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There are around 140 million houses in the United States alone. Each home is unique and personalized. One of the significant differentiating factors of home building is the type of siding used. 

Siding creates a distinct look and feel to a home. Natural or manufactured wood, brick, vinyl and stucco are all standard siding options for homeowners. And there are many siding options to choose from. 

However, it is interesting to note that the choice of siding is often regional. For example, people can observe stucco in southern border states like Texas and even Florida or western states like Arizona and California. Many attribute stucco’s influence on these regions to these states’ Spanish and Mexican backgrounds. 

Stucco itself is a cement-based form of siding that is aesthetically pleasing and exceptionally durable. But, it also has some cracks. Learn about stucco cracks and when to worry.

what is stucco portrait

What Is Stucco?

Stucco is textured siding with a cement base. You can make it from cement, sand and water. The secret ingredient is lime. Lime can add to the cement mixture’s workability and movement, but workers can still make and apply stucco without it. 

Getting the correct mixture is quite vital to the lifecycle of stucco. Cracks can arise when homeowners choose and apply improper portions to the siding of their home. One can also add other ingredients like acrylics and glass fibers to the mixture to increase its preservation. 

Pros of Stucco

  • Durable 
  • Variety of color and texture in siding 
  • Fire resistance
  • Weather resistance 
  • Overall low maintenance
  • Sound resistance

Cons of Stucco

  • When the tiling requires maintenance, it can be damaging to the structure 
  • Absorbance in highly wet climates
  • Labor intensive
  • Prone to staining due to weather 
  • Cracks

Why Does Stucco Crack?

The composition of the cement mixture partly causes cracks in the first place. The materials limit the stucco’s ability to shift and settle as homes age.

Common Stucco Crack Causes

Hairline Cracks: Hairline cracks are the universal type of stucco crack. The cracks are named for their similarity to hair-thin strands. Most hairline cracks are about one-sixteenth of an inch or less.

Hairline cracks do not cause the most structural damage, but they can be the result of several factors. Improper cement mixtures, age, repetitive weather conditions, seismic activity and sinkholes can all contribute to hairline cracks. Visit the SinkholeMaps website to learn more about soil and foundation conditions in areas where stucco is prevalent. 

Hairline cracks can become structurally damaging if homeowners let them remain and do not treat or repair them correctly. A simple repatch can improve the minor damages. 

stucco crack

Foam Trim Cracks: Foam trim cracks form on stucco siding when an individual does not mesh two pieces of stucco together properly. Stucco foam trim cracks can appear due to extreme weather, age and shifts in the house. These types of damages can be severe if not repaired. An expert should fix foam trim cracks. 

Foam Trim Cracks

Cross-Patterned Cracks: Cross-patterned stucco cracks appear when there is an issue with the layout used to apply the stucco to the home. The cracks develop because the stucco and the design do not adhere. 

Cracks formed in a cross pattern are hazardous to the home’s structure. Because the issue stems from the stucco framework, a professional should fix cross-patterned cracks.

Cross-Patterned Cracks

Spider Cracks: Named for their likeness to a spider’s web, spider cracks form if there was an overabundance of water in the cement mixture or if the mixture dried too quickly. Although spider cracks can be an eyesore, they are not detrimental to the home’s structure. Spider cracks are minor, and you can patch them with ease. 

spider cracks

Diagonal Line Cracks: Diagonal stucco line cracks typically form near a door frame, window, or other intrusive exterior structure like a heating and cooling system. Diagonal stucco cracks are almost always a result of structural damage. 

Diagonal line cracks are indicative of foundation issues. Because of this, repair to a diagonal line crack should be done by an expert. Failure to repair a diagonal line crack can worsen the effects of the damage. 

diagonal wall crack

Serious Stucco Cracks That Can Lead to Structural Damage 

Cracks are natural for homes with stucco siding, but it is essential to know which cracks are minor and more serious. Severe cracks in a home’s stucco can be the result or the cause of structural and foundational problems. 

Hairline and diagonal line cracks are the top causes for concern when observing stucco. These cracks display a more significant problem that homeowners must address. Even though stucco is durable overall as a siding, excessive wet or extremely dry conditions can alter the home’s foundation by impacting the weight and structure of the soil. 

If the stucco cracks result from structural and foundational issues, then simply repairing the stucco will not be enough. Stucco cracks will continue to appear if the foundation and structure of the home itself are not corrected. 

How To Repair Stucco Cracks?

Minor stucco cracks can be fixed on one’s own. Homeowners can find many stucco crack repair products at home improvement stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot or local handyman’s shops. 

Foam trim cracks result in pieces of stucco not fitting together. Because the issue lies in the framing of the stucco, the tiles will need an entire rehaul. Cross-patterned cracks are similar. More extensive cracks like foam trim and cross-patterned cracks require professional assistance. 

Stucco is laid out in a specific scheme called a lath. A lath consists of metal wireframing or a paper-like pattern. When the lath is not installed correctly, the pieces of stucco that should attach themselves to the grid do not, which is where the problem occurs. You will have to replace the lath and apply new stucco to fix the problem. Due to the extensive labor and necessary product knowledge, an expert must make the repairs. 

Proper repair means a change to the foundation and/or the soil the home sits on. Structural or foundational cracks are the worst. Typically hairline or diagonal line cracks will persist if not repaired properly. Only professionals should treat these types of damages. 

Note: Any stucco crack larger than one-sixteenth of an inch is considered a structural or foundational issue. 

Summary

Stucco is a beautiful and textured siding option for homeowners and builders alike. Stucco provides a solid and durable structure, made from cement, water, sand and sometimes a little lime. 

Known for its durability, texture, low maintenance and resistance to fire, sound and weather, stucco is a great choice overall. It does have its cons. Although stucco is typically low maintenance, cracks will begin to appear at some point in the life of the home. 

There are several different types of stucco cracks. Some pave the way for more extensive issues, and others are small and cosmetic. While cracks may cause one to panic, the appearance of damages does not always have to be a cause for concern. 

As a rule of thumb, cracks less than one-sixteenth of an inch should not cause any issues. Hairline stucco cracks are more benign. Typically brought on by common mishaps such as improper mixtures, age and weather-related conditions, homeowners can easily patch and repair hairline cracks. Although they are not a cause for concern if left untreated, hairline cracks can intensify and grow into structural and foundational issues. 

Other cracks include foam trim, diagonal lines and cross-patterned cracks. Each type of crack is unique in its way. Trim and cross-patterned cracks result from poor installation during the stucco’s application process. Diagonal line cracks are a bit more severe. The older sibling of a hairline crack, oblique line cracks are a sign of significant structural and foundational damage. 

No matter the severity, you can easily fix stucco cracks, although some repairs may be more time and labor-intensive than others. Hairline cracks can be a small do-it-yourself project, whereas foam trim, cross-patterned and diagonal line stucco cracks are best left to the experienced eye. 

Your house will inevitably age, and with it, your stucco. Small hairline cracks are like wrinkles for stucco. They are bound to show up, and when they do, apply some cream and go about your day. 

You should not worry about stucco cracks unless the cracks are long, cause gaping holes or breaks in your siding, or you start to see damage on the inside of your home like drywall spots, dark stains and sloping. 

If you are interested in learning more about foundational and structural soil conditions in heavy stucco areas, visit the SinkholeMaps website.

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