Stucco Specialist

19Dec 2010

Stucco Repair & This Cold Weather – Advanced Mold Diagnostics

It seems as if old man winter arrived early and decided to stay. We went from 50 and 60 degree temperatures right down to the 20’s and 30’s shortly after Thanksgiving. Any stucco remediation contractor trying to button up or finish any project got caught off guard. Problem is, you can’t put on stucco below 40 degrees, the key is to keep it from freezing during the curing process. It’s funny, every year I still hear of people adding or wanting to add anti-freeze to the stucco mix. Not a good idea that’s been addressed in previous posts.

Advanced Mold Diagnostics

We got lucky two weeks back when the temperatures stayed above freezing for a very short two day period. We were able to get our scratch coat on this building so that it could be left protected throughout the winter. Stucco needs to be installed in three coats for a total thickness of 7/8?. The first coat should be 3/8? and the second coat 3/8? with the finish coat an 1/8?. You need 48 hours of curing time without letting it freeze for the scratch (first) coat and the brown (second) coat.

When the temperature drops and you have to get stucco on you’re forced to tent and heat. This consists of draping tarp over your scaffolding and securing it to the structure. Running propane heaters will keep the stucco mix from freezing and not curing properly. The downside to performing stucco remediation this way is the expense. You’ll go through 7 pounds of propane per hour on each salamander (heater) and have to have staff on site 24/7 as a fire watch. This process can add 3 to 4 thousand an elevation to a stucco repair project.

Craig Camel

Advanced Mold Diagnostics

26May 2010

Stucco Repairs, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly… – Advanced Mold Diagnostics

As I’ve stated in previous posts, faulty stucco installation is a very common problem, especially in this part of the country. According to Dr. Joseph Lstiburek of, Canada is the stucco failure country of the world and our area (the Northeast) is the leading stucco failure area of the United States.

We do a lot of stucco investigations/assessments and in the course of doing so we find a common theme – they are mostly installed without an understanding of what a stucco cladding needs in order to perform as it should.

Stucco is a good exterior cladding system if installed properly. It is a big step up from vinyl siding and less costly than brick or stone. Many of our clients get a bad taste in their mouth for stucco once we educate them to the particular deficiencies and damage to their stucco homes. When it comes to recommendations for repair, I’m often asked if they should consider not using stucco for the exterior cladding, as it seems so problematic. My response is, you do have options, but properly installed, stucco cladding is a good option.

This week alone I’ve received three calls from stucco homeowners where the builder acknowledged it was their fault and consequently they would fix it. The solution in all three cases was: remove the stucco just around the windows, pull the windows and flash the openings. In addition, they would address the lack of kick-out flashings. Although you could say it is commendable that they are taking responsibility, aren’t they the same ones who installed it incorrectly in the first place. This approach is a waste of time and money. If there is no proper drainage plane in place, they cannot incorporate this patch job into a properly functioning system. For one of these homeowners, it was the second time the builder had tried this approach and water was still coming in through windows and musty odors in the home revealed water was still getting into the wall cavities and mold was growing in behind the gypsum wall board.

If you have a stucco home and you suspect you might have a problem or if the builder wants to fix it, have a stucco inspection performed first so that you might be able to present the builder with a report that details how to fix it properly.

Contact us at for a free telephone consultation.

Craig Camel

Advanced Mold Diagnostics

16May 2010

Bad Stucco & Ice Damming – The Damage It Can Cause! – Advanced Mold Diagnostics

I was recently called out to a residence to ascertain whether there was a mold problem or not in an attic. A local builder who was aware of mold remediation work we had done at the (HBA) Home Builders Office in Chester County had referred the client to me.

He wasn’t sure if the stains on some of the building materials in the attic were mold or not, he didn’t think so, but wanted to be cautious. One of the aspects that made the situation so interesting was that he was called out to renovate all the interior walls and floors as the insurance company was picking up the tab based on ice damming.

Upon arriving the homeowner proceeded to describe how water had just poured out the top of most of the windows and cascaded down the walls onto the hardwood floors of the first floor. I found the attic bone dry including all the way down into the eaves. I couldn’t find a single elevated moisture reading or thermal image indicating that anything was wet. The dark wood stains were nothing more than different wood species that had been used for the four hip rafters of the mansard roof 35 years ago. Mold doesn’t grow on one piece of framing and not on the ones adjoining it, certainly not repeating that pattern in all four corners.

The second floor had sustained some damage; thermal imaging detected some moisture in the interstitial cavities, but not what I would have suspected. Going into the basement with the homeowner she explained how water just poured off the steel I-beam in the basement.

The last piece of this unique water intrusion was on the first floor bearing wall running right through the middle of the house. Water had run down the wall heavily 18′ from the left elevation wall towards the kitchen ruining the hardwood floors. You could see the water stains on the gypsum wallboard.

So, how did the water come in especially down interior walls by-passing the attic and the ceilings on the second floor? The answer…ice damming allowed water to pour out of the soffits and through capillary action it ran across the bottom of the soffit and behind the faulty stucco cladding as there was no sealant joint at the stucco to soffit intersection. From there, it just ran down behind the stucco and into the cavities at the window heads because the windows were not flashed properly and there was no properly installed drainage plane in place. The interior wall issue was also related to the lack of a drainage plane because the water just ran in along the bearing wall.

Faulty stucco installation is way more common then most people realize. If you suspect that you might have issues with your stucco, contact us as to find out what options you have for investigating it.

Craig Camel

Advanced Mold Diagnostics

18Apr 2010

Bad Stucco & Ice Damming, a follow up – Advanced Mold Diagnostics

It always makes me wonder why some consumers pay good money for advice and then ignore it. The previous post where I documented how ice damming coupled with a faulty stucco cladding caused a problem more serious then it needed to be. After performing an indoor air quality assessment focusing on in this case water damage and mold testing I provided a detailed report with specific recommendations on how to address it properly without affecting the inhabitants.

Apparently, from conversations with my staff, the property owners were not happy with what I told them. I guess that sometimes the truth is harder to accept then the illusions you create in your mind. This particular property owner decided to ignore the advice I had given them and decided that the general contractor she brought in (who also recommended me) to oversee the repairs, was a waste of money, and they could GC this project themselves. It was no surprise when we recently received a distress call from the property owner. They had hired their own contractor, who wasn’t a mold remediation contractor, to remove the drywall throughout the house. They created a major problem regarding the fungal mold spores they released from the interstitial wall cavities. The property owners were calling from a hotel where they are now residing after being overcome from the exposure to mold. Apparently, the contractors they hired removed all the wallboard and discovered the wallboard and sheathing along with the framing members were covered with mold. Without experience they didn’t have the sense to stop and insist they get professionals involved. The indoor air quality from the mold was so bad that all the family members experienced health related issues according to information provided by the property owner. Now, they want us to come in and clean up the mess they created. This will now cost them more in terms of financial considerations and upheaval in their daily lives. If only they just listened to the professionals they wouldn’t be going through this emotionally trying situation that they find themselves in right now. We’ll now clean up the mold and have them replace the drywall once the stucco cladding issue is resolved.

It gives me no joy, only sorrow to think, I told you so.

Craig Camel

Advanced Mold Diagnostics

27Oct 2008

A custom home builder called the other day to ask a question. “My stucco contractor wants to add anti-freeze to the mix as he’s putting on the scratch coat tomorrow and there is a frost warning.”

My first response, after picking myself up off the floor, was, “what is he nuts.” This is so typical of what we find out there today. Most of the masonry contractors as well as the general contractors do not know what their doing. The answer lies in understanding the codes. The IRC (International Residential Code) 2006 references (for the first time) the ASTM Standard C-926 and ASTM C-1063. These two standards detail exactly how hard coat stucco and lath should be applied. ASTM C-926 Section 4.5 Water states: Water used in mixing, application, and finishing of plaster shall be clean, fresh for domestic consumption and free of such amount of mineral or organic substances as would affect the set, the plaster, or any metal in the system. Obviously, adding Ethylene Glycol (anti-freeze) does not meet the requirement of “fresh for domestic consumption” unless you have a death wish.

If you are in the process of building a home with a stucco exterior or you are about to have your stucco removed and replaced because it wasn’t applied correctly the first time, give my office a call.

Craig Camel

Advanced Mold Diagnostics