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What is Kickout Flashing?

What is white-wash?

What if my stucco is painted?

City of Woodbury info on stucco leaks

What are we doing to prevent problems?

Pictures of plaster stop and drip cap installed

 

What if my stucco is painted?

The reason most homeowners paint their stucco is because the cost of restucco is more than just hiring a painter to paint over the existing stucco.  Although seemingly less expensive up front, the misconception that painting is cheaper couldn't be more wrong.  Here's why...Once, usually within 2 to 3 years, the paint starts decaying, chaulking and peeling, the homeowner calls us and says, "My stucco looks like it needs to be freshened up.  Can I get an estimate?"  Of course we set an appointment to look at the home to discover that it has been painted.  Bad news for your checkbook.  Now we have to hire a sandblasting firm to remove the existing paint.  Why?  Because it is a layer that would prohibit proper bonding of a new stucco coat.  We provide a product that lasts decades, far longer than any paint job.

 

What is white wash?

Getting your home "white-washed" is similar to getting your home painted.  Typically when stucco is applied to an existing home there is a two-part process, a wash coat, and a texture coat.  The problems that arise with only white-washing your home are the shortened life of the job, and the cost of future stucco repair and finishing.  The reason stucco lasts so long is that the cement is also mixed with sand.  Silica sand resists wear and weather for years, where a "white-wash" is just watery white cement brushed over the wall.  This begins to chalk and wear within one year.  To make things worse, just like painted stucco, it must be sandblasted off when a restucco is desired.  A traditional stucco coating would consist of this same white-wash coat, however, over that another coat is applied consisting of a cement mixture including twice as much sand, thus creating strength and resistance to aging and weather.  The white cement may also be colored for a pleasing look.

 

What is "Kickout Flashing"?

A critical location where moisture entry can do considerable damage is where a lower roof cornice stops in the middle of a stucco wall.  Kick-outs should be fabricated with watertight seems and be big and broad enough to handle water run-off from a variety of roof pitches.  Another critical element is the use of gutters to evacuate the water away from these sensitive locations.  There are several local materials suppliers that now offer these kick-outs in both left and right versions.  Installing the kick-out after the installation of the shingles is a very difficult procedure for the lather or stucco contractor to perform.  For this reason it should be coordinated so that the kick-out is installed by the roofer as the shingles are being laid up.  This "kick-out" flashing will help keep water from running down the new stucco wall and add life to the original appearance of your stucco.

From the Minnesota Lath and Plaster Bureau July 2000

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Stucco Questions and Answers

"Stucco in Residential Construction"
A position paper by the City of Woodbury Building Inspection Division
March 26, 2003

Introduction
Although stucco has been used as a building material for over a century, several failures, including mold, rot and structural deterioration of stucco homes in 1999 made the city aware of what has since become a widespread problem in homes built since the 1980s. While the installation methods have changed, there are still questions about whether the stucco problem has been solved. The city questions the viability of stucco installations on current wall systems and recommends that prospective homeowners and builders consider alternate types of siding.

Background
In 1999, the Building Inspection Division initiated extensive research into the cause of the stucco failures and the standard installation methods being used at the time. The research indicated standard installation practices that had been used for years were no longer effective. A meeting was held with stucco contractors, builders, industry representatives, building inspectors from other communities and other interested parties to introduce a newly-created Woodbury stucco inspection program and requirements. Standard installation practices that were implemented in May 1999 include:

Old Method New Method
One layer of type 15 felt was the most common. Less than 10 percent used 2 layers of type 15 felt. Grade D paper was not available. Two layers grade D felt are required by the State Building Code.
Flanged windows were considered to be self-flashed. Flashing is required over all windows and doors.
Paper was installed over the window flanges. Paper is required to be under the sides and bottom window flange.
Paper was not sealed at the windows. Paper must be sealed at the windows with tape or caulk.
Paper stopped at the soffit line. Paper is required to the top of the wall.
Kickout flashing was mostly an unknown term. Kickout flashing is required at wall intersections where the roofline does not extend past the wall.
Weep screeds were not used. Weep screeds are required.

Extent of the Problem
In 1999, an informal observation from the street of stucco homes indicated 26 percent of the 670 stucco exterior homes in Woodbury had visible signs of moisture problems. As of this writing, 110 permits have been issued since May 1999 for stucco repair. Because moisture problems take time to develop, this number continues to increase as newer houses age and have time to develop symptoms.

Discussions with other municipalities and state personnel verify the stucco problem is widely distributed throughout the state and nation. Woodbury has more repairs than other locations because more stucco homes were built during the critical time frame, information about the problem is readily available here, and Woodbury stucco homeowners are proactive in making repairs.

Current Debate
Stucco is immeasurably more likely than other types of exterior claddings to have catastrophic failure. Permits issued for stucco repair since 1999 represent a stunning 16 percent of the 670 homes with stucco exterior. Most of the stucco repairs included structural damage and mold remediation, with many costing $150,000 or more. Of the 17,000 dwelling units with other types of exterior cladding, the city has yet to see one with significant structural damage caused by other types of siding.

There is currently a national debate on the cause of these stucco problems. Some say the stucco failures are not the fault of the stucco, but that interior moisture or wall systems being built too tight are to blame. While there are other factors, this is certainly part of the problem. Unfortunately, this indicates that stucco may not be compatible with the wall systems being built today.

Conclusions
There is no doubt that stucco installed from the late 1980s until 1999 has an unacceptable failure rate. The installation methods have since changed, but there is no proof that any current installation method will prevent similar catastrophic failures. Contractor guarantees are good only if the contractor is still in business and financially capable of honoring the guarantee. Until installation methods are proven to work, the City of Woodbury Building Inspection Division questions the viability of stucco installations on current wall systems and recommends people consider alternate types of siding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. We have heard there are some stucco problems but not much more. What exactly are the problems?

A. The problems we have seen are associated with moisture either from the interior or exterior being trapped in the wall cavity creating mold and rotting the sheathing and framing members. Sometimes the mold is so extensive it creates indoor air quality problems with potential health problems. These problems are mostly on stucco houses built in the late 1980s and later.

Q. How widespread is the problem?

A. This is an industry-wide problem. It is not just in the Midwest, Minnesota or Woodbury. It has come to our attention in Woodbury because there were many homes built here in the past 10 years.

Q. What are the signs to look for to determine if my home has a problem?

A. On the interior, if the bottoms of windows are discolored or the base trim is warped or carpet is wet, these are indications of a leak. If there is a moldy smell in the house, there may be leaks into the wall cavities that may not show other signs of leakage. On the exterior, if there are brown streaks below the corners of windows or where window units are joined, it is likely there is a leak at that location. Intersections of walls and roofs are also susceptible to leaks, which will be indicated by brown streaks.

Home

Q. What causes the problems?

A. Window leaks are the cause of the majority of the damage but the causes may be many, including:

  • The paper around windows and other openings was installed incorrectly.
  • Head flashing was not used on windows (windows with flanges were thought to be self-flashed).
  • One layer of paper was used. Water may be leaking through the paper.
  • The windows themselves leak.
  • Kickout flashing was not installed at the wall/roof intersections where the roofline does not extend below the wall.
  • The deck ledger board was not flashed.
  • Moisture from rain during construction or wet building materials remain in the wall (construction moisture).
  • Interior moisture is permeating into the wall.
  • Lack of drying capacity. All walls will likely leak sometime during their life. In addition condensation and construction moisture will be in the walls. Stucco walls are very tight and cannot withstand much moisture without creating mold and rot.
  • Solar drive may be pushing moisture from a wet stucco wall into the wall cavity.
  • Type 15 felt may be acting as a vapor retarder trapping moisture in the wall.
  • Oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing has a low perm rating and it may be acting as a vapor retarder creating a double vapor retarder situation. In addition OSB absorbs and retains moisture making it vulnerable to mold and rot.
  • The staples that stick through the sheathing are collecting frost or condensation and dripping within the wall cavity.
  • The high number of staples used to fasten the lath creates many penetrations that could both leak and condense moisture.
  • The staples were driven into the lath with excessive force causing the lath to cut the paper creating a leak.
  • Wind driven water is getting on the wall through the soffit vents and running down the wall between the sheathing and the paper.
  • Weep screeds were not used at the bottom of the stucco. This may prevent trapped water from draining.
  • Stucco was installed below ground. This may prevent trapped water from draining or may wick water up to the framing. In addition, when stucco is applied below grade there is no clear definition of where grade should be and often the grade is placed against the wood framing causing a guaranteed rot situation.
  • Stucco is installed directly on the foundation without paper or a weep screed. This prevents trapped water from draining.
  • Landscape trees or bushes that contact the stucco create an area that introduces and holds moisture in the stucco. The moisture permeates into the wall.

Q. Stucco historically has been used for more than 100 years without problems. Why are we having problems now?

A. This is perhaps the most important question and one that we can only speculate on the possible causes, but cannot give a definitive answer. We do know that houses are being built with tighter wall cavities and when the cavity gets wet it dries out very slowly. Older houses had more air circulation in the wall that allowed the cavities to dry out. There is also speculation that wood windows in the older houses swelled when they were wet creating a seal between the stucco and the wood, effectively sealing out the water. New windows are typically vinyl or steel and do not swell and create a seal.

Q. What is Woodbury doing about this?

A. The Woodbury Building Inspection Division has been very proactive since discovering the problem in the spring of 1999. Research was done to identify the problems and possible causes. In May 1999, the City of Woodbury hosted a fact-finding meeting with stucco contractors, general contractors, municipal building inspectors, industry representatives and other interested parties. Ron Glubka, Chief Building Official, attended a similar meeting hosted by the State of Minnesota Building Codes and Standards Division. The city identified possible causes and solutions. A stucco inspection checklist was created and a mandatory stucco inspection became part of the inspection process for all houses with stucco. The May 1999 City of Woodbury Building Inspection Newsletter, sent out to almost 1,000 contractors, detailed the new inspection requirements and code requirements. Now each new house built with stucco undergoes an inspection of the critical areas of stucco application. The City of Woodbury continues to gather information. If further research indicates additional changes need to be made in construction techniques or inspections, the City of Woodbury will take whatever action is appropriate.

Q. What should be done if there are signs of leaks on our house?

A. There are a number of steps that can be taken or places to call for help.

  • The contractor shall warranty the house for one year against defects and ten years against structural defects. Some builders may provide additional warranties.
  • The State Commerce Department, (651) 296-6319, may provide assistance with contractors or provide information on the availability of the state builder's recovery fund.
  • The State of Minnesota Building Codes and Standards Division has been helpful to several homeowners with stucco problems. Contact (651) 296-2488.
  • Your insurance company may participate in the cost of repairs.
  • Private home inspectors may help identify problems.
  • Licensed Contractors can make necessary repairs.
  • The City of Woodbury has a Warranty Information Brochure that explains various methods available to have warranty work completed. Contact the Building Inspection Division at (651) 714-3543. The brochure is also available on the City of Woodbury Web site at www.ci.woodbury.mn.us.

Q. I own a stucco home, and I don't see any symptoms of leaks right now. Is there any preventative action I can take that will keep problems from occurring?

A. Most of the problems we have seen are caused from leaks around windows. Caulking the sides and bottom of the window will help prevent water infiltration. There are different schools of thought on caulking the top of the windows. One is to caulk the top of the window to prevent water from getting in and the other is to not caulk the top so water that is behind the stucco but on the tarpaper can get out. A moderate position is to caulk the top of the window but leave some small openings in the caulk to let any water that may be on the tarpaper out. Additional openings and penetrations such as doors and vents should also be caulked.

Q. Are there tests that can be done to determine if there is a moisture problem, even if there are no symptoms right now?

A. Yes, there are a variety of tests that private inspectors may use. They range from passive tests that use instruments to take relative moisture readings in non-conductive solid materials such as wood and masonry, to intrusive tests where openings are made to allow a probe inside the wall cavity to measure moisture. These tests may be helpful in providing information that may indicate whether there is a moisture problem. The only way to be certain, however, is to remove either the sheetrock on the interior or the stucco on the exterior of the home.

Q. If there is a problem with the stucco on my home, what will be required to correct it?

A. A building permit is required for stucco repairs. The building code requires that all wood with mold or rot be removed and repaired. Areas that do not show signs of leaks, mold, rot or deterioration may remain.

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