Stucco News

Question and answers on Stucco and Plastering
-- April, 2013

Metal lath vertical instead of horizontal, not overlapped enough.

Hi Reggie,
 Just came across your site and have a question  I was hoping you might
 be able to answer and give me some guidance about next steps...
 I live in NY (Long Island) and rebuilt my home within the last year.  I
 tore it down to the foundation.  I decided to Stucco the house, but
 before doing so I asked my  contractor  who was doing the work about
 cracking. He said that stucco has a tendency to crack over time and
 you'll need to stay after it which I accepted at face-value.  As a
 background, the original house had  been built in 1930 and the original
 stucco was still on the house. However, when we began the renovation it
 was apparent that the whole house was rotted and in most cases it was
 the stucco that was supporting the home.
 In any event, we opted to tear it down (but leave the original
 foundation which was inspected and deemed to be fine) and rebuild it and
 use stucco on the outside. We opted for the Three-Coat Portland Cement
 Stucco.  The Stucco work began in mid-November 2005 and was completed in
 Feb 2006 and my concern was whether the temperature would become an
 issue. I was told by the contractor as long as the temperature doesn't
 drop below 40 degrees he can work.  He used heaters during the day in
 January but not at night.  He also used the Tyvek Stucco Wrap.
 In mid-January, I began to notice a few cracks running vertically in the
 Stucco and the contractor told me, "Well, I told you would get some
 cracks" and when I pressed him that I would not expect to see cracking
 so soon he said don't worry about it.  Once you get through all the four
 seasons you can thoroseal it to which I explained that I'm paying $40k
 to have him put the color on so I don't need to paint. I did not press
 him after that.  In April, I began to see some more cracking and I
 called the stucco supplier who sent someone out to take a look and he
 said you should only see a little bit as the weather warms up but also
 questioned whether the lathe was self-furring and installed
 appropriately.  He also chipped away at a very small section to see the
 thickness of the cement which he said was adequate.  So, I waited...
 In November 2006, it was apparent that the cracking was happening all
 over the house.  Vertical Cracks were occurring almost 2 feet apart from
 just above the foundation and stretching to the roof  so I called my
 contractor and told him. His answer was "I told you it would crack, the
 house is settling and it's normal. Just thoroseal it". He has refused to
 come back and acknowledge any responsibility.  I then called an engineer
 who told me there is no evidence of any settling and he recommend a
 Stucco Contractor who he trusts to come by and take a look.  His person
 looked at the house for about 90 minutes and concluded that the
 contractor probably did not use self-furring lath, there was
 discoloration from frost, and based on pictures which I had taken during
 the construction indicated that the lath was not  installed
and overlaid properly in many places which would be
 consistent with cracking approximately every 2 feet.  In addition he
 felt that the mix was not mortar cement, but instead masonry cement.  He
 claimed he was not interested in anything other than trying to help me
 out.  He wasn't interested in selling me the job.  In fact, all of his
 work is out in the Hampton's about 50 miles from me. His opinion was
 that this was bad workmanship and I need to chase the contractor and
 begin a lawsuit to recover the costs of tearing it down and re-doing it
 properly.  He felt that I run a risk of water getting into those cracks
 and causing damage to the inside walls. My biggest immediate concern was
 I subsequently called back the manufacturer's rep who initially saw the
 house in April.  This time he told me there was something definitely
 wrong and provided me with a written report of possible causes including
 incorrect installation and failure to use self-furring lathe and/or the
 appropriate cement mix.  He conceded that the proper way to remedy this
 is to tear it down and redo-it, and the contractor should be held liable.
 Besides having to spend alot of money to re-do this in the event I
 cannot recover money from the contractor, in your opinion do you feel  I
 need to do this sooner rather than later because of potential water
 damage or is this a cosmetic issue which I can hold off  on undertaking
 until I cannot afford to re-do it?
 I 'd be interested to hear your thoughts and be more interested in your
 guidance on next steps.

  Probably the cracks aren't of any concern, as far as
water infiltration goes. If they are hairline cracks, you may
confirm this by throwing clean water on the crack.
It should soak in before it goes far. Bear in mind water
runs downhill, and the stucco has a vapor barrier like tarpaper behind it.
I do have a solution to re-coat your walls over in a manner where
the cracks will disappear. The doubt I have is the fact the lath may not
been overlapped enough( at least one inch). There is a possibility the
will come through.
What seems bad is the cracks are vertical, and probably the distance
apart as a sheet of lath is wide, or just over 2 feet.
 Here is my solution, even though I have a little doubt it will
work 100%
It sounds like sloppy work due to lack
of experience. There may be hope.