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The following is a list of items I shared with my inspectors a few years ago. They are often worth repeating and a certainly still valid today.  I can recall exactly when I first wrote this and cannot remember if I should be giving credit to anyone. I hope not! Whenever you look at a wood frame stucco home you must pay attention to the details that are observable to the naked eye. There are several key pieces to the puzzle that must be followed whenever you inspect one of these homes. A connect the dots approach is needed. The following items/action should be a routine part of your inspection practices on each and every wood frame stucco home: Most of the following is applicable to other siding products:

1.      Where does all the water go? You should approach the house from the street and driveway. Observe the roofline. Do not forget about the sides and rear. A complicated roofline needs to be evaluated closely. Not only form the perspective of performance but also as it relates to roof runoff. Look for indications of where all the roof rain water runoff goes and does this runoff impact the exterior cladding, windows and doors? You need to remember these locations (connect the dots) as you inspect the interior of the home. Surface scan the suspect wall(s) with your moisture meter. Look for wall base stains or stained carpet/floor coverings at these areas. Any window opening should be treated as a water entry point. 

2.      What about roof to wall intersections? Is there flashing visible? What about kick-out/turnout flashings? They need to be present and pronounced. Report if they are not there. Make a repair recommendation when missing or too small. Just because they are there does not mean they are working. You need to remember these locations as you inspect the interior of the home. Surface scan the suspect wall(s) with your moisture meter. Look for wall base stains or stained carpet/floor coverings at these areas. Any roof to wall intersection should be treated as a possible water entry point.

3.      What about the windows and doors? All window and doors that penetrate through the exterior cladding need to be well sealed. If the installed windows are different that what we typically see in our market, check them closely. Make the appropriate recommendations. You cannot trust or even see the flashing details behind the wall finished. Always suspect the worst.

4.      What about the stucco bands? Touch and feel the aesthetic stucco reveals. Are they cracked? Are they pulling away from the exterior walls/window frames? A small crack or opening at a window and door opening will allow water into the exterior wall cavity. You cannot trust that the flashing beneath the wall finish is correct. Water entry into a wall cavity will result in decay.

5.       Positive slopes? Any stucco reveal should have a positive slope for proper runoff. Cracks should be repaired. Are they soft? Are there nail pops and corroded fasteners?  During a visual assessment of a home we do not know how these bands have been applied. Sometimes they a fixed to the plaster. Sometimes they are fixed to the lathing (no plaster behind the details). Cracks in stucco bands and a poor slope on bands that are directly attached to the latching are real troublesome and can leak significant amounts of water into the structure of the home.

6.       Stucco as a roof? Stucco wall cladding should not be used as a roof. Period. No matter how small. It is an inappropriate application. Watch for these areas closely. You will find stucco as a roof at chimney chases and at parapet walls/knee walls. Flashings can be used to correct these areas. Make the appropriate comments and repair recommendations.

7.       Stucco termination? Always determine if the stucco runs to ground or terminates at a weep screed. Report it. Understand why stucco should not terminate in the ground. 

“Stucco runs to ground. This can prevent the stucco system from draining correctly. Additionally by covering the foundation edge it is not possible to periodically review the exposed edge of the foundation for termite shelter/mud tubes. In wet areas the home could also be prone to rising damp or moisture creep whenever moisture is held against the structure for prolonged periods. We encourage you to consider removing the stucco from grade to expose the foundation edges and encourage draining/drying of the system, as intended.”

8.       Contraction joints? Is the home two story? Are there contraction joints? Vertical contraction joints should be continuous (top to bottom) with proper overlap. They should not butt to a horizontal. Check for cracking in the plaster at the interface to the contraction jointing.

9.       Foundation Edge/Stains? Check the foundation edge for signs of staining. OSB leaves a distinctive brown stain when it is getting wet and rotting. The most probable locations will be beneath any through the wall penetration (roof to wall intersections, flashings, windows, doors, plumbing, HVAC, etc.).    

10.    Alarm Window Contacts? Does the home have an alarm system? Where are the alarm contacts? In the window frame sill? They should be sealed.

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