or humidity throughout the year. Structural movement can also cause the stucco to bulge or warp. Often structural movement is no cause for concern as it is normal and happens over a long period of time; however, when mixed with an issue such as water damage that has caused rot to the integrity of the structure it can be a bigger and more hazardous problem.  
  1. Improper Maintenance: Neglecting routine maintenance, such as cleaning and painting, can cause the stucco to deteriorate faster and fail over time.  
  1. Inadequate Ventilation: Poor ventilation in the affected area can cause moisture buildup, leading to water damage and eventual stucco failure.
  1. Use of Low-Quality Materials: Using low-quality stucco materials or mixing the materials improperly can lead to stucco failure over time. Poor installation can also contribute to stucco failure, as proper stucco installation procedures may be overlooked or rushed. It is essential to use high-quality materials and follow proper mixing procedures to ensure the stucco's durability.

What are some signs of stucco failure?

Since stucco is a porous material that is meant to absorb water to a certain degree, it may be difficult at times to determine whether your stucco is failing or not at first glance. Luckily there are several known and clear stucco failures signs that homeowners should be aware of, and on the lookout for:

  1. Cracks: Cracks in the stucco can be an indication of stucco failure. They may be small or large and can appear in a variety of patterns. Cracks can result from movement and shifting in the structural foundation, which is normal and can simply be repaired for aesthetic purposes. However, larger localized cracking can be due to water damage and deeper cracks can lead to bigger issues in the future.  
  1. Bulging: If the stucco appears to be bulging or separating from the underlying structure, it may be a sign of stucco failure due to invasive water damage.
  1. Staining: Staining on the stucco surface can be another sign of water damage, which can lead to stucco failure if not addressed promptly. While wet looking stucco is normal after a rainfall, if your stucco continues to look wet a few days after it has rained there may be a bigger problem lurking underneath.
  1. Peeling or Flaking: If the stucco is peeling or flaking off, it may be an indication that the stucco is not properly bonded to the underlying structure.
  1. Mold or Mildew Growth: If mold or mildew is present on the stucco surface, it may be a sign of moisture infiltration, which can lead to stucco failure and rot over time.
  1. Dampness or Moisture: Some dampness and moisture is normal for this porous material, however if the stucco feels damp or moist to the touch when there is no reason for it to be (I.e., it just finished raining), it may be a sign of water infiltration and potential stucco failure.

How do you fix stucco failure?

The remedy for stucco failure largely depends on the specific issue and its severity. Here are some possible solutions:

  1. Repair Cracks: Small cracks can often be repaired with a stucco patching compound or caulking. This will prevent further damage, stop water intrusion, and improve the overall appearance of the stucco.
  1. Waterproofing: If water damage is the cause of the stucco failure, it is important to address the underlying issue and ensure that the area is properly waterproofed and sealed to prevent future water damage.
  1. Improve Ventilation: In cases where moisture buildup is the cause of stucco failure, improving ventilation in the affected area can help reduce moisture and prevent further damage.  
  1. Remove and Replace: In cases where the stucco has extensive damage, simple repairs will not be enough. It may become necessary to remove and replace the stucco entirely. This will involve removing the damaged stucco, repairing any underlying issues, and installing new stucco. If you are removing stucco, it should be tested for asbestos before any removal work can begin!
  1. Consult a Professional: It is important to consult with a professional contractor who can evaluate the specific issue and recommend the appropriate solution. A professional will have the necessary expertise and experience to properly diagnose the issue and provide a long-lasting remedy.

The Bottom Line

Stucco failure is an all-too-common problem that many homeowners deal with each year. The many visual signs of stucco failure are helpful in being able to quickly diagnose the issue and come up with a solution to ensure that the root of the problem is fixed!  

Ignoring the signs of stucco failure will result in the problem persisting and can lead to bigger issues that are hazardous to health such as mold growth and structural damage. Avoiding stucco failure signs, as well as not fixing it and the root cause of it, can be costly, both to your health and bank account.  

The got mold?™ team is more than happy to help with any stucco removal and remediation. It’s important to get stucco tested for asbestos before it is removed, as asbestos was a common additive material to stucco prior to 1990, and many homes built before still can contain asbestos.  

If you require testing, remediation, removal, or need an opinion on whether your stucco is failing, contact the experts at got mold?™ to assist you!

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