What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Stucco Crack Repair

What Every Homeowner Needs to Know About Stucco Crack Repair

No homeowner wants to discover they have a crack in their stucco. Cracks negatively affect the curb appeal of the home. However, there is a bigger concern when the homeowner sees a crack. It could be a sign of foundation failure, so the homeowner needs to learn immediately whether the integrity of the structure has been compromised.

Any stucco crack is a sign something is going on with the house. The crack itself is not the issue. It falls on the homeowner to learn what caused the crack and what steps should be taken to prevent additional ones. The following guide explains the various types of stucco cracks, what may have caused them, and what the homeowner should know about stucco crack repair.

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Hairline Cracks in the Stucco

A hairline crack is a crack that is typically less than 1/16 of an inch wide. Contractors refer to them as hairline cracks because they are very thin and look wispy. They strongly resemble a piece of hair when seen on the stucco.

Several things may lead to a hairline crack. The contractor may not have mixed the mud properly or the home may have settled as a result of the framing drying. Foundation settlement and seismic movement are two additional causes of hairline cracks in stucco.

Most hairline cracks in stucco are nothing to be concerned about. They won’t affect the structural integrity of the home or harm the foundation. However, if the crack gets wider and deeper, it is time to have the problem assessed. If the hairline crack widens and deteriorates, moisture may make its way into the crack and cause additional damage.

In certain cases, the hairline crack will also be a stair-step crack. The crack will take the same path as the cinder block structure. This pattern is typically the result of the foundation settling.

Most hairline cracks are not a cause for concern. They must still be addressed to prevent additional damage, but repatching is typically enough to resolve them. There is no need to worry about structural or foundation damage. If the crack is a result of the foundation settling, however, it will probably come back after being repaired and get worse over time.

Cracks with Uneven Edges

When a crack in the stucco has uneven edges or appears similar to a puzzle piece, the homeowner should be concerned. One side may have shifted up or down, which indicates the stucco has been exposed to a significant amount of force. Most cracks of this type are long and are a sign of structural damage. The framing may have shifted or the slab or foundation could have moved. Any shift more than 1/8 of an inch wide is cause for serious concern. Smaller shifts should be investigated, particularly if there are additional warning signs of a problem.

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Cracks in the Foam Trim

Contractors use foam trim when installing stucco. This trim may crack over time if the contractor did not use the fiberglass mesh tape correctly when installing it. In some cases, the contractor failed to use this mesh tape at all. Any problems with the fiberglass mesh tape can lead to adjoining pieces of stucco not fitting properly at the seam.

Once a crack develops, it is vulnerable to contraction and expansion. This leads to further deterioration, so the homeowner must address these cracks promptly. Failing to do so could lead to severe damage to the stucco. Work with an experienced stucco contractor to ensure the problem is addressed correctly and additional problems won’t develop.

Cross-Patterned Cracks

When asked if they have a cross-patterned crack, a homeowner might not know what the person is referring to. This type of crack resembles a grid. The horizontal and vertical lines overlap, and this is a sign the lath was not installed correctly. This lath is a framework for the mud stucco and usually is a metal wire, mesh, or waterproof paper pattern.

If the lath is improperly installed, it will often break away from the framework. The structural integrity of that area is then compromised, leading to stucco stress fractures. A stucco contractor is needed to repair this damage. They must completely remove the lath and replace it. A homeowner cannot do this job themselves, as it requires special skills the average person lacks.

Installation problems are typically widespread. A person will often see multiple cracks in different locations. These cracks will travel in different directions when they are due to installation issues. However, they must still be addressed because they will allow moisture into the wall. This moisture can lead to wood rot or framing failures.

Spider Cracks

Spider cracks are easy to spot because they look like a spiderweb. When a contractor doesn’t use sufficient mud in the stucco mix, cracks appear. This problem is often a sign that the contractor used too much water in the mix. However, the cracks may also appear when the mud mixture dries rapidly, such as on hot days when the mud doesn’t dry evenly. Fortunately, these cracks aren’t a sign of a serious structural problem and they will not affect the structural integrity of the home.

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Diagonal Cracks

Diagonal cracks are always a cause for concern. This type of crack usually indicates severe foundation damage and is a sign of either foundation heave or settling. A diagonal crack may indicate the house has shifted or dropped in one corner. However, it could be a sign of other issues as well.

Foundation settling occurs when the foundation sinks or settles and the soil cannot handle the load. Contractors refer to these soils as expansive soils, which include clay and loam soils. When either type of soil is saturated with water, it is highly impacted. Excessive water leads to soil expansion, while inadequate water leads to soil shrinkage.

As the soil expands and contracts, it puts a lot of stress on the home. Energy transfers from the soil to the foundation and into the home’s framing. This energy transfer leads to diagonal cracks in the stucco. Signs the foundation has settled include floors that slope and cracks in the drywall. Doors may also be hard to open and close, as the settling of the foundation has led to them warping.

The foundation must be repaired before the stucco cracks are addressed. If the contractor caulks the cracks before repairing the foundation, they will return. The root cause of the cracks must be addressed promptly, which often requires foundation underpinning. The contractor will use push pier and helical pier systems to accomplish this.

A steel pier system is made up of galvanized metal pipes. These pipes can withstand 60,000 pounds of pressure. The contractor drives each pipe into the earth until it touches bedrock or load-bearing soil. The pipe then serves as a stilt to support the home. Once this pier system is in place, the contractor uses the push pier and helical pier systems to regain inches lost to the foundation settling. When this process is complete, the stucco cracks can be repaired.

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Cracks at Doors and Windows

A crack may appear at the corner or a door or window. If this door or window now resembles a parallelogram, where the corners no longer sit at a 90-degree angle, there is cause for serious concern. This is known as racking and indicates there is a serious structural issue that must be addressed. Racking is commonly seen following major natural disasters, such as earthquakes or landslides. However, it could also be the result of slope creep over an extended period of time.

Racking may lead to gaps. If these gaps aren’t fully sealed, they will allow moisture in. The homeowner must then address both the structural issue and the moisture intrusion issue, which leads to higher repair costs. Contact a stucco repair specialist right away to keep these costs down.

V-Shaped Cracks

Any homeowner who sees a V-shaped crack in the stucco needs to reach out to a structural engineer immediately. This type of crack is small at the bottom and expands as it moves up the wall. These cracks are a sign the home’s foundation has moved and possibly cracked. The most serious type of settling is differential settlement, and a contractor will need to address it promptly. Any crack that is more than 1/4 of an inch at the top need’s immediate attention from a professional to prevent additional damage.

The Depth of the Crack

Some cracks only affect the finish or top coat of the stucco. Other cracks, however, run through the entire stucco, including the scratch, brown, and top coats. The deeper the crack, the more serious it is. Keep this in mind when determining whether to call for stucco repair help.

Any crack in the stucco needs to be further investigated to learn what caused it. It may be a minor issue, or it could be a sign the structure is in danger of collapse because its integrity has been compromised. A person might call the local handyman for help with this matter. Don’t make this mistake. It’s best to work with a stucco specialist, as they can determine the underlying cause and ensure the problem is properly addressed.