It's no secret that stucco homes have had a ton of water problems during the last few decades. Newer stucco homes have had catastrophic failures all over the country.
It's Not About Synthetic Stucco
This problem isn't about synthetic stucco. I bring this up because I've heard homeowners and contractors defend their untested homes, proudly stating the fact that this house has "Real stucco. Not that new synthetic stuff that had all of the problems." I never know exactly what people are talking about when they refer to synthetic stucco, but I assume they're talking about an Exterior Finish and Insulation System, or EIFS. EIFS was basically a thin coat of mortar on top of foam insulation. Just about all of our residential stucco is the traditional, three-coat stucco; that's the stuff we find problems with.
It's Not Only About Stucco, Either
Stone veneer siding looks quite different from stucco, but from a performance standpoint, it's stucco's ugly step-brother. Stone veneer is a reservoir cladding that'll hold water against the side of your house like a sponge. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's only a problem when it's not installed properly... and unfortunately, it's usually installed improperly.
When water leaks into these stucco or stone veneer homes and reaches the wood framing, things stay wet for a long time, and major damage occurs. What's really fascinating, however, is the damage that happens to these stucco homes over time. The photos below tell the stories quite well.
You Can't See The Problems
The most important takeaway from all of the photos that I just posted above is that these houses always look fine. We call this concealed damage because it's concealed. There is usually no visible evidence of this kind of damage.
The only way to be 100% sure of finding this type of damage (or lack of damage) is to cut holes in the walls and check them out. But that never happens. Nobody is ever cool with someone putting a bunch of holes in there walls... At least not until you have cause to do so.
Intrusive Moisture Testing
The next-surest thing to actually viewing the wall is intrusive moisture testing. This consists of drilling pairs of 3/16" holes in stucco at strategic locations, inserting a moisture probe into the wall, and taking a reading of the moisture content of the wall sheathing. If the wall sheathing is dry and firm, that's good. If the wall sheathing is wet, soft, or missing, further inspection and repairs are needed.
In the end, stucco and stone veneer can cause some serious damage to a house, if installed improperly. That's why we here at 360 Home Inspections take great care to look at and assess the exterior on a home, so that you can have peace of mind knowing the condition of your home.