How Do You Select the Best Stucco Repair Company in Paradise?
So you’ve made the decision to have stucco applied to your home. Or, maybe you just need a repair. Either way, you’ll need to look up stucco contractors in Paradise so that the project can be completed. You may be tempted to just open up a phone book and call the first contractor with a big ad, but that is not the way to go. Just about anyone can take out an ad, and having a larger one only means that they spent a little more money on advertising. Like any other skilled trade, learning how to apply stucco is not only an art but a science as well. Having the proper insurance, bonding, employees, portfolio of satisfied clients and ethical business practices should be the criteria you base hiring a contractor on. Doing an initial background check on a potential contractor now will save you copious amounts of work later.
First, you need to establish exactly what your project will entail. Then you need to contact a few contractors and ask them for a cost quote. It’s a good idea to let them know right away that you are going to be speaking to several contractors to see what their bids are. This can save you time when trying to negotiate a good price. Throw in some terminology about your specific project if you can. You will appear to be more knowledgeable than the average customer, so you will be less likely to be taken advantage of. Once you have gotten a few quotes, look for the median price. A good contractor will price fairly. Too low of a price may indicate an inexperienced contractor, while a high price may be a predatory contractor. Find the three or four contractors that are close to the median price and contact them for more information.
Qualified stucco contractors will have up to date insurance and licensing. This information will either be on hand, or in their office. Asking to view or make a copy of their paperwork is neither rude nor uncommon. If a contractor acts insulted or repeatedly gives excuses as to why the paperwork cannot be produced, you probably shouldn’t do business with them. Whether these are stalling tactics or they are just really unorganized, they are indicators of an unprofessional business person.
How to Choose the Best Stucco Contractor
Aside from roofing failure, the most common source of moisture entering residential community properties is failure of the siding material. In southern California, most siding consists of stucco. Unfortunately, stucco siding systems leak!
Why do builders specify stucco so often?
Stucco became popular in the United States in the early 1800's as an inexpensive and effective means of exterior wall covering over concrete, brick or stone. Today most stucco involves a less expensive method of application; instead of brick or stone, it is applied over open frame construction. "Open frame" means that paper and lathe reinforcement resembling chicken wire is laid over wood-framed walls without sheathing, and then coated with three applications of plaster. This is a low-cost technique, but it has pitfalls.
When you look at a stucco wall, all you see is plaster. The plaster does not keep your home dry; it just protects the waterproofing paper. Yes, paper. In 90 percent of the exterior wall area, all that is keeping your unit dry is paper that is thinner than a business card. Because stucco acts like a sponge, water gains access to the protective paper flashing and will leak into your wall cavity at any tear, backward lap or voided area of the paper.
Almost all stucco leaks can be traced to application error. Errors occur when paper, flashing, windows and other components do not properly overlap (flash) the items directly below them. Leaking will also occur from paper and flashing degradation due to age or excessive moisture entering. Remember, most stucco leaks do not show up on the interior of your unit; the 6-inch space between the stucco and your interior drywall - consisting of fiberglass insulation and wood framing - can hold a lot of water before it shows on the interior. When this occurs, you can expect mold, dry rot and termites to follow.
Leaking within stucco walls usually originates from one of the following sources:
Window leaks in stucco walls are among the most common flashing failures within the entire building structure. These leaks occur from two basic sources: failure of the window frame mechanism itself or improper lapping of the stucco's protective paper system onto the window flanges. Repair commonly requires rehabilitation of the window frame or removal of stucco surrounding the window to correctly apply the paper flashing system.
Miscellaneous wall penetrations
Vents, hose bibs, electrical outlets and light fixtures in stucco walls create a flashing problem during construction. Most of these do not have adequate flanges to overlap the paper flashing properly and were not properly sealed during construction.
Fascia and trim wood
In the past, a common mistake made by builders was to terminate the paper protective system at the point of the fascia board (trim wood) located under the roofline. As the wood ages, it shrinks and splits, allowing moisture to go behind the wood and into the wall.
Wall base leaking
Since stucco acts like a sponge and holds water, it needs to have a "release" flashing at the bottom of the wall, commonly called "weep screed." Most multi-unit complexes constructed prior to 1970 did not have weep screed installed. In many of these structures, trapped water is channeled into the bottom plate of the wall.
Even when weep screed flashing is installed, exterior planter systems are often raised to a level higher than the flashing or the interior floor line. When this occurs, water is forced into the wall structure.
Retrofitted flashing installations
Most managed properties have retrofitted doors, windows, fixtures or repairs that were completed after the original construction. When the stucco around these is patched, the new flashing paper is often overlapped incorrectly, or the old, brittle paper is damaged so much that it is impossible to do proper overlapping. As the new plaster settles and cracks due to improper fastening of wire reinforcement, water finds its way through the plaster and paper and into the wall cavity.
Stucco walls often exhibit cracking at windows, doors or open field areas within the wall. While cracking doesn't necessarily indicate failure of the weather-protection system, the increased exposure to rain water and air-borne pollutants cause the paper to prematurely rot and fail thereby allow moisture intrusion.
Methods of Repair
The difference in cost between repair options can be staggering, so it is critical to seek out an expert in diagnosing and designing an effective solution. Here are three repair options to consider, listed from most to least expensive:
Completely rebuilding a 20-foot by 20-foot section of stucco wall with new flashing may cost between $10,000 and $23,000. Fortunately, this type of repair is seldom necessary. My own company completely rebuilds exterior walls less than 1 percent of the time when addressing stucco failure.
Perhaps the most common type of stucco repair involves removing sections of stucco around windows or flashing transition areas, then applying new flashing, wire reinforcement and plaster. This technique requires meticulous and intensive labor during the demolition and reapplication process. It should include using bituthene pliable membrane at all corners, horizontal surfaces and flashing transition areas. The cost to rebuild three or four flashing transition areas within the same 20-foot by 20-foot section of stucco may cost between $3,000 and $12,000 depending upon the quality of the repair. Doing the job right takes time, which is why this method has the highest failure rate of the three options. In a poorly done rebuild, the new paper flashing is not entirely lapped under the salvage edge of the old paper, and often the lathe wire reinforcement is compromised.
Even when failing sections of stucco and flashing are replaced, the walls can leak due to aging of the surrounding areas of stucco where the paper flashing system is disintegrating. A successful solution is to inject all window, door and miscellaneous flashing penetrations with pliable, durable urethane rubber. The entire wall is then coated from base to roof using an elastomeric coating system such as Thorolastic. Elastomeric coatings waterproof the exterior of the wall and therefore eliminate the necessity to remedy the worn paper flashing system. Repairing a 20-foot by 20-foot section of wall using urethane injection and elastomeric coating may cost between $2,500 and $5,500. When using coatings it is critical that the repair area extends to the roofline so no moisture can become trapped within the stucco. Elastomeric coatings should be reserved only for walls with a history of leaking.
Although troubleshooting leaking stucco walls can be difficult due to the nature of the underlying flashing system, water testing can often provide effective results. Such testing pinpoints failure behind stucco over 95 percent of the time.
Stucco is not going anywhere. You and I will move into our next homes, and chances are they too will be stucco. Fortunately, newer homes are being built with greater care and higher standards. But when leaks do occur, it is important that the method of repair is effective and affordable.
How to Fix a Stucco Wall
When fall inevitably comes each year, home owners who have been "thinking about" renovating their home with stucco suddenly realize they're running out of time, and give their contractor(s) a call. All of them. The resulting mayhem is an influx of home owners requesting a contractor do their home before winter so that they can enjoy their new beautiful home's look and increased energy efficiency. The contractors who make most of their money during the summer, begin to quicken the pace to accommodate this work before winter, often at the expense of quality. Each stucco construction project is not given it's due diligence, and critical portions of work are ignored such as contracts, weather barriers, proper surface leveling, warranties. Even not so "critical" but finishing aspects such as proper moulding selection is often ignored.
The average stucco construction renovation will take about 3 weeks, with a 2 week lead time. This can all be expedited with an experienced project manager, but most home owners opt to do the managing themselves, sometimes naively. With 5 full weeks required from the time you SCHEDULE the contractor, you really need to start looking for prices about 7 weeks in advance. Generally, the stucco construction season (for Toronto) will end towards the end of October. This means that if you're not looking at the beginning of September, you need to exercise a degree of caution about getting your project done before temperatures drop below acceptable levels. EIFS manufacturer guidelines state:
Do not proceed with application of base coat and/or finish coat at ambient air temperatures below 5C (41F)
Applying the material in these temperatures may cause it not to cure properly, resulting in improper adherence to the substrate, and subsequent delamination - in English, your walls could fall off. The weather can't be blamed for all problems though, and you do need to pay attention to make sure your contractor is doing all the layers properly. No weather barrier means that water can get onto your substrate. Adhesive not being done in vertical channels means that water can become trapped against the substrate. Not meshing styrofoam fully can mean cracks developing, and water infiltrating your walls. Not mixing the base coat in the proper ratios or applying it too thin can result in a weak and easily damaged wall surface. Not spending enough time "floating" (troweling) the finish coat can result in discrepancies in the texture, which really just looks awful. Having a third party project manager or home inspector come once or twice a week to inspect the quality of work for a few hundred dollars is very inexpensive compared to having to rip the stucco off your walls and redo it in 5 years.
Aside from application problems, you want to ensure you give yourself enough time to really think about what you want for this project. Too many home owners take the first, cheapest guy they find and go ahead without a contract, resulting in them not knowing exactly what is "included", and a lot of "extras". Doing your due diligence includes researching items you need included with your project, such as flashing, replacing old substrate, whether a weather barrier is required or not, in what order to proceed with renovations... the list goes on. In short, don't go into a project without being fairly confident you know you have the details worked out, and use a contract to clarify those details.
Even moldings are sometimes not given their due consideration. Proper molding selection will help manage water runoff, further protecting your walls. They can direct water away from window openings - which tend to be the most susceptible to water damage, and kick water off the walls - preventing the black or white water streaks you often see below window sills. Using a wall band at the base of a high traffic wall can protect your wall from being hit by snow shovels, moving furniture and even cars. The same protective quality can be said of quoins or pilasters on the corners of your wall.
When renovating your home, it's important to focus on more than just the initial cost of stucco construction. You need to do your research to ensure you don't get "ripped off", and you need think about future maintenance. If you can't realistically put in the time to make sure you have everything included, get multiple estimates, have a contract made, and think about how to reduce future maintenance costs, you are better off waiting until spring to have your project completed. You will lose 1 winter of lowered heating costs, but prevent thousands of dollars in possible damage.