Chris' Corner: South Simcoe Homes — Preventing stucco cracks

South Simcoe Homes — Preventing stucco cracks

With this post, Russel Ray, intrepid San Diego home inspector, active rain blogger and general renaissance man has managed to "crack" me up ;-)

I have re-blogged many of Russel's posts on property cracks, and this one, all kidding aside, on preventing stucco cracks is deserving of sharing with you.  As always, I disable comments on re-blogs, if you would love to leave a comment, please do so on Russel's post by clicking on his link.

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Zoey the Cool Cat


Preventing stucco cracks

No one likes to see cracks — concrete, stucco, plumber's, or today's youth.

It's actually fairly easy to prevent cracks.

With the plumber and today's youth, you simply tell them to pull up their pants. Might be easier said than done.

With concrete, you can install control joints in the concrete. A good concrete professional knows the mixture of his concrete for the job, and how far apart the control joints should be for that mixture and that job.

With stucco, it's important to have the right mixture of sand, cement, lime, and water. If the mixture is too watered down, the stucco will crack so much that it will eventually look like an alligator's skin. If the stucco is too thick, it can sag, making for a very interesting-looking house. It looks just like dripping paint if you apply it too thick.

Presuming that the stucco crew got the mixture right, stucco will still crack if not taken care of, and it will still crack at the door and window corners. Obviously regularly inspection and maintenance can prevent large stucco cracks. There's another thing that can be done at door and window corners to prevent cracks, and that's to install a casement around them.

A casement is exactly what it sounds like, encasing the door or window so that stresses are distributed more evenly. Here is the bottom right corner of a window casement:

Window casement


Compare that to a window without a casement:

Window without a casement


See the difference, the raised square around the first window, and the crack at the corner of the second window? The window with a casement will rarely have cracks at the corners, whereas without a casement, the cracks could show up the month after construction is complete.

Anytime you punch a hole in something — and a door or window is just a big hole in the home — stresses are created, and those stresses in stucco are what cause cracks.

The best type of hole to punch in anything is a circle. Circles are extremely good at distributing stresses evenly. However, it would be difficult to walk through circular doors or open circular windows. The next best thing are semi-circles, which allow you to create arches. The Greeks and Romans discovered the beauty and functionality of arches many thousands of years ago.

Casements take time to construct properly, although there are manufactured casements available for standard-sized doors and windows. Constructing a window with a casement is more expensive than the non-casement window, and that's why you'll only find window casements at high-end properties. If you go out to 4S Ranch, Del Mar Heights, or Rancho Santa Fe, virtually every house has windows with casements.

Interestingly, though, they are always at sides of the home that are visible to the public. Because of the expense, builders skip the casements where the windows are not visible to the public. Doesn't make sense to me. If someone is going to pay $1 million for a home, will they really be upset at paying $1.01 million for a home where all the windows have casements? Probably not. But a couple of years down the road, they will probably be upset when they notice cracks at the door and window corners where there are no casements. Visible to the public or not.

It's the builder's call.

Since I'm not involved in the building process, my job as a home inspector is to simply document the condition of those door and window corners now, and to help you understand what will happen to them in the future.

As always, if you ever have any questions about cracks in your home (other than the plumber or your children), give me a call. Or you can email me witih pictures. If I can provide help over the phone or via email, it's free. If I have to get all beautiful to make a public appearance somewhere, I charge for that!

Zoey the Cool Cat

Next post will be:

How shallow can you be?

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Chris Smith CSSBB
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Comment balloon 0 commentsChris Smith • August 10 2011 07:05PM