My Stucco Home is Beginning to Crack

Stucco cracks are usually caused by wrong mixing proportions, insufficient or excessive mixing, drying shrinkage due to the rapid evaporation of water from the stucco, seasonal changes, and seismic movement. But there are two more less-common causes of cracks in stucco: the normal settling of the home and differential settlement.

Although the cracks resulting from natural settling over time are usually not a significant concern—it’s essential to tend to these cracks before they escalate—the cracks caused by differential settlement can pose grave consequences for any household. Given that certain stucco cracks may lead to structural harm, it’s crucial for homeowners to recognize, diagnose, and assess the various types of cracks that may emerge in stucco over the years.

Type of Cracks That Appear in Stucco

When it comes to stucco, cracks are almost inevitable. Although stucco is a durable siding material, its cement-based composition makes it fairly rigid and brittle. As a result, it cannot accommodate structural movement or the expansion and contraction of different building materials. To gain a better understanding of how and why cracks in stucco occur, let’s take a look at the various types of stucco cracks and their underlying causes.

Hairline Cracks in Stucco

Hairline fractures typically measure approximately 1/16 of an inch in width. While these cracks may not be as severe as wider ones, they can still serve as entry points for water and moisture into your walls. Hairline cracks in stucco arise from various factors, including:

  1. Extreme weather conditions such as intense heat, cold, dryness, wetness, or strong winds during the curing and drying stages of freshly applied stucco.
  2. Specific construction materials like green lumber, which can alter their shape while drying.
  3. Expansion and contraction of newly applied stucco during the settling process.
  4. Movement in expansion and contraction joints during the standard settling procedure.
  5. Insufficient gaps between the sheets of sheathing materials (e.g., wood, plywood, OSB, or gypsum sheets) beneath the stucco.
  6. Improperly installed fiberglass mesh tape that fails to cover the joint where two foam trim pieces meet.
  7. Natural settling due to the gradual and uniform compression of the soil beneath the foundation caused by the weight of your home.
  8. Thermal shifts resulting from the varying expansion and contraction rates of diverse construction materials exposed to fluctuations in temperature

Cracks that Spider

These fractures are thinner than 1/16 of an inch and bear a resemblance to spider webs, which accounts for their name. Spider cracking commonly arises from specific conditions, including:

  1. Improper or excessively rapid drying of the base coat.
  2. Incorrect or insufficient mixing of the material.
  3. Excessive addition of water to the mixture.
  4. Application of stucco during exceedingly hot or cold weather.

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    Large Horizontal and Vertical Cracks in Stucco

    Although the majority of stucco cracks tend to be thin and small, therefore mostly representing a cosmetic concern, occasional development of one or more significant cracks may occur. Exceeding 1/16 of an inch in width, any deep or wide cracks in stucco may suggest potential issues with the foundation. These cracks can be categorized into two primary types:

    1. Vertical and/or horizontal cracks: These may emerge between two vertical walls, between walls and ceilings, or at the joints between wood framing and brick/concrete masonry. Deep vertical cracks in stucco could also manifest around window and door frames.
    2. Diagonal and/or stair-step cracks: Typically indicative of structural problems, these cracks may arise due to differential settlement and/or seismic shifts in the foundation. Differential settlement is commonly caused by unstable soils that undergo displacement due to insufficient compaction, repeated expansion-contraction cycles, or extreme weather conditions such as floods, leading them to no longer offer adequate support for your home. Regardless of the size of a diagonal or stair-step crack, it is imperative to have it examined and repaired by a professional as soon as it is detected.

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    Regardless of their size or depth, whether superficial or profound, cracks in stucco facilitate the unhindered passage of moisture and water through your walls. This can potentially result in extensive water damage, rot, structural issues, and subsequent costly repairs. Moreover, deep or wide stucco cracks invariably signal underlying foundation damage. To prevent further harm and reinstate the structural soundness of your home, it is crucial to promptly attend to stucco cracks. If uncertainty persists regarding whether the cracks in your stucco signify a minor issue or foundation failure, it is advisable to have your residence inspected by a seasoned foundation repair contractor. Reach out to our professionals today for a complimentary consultation and repair assessment!

    Chris Bartlett
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