Stucco homes fail­ing at high rate

Stucco homes fail­ing at alarm­ing rate, and the fix is costly

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ken­nettpa­per on Twit­ter

POCOPSON >> Ted Tre­var­row was one of the lucky ones.

When he put his house in the Newlin Green Devel­op­ment up for sale, an in­spec­tion re­vealed mois­ture had got un­der­neath the stucco, com­pro­mis­ing its struc­tural foun­da­tion. For­tu­nately, the damage was con­tained and it only cost him $15,000. But his neigh­bors, all of whom have “McMan­sion” style houses sided with stucco, were pay­ing twice, three and even four times what Tre­var­row paid.

Stucco re­me­di­a­tion is now a big busi­ness in Ch­ester County, and some es­ti­mates in­di­cate there are more than 50,000 homes in south­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia that need it.

“This is a huge prob­lem,” said Tom Pan­coast, owner of Pan­coast Con­struc­tion which has done scores of stucco re­me­di­a­tion on houses. “Ev­ery house built in the last 20 years that has stucco will need a stucco re­me­di­a­tion job. This is hap­pen­ing ev­ery­where.”

Tim Dil­worth, co-owner of Stucco Re­me­di­a­tion Spe­cial­ists in Delaware County, said stucco re­me­di­a­tion is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive be­cause the house has to be torn down to its sheath­ing and win­dows re­placed.

“I wouldn’t rec­om­mend a stucco home to my worst en­emy,” Dil­worth said. “This is be­yond the as­bestos plague, the radon plague and the lead paint prob­lem. This is a life changer and scope of this is enor­mous.”

But stucco, Pan­coast said, is a great prod­uct. The rea­son it is fail­ing is be­cause some builders took short­cuts and didn’t’ in­stall flash­ing prop­erly, in­stalled in­fe­rior win­dows and didn’t ap-

ply enough lay­ers of stucco.

“What we have now is a per­fect storm,” Pan­coast said. “Many (builders) won’t put stucco on new houses any­more, not even on foun­da­tions. But stucco is a good prod­uct, and you can use it any­where as long as you use good prac­tices like hav­ing a good va­por bar­rier, and proper caulk around all win­dows and doors.”

Ben Ho­rain re­cently pur­chased a house in Unionville, just north of the high school, know­ing it failed a mois­ture in­spec­tion. He said he put a sig­nif­i­cant amount of work and money into his home, and re­placed the stucco with stone be­cause it was onethird of the cost.

Dil­worth said a house buyer to­day would be wise to or­der a mois­ture re­port if con­sid­er­ing a stucco home. It’s not re­quired, but some­times the cost for the in­spec­tion falls on the po­ten­tial buyer.

“Some (real es­tate agents) sell houses to un­sus­pect­ing buy­ers, hop­ing they won’t get the test,” Dil­worth said. “Will the re­al­tor tell you to get a mois­ture in­spec­tion, or will they not tell you and hope to get the sale and the com­mis­sion.”

Tammy Duer­ing, real es­tate agent and bro­ker for ReMax Ex­cel­lence, said she rec­om­mends test­ing if a home is cov­ered with at least half stucco.

“I think ev­ery sin­gle (stucco house) buyer should do a stucco in­spec­tion,” she said. “Houses built in the past 20 years seem to be more preva­lent with the prob­lem. It’s a big prob­lem. If you have a home that has stucco, you could have prob­lems.”

Home­owner’s in­sur­ance typ­i­cally does not cover is­sues of mold or rot or shoddy con­trac­tor con­struc­tion. Many car­ri­ers elim­i­nated stucco re­me­di­a­tion when the prob­lem was first dis­cov­ered years ago. In­sur­ance typ­i­cally only cov­ers “Acts of God” such as rain, hail, fire and wind. And Penn­syl­va­nia law states home­own­ers can­not hold the orig­i­nal builder ac­count­able for prob­lems af­ter 12 years.

So in just about ev­ery case, the cost for stucco re­me­di­a­tion lies with the home­owner. And when that home­owner just bought a house with­out or­der­ing a mois­ture test and dis­cov­ers prob­lems, they are se­verely “un­der­wa­ter” in their mort­gage just af­ter pur­chase.

“I would say $100,000 is a nor­mal price for stucco re­me­di­a­tion,” Dil­worth said. “We did a stucco re­me­di­a­tion on a $2.2 mil­lion house that cost $300,000 to re­me­di­ate. I feel bad for the peo­ple with homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 range be­cause a lot of the times we can’t help them be­cause of the cost.”

A proper re­me­di­a­tion, Dil­worth said, in­volves tear­ing off the stucco, tak­ing out win­dows and re­plac­ing them with new win­dows, re­plac­ing dam­aged sheath­ing and framing, ap­ply­ing a drain­able house wrap, re­in­stalling new win­dows with proper flash­ing, ap­ply­ing ex­tra lay­ers of house wrap, ap­ply­ing rain­screen and ap­ply­ing new stucco.

Home­own­ers who hire con­trac­tors who patch af­fected ar­eas and do not re­place win­dows will find it will fail again in short or­der, Dil­worth said.

“Most of the time it fails out the win­dows, es­pe­cially if they are cheap” Dil­worth said. “Some­times it’s the gut­ters with lack of kick-out flash­ing.

Pan­coast said some builders don’t caulk around main­te­nance-free win­dows, and they in­stall flat counter flash­ing around win­dows and doors in­stead of beveled flash­ing.

“The wa­ter runs down the wall, hits the head of the flash­ing at the win­dow, and runs down the sides where the cracks are,” Pan­coast said. “Wa­ter gets be­hind the stucco and rots out the win­dows and frame (con­struc­tion).”

Pan­caost said many times he tears stucco off houses, the com­pos­ite board nailed to the studs has rot­ted.

“I’m see­ing houses that are only seven or eight years old and it costs $100,000 to rip stucco off houses and put on new sid­ing,” Pan­coast said. “It’s crazy.”

Some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, such as East Goshen Town­ship, are be­gin­ning to en­act tough or­di­nances to pro­tect home­own­ers who have stucco. They en­acted strict rules for how the re­me­di­a­tion must be done.

“Peo­ple aren’t talk­ing about this, and just hop­ing it doesn’t hap­pen to them,” Dil­worth said. “Mean­while, their house is rot­ting be­hind the walls. This is a re­ally big prob­lem. It’s bad, re­ally bad for those with stucco houses.”

Stucco re­me­di­a­tion ex­perts rec­om­mend those with stucco houses should or­der mois­ture tests, even if they aren’t in the process of sell­ing their home. If left unchecked, mois­ture be­hind the stucco could rot out the framing.

FRAN MAYE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Stucco re­me­di­a­tion be­ing done at this East Marl­bor­ough house has be­come a com­mon and costly prob­lem.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

This photo shows a be­fore and af­ter from stucco re­me­di­a­tion by Pan­coast Con­struc­tion of Unionville.

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