Years ago, a majority of stucco finishes were directly applied to stone, brick or concrete.
Today a less expensive application method is involved in most stucco finishes. Instead of stone or brick, it is applied on top of open frame construction. What this means is that lathe and plaster reinforcement that looks like chicken wire gets laid on top of wood-frame walls without any sheathing.
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Buildings and homes that have stucco applied on top of open frame construction are able to last for up to one hundred years if the stucco is properly applied. However, if you notice a crack you should have the damage fixed immediately before it deteriorates and the underlying wooden structure is ruined.
Water Infiltration Damages Stucco
Infiltration of water into a house or building through the chimney, roof, windows or any opening water is able to pass causes a majority of stucco damage. Water infiltration results in wood lath deteriorating and metal lath and nails can rust which will cause stucco to come loose.
Application errors cause nearly all stucco leaks. Errors frequently occur when windows, flashing, paper, and other components do not overlap (flash) properly for the items directly underneath them.
Usually, water leaking inside of stucco walls originates from one of the sources below:
One of the most common types of flashing failures in a building structure is window leaks within stucco walls. There are two basic sources that cause these leaks: failure of the actual window frame mechanism or the stucco’s protective paper being improperly lapped to the window flanges. Repairing this problem often requires the window frame to be rehabilitated or removing the stucco around the window so that the paper flashing can be applied correctly.
Miscellaneous wall penetrations
Light fixtures, electrical outlets, hose bibs, and vents in stucco walls can create lashing issues during the construction process. Most of them do not have sufficient flanges for overlapping the paper flashing correctly and were not sealed properly during the construction.
Trim wood and fascia
A common mistake that builders made in the past was terminating the paper protective system where the trim wood fascia board) was located underneath the roofline. As wood ages, it splits and shrinks, which allows moisture to get into the wall and behind the wood.