Buying a stucco home? Heads up.

Original post by: Structure Tech

A lot of people here in the Twin Cities believe this was an issue with Woodbury homes, but Woodbury was simply the one city who was bold enough to put out a position paper questioning the viability of stucco. Make no mistake, this is not a Woodbury problem. It’s all over.

Side note: anyone buying a newer stucco-clad home ought to read Woodbury’s position paper:  Stucco in New Residential Construction.

It’s not about synthetic stucco

This problem isn’t about synthetic stucco. I bring this up because I’ve heard homeowners and contractors defend their untested homes, proudly stating the fact that this house has “Real stucco. Not that new synthetic stuff that had all of the problems.” I never know exactly what people are talking about when they refer to synthetic stucco, but I assume they’re talking about an Exterior Finish and Insulation System, or EIFS (pronounced the way it’s spelled, it rhymes with reefs). EIFS was basically a thin coat of mortar on top of foam insulation, and it’s extremely unusual to find that stuff in residential construction in Minnesota. Just about all of our residential stucco is the traditional, three-coat stucco that people like to thump their chest over. Yep, that’s the stuff we find problems with.

Why all of the problems? You can’t just blame one thing. There were a lot of small changes that happened during a small period of time, and these all made for major changes to the performance of stucco-clad wall assemblies. For an excellent write-up on the matter, check out Stucco Woes-The Perfect Storm, from Dr. Joseph Lstiburek. While Dr. Lstiburek says this isn’t the architects’ fault for creating “complicated building syndrome”, I’m not so forgiving. I blame the rampant failures on design just as much as anything else. When you have huge overhangs and protected walls, the walls don’t fail. Check out my home inspector training video on that topic. You don’t have to watch the whole thing, just the part starting at 4:10 and going on until about the 25:40 mark. Or until you really, really, really get it.