Can you stucco a wood frame house?

Khatija A
by Khatija A
  9 answers
  • Yes and no. Traditional stucco that uses wire lath, brown or scratch coat with top coat is not recommended. Even when using modified stucco products. Wood frame homes move with wind, weather and in your case perhaps even the ground. Making them crack. Another issue with this type of stucco its very difficult to evaluate the wall for moisture should you expect a leak behind it. As moisture meters will receive a false positive reading because of the metal lath buried behind it. If you follow the correct procedure in installing this type of material you will find that for every 100 square foot area you need a control joint. And at each corner of every window a control joint should be used. Very rarely do we see these put in because they are ugly on a residential installation. EIFS or Exterior Insulated Finishing System is a much better system for a wood frame constructed home. This type of material utilizes a EPS or extruded poly styrene foam board anywhere from one inch to several inches thick. The EPS boards take up the movement of the wood structure while the exterior lamina made up of a fiberglass screening material imbedded in a base coat of Type II mortar with polymers that make it flexible to resist cracking. While all of this is great, there are some serious draw backs to using this product on a residential construction project. Much like traditional stucco systems, there are many details required to properly install the system. Not only proper flashing's must be used, but there are some very important details to caulking that must be adhered to to assure that no water gets behind the wall system. Many years ago EIFS was installed as what was known as a barrier system. The EPS was directly applied using cement to the wood frame of the house. Because of poor installation practices water got behind this wall and began to rot the plywood that the EPS was attached to. Often doing thousands of dollars in damage in the process. As a result not only from many class actions against the manufactures of these products, they began to change the way the EIFS was installed. They created a moisture drainage system. This newer system employed a vapor permeable but water proof house wrap in which the EPS boards were grooved in the back and fastened using plastic washers and screws. The theory was to allow a place in which water could drain out should the caulking fail or the contractor failed to install the flashing's correctly. Well that all sounded great. But with that wisdom came contractors who believed that they could forget about the flashing's or the details to the caulking on the building. Their thinking was that the drainage plane behind the EPS would remove any water that leaked into the wall. They were wrong. Forget about all the house wrap that was installed upside down, or the lack of proper overlap on the seams. Many times they simply used the wrong wrap the condensation formed behind the wall causing mold and ugly stains on the surface of the wall. Lastly because of the insurance issues with this type of siding,. Many townships and municipality's have banned the use of EIFS on residential construction. But have allowed Traditional stucco to be installed. Not realizing that both systems require proper flashing's clearance to grade and roof and proper caulking procedures. So its just a matter of time when we begin to see the hard coat traditional stucco wall systems that have been applied to wood frame construction begin to fail and the lawyers lining up for the law suites that will occur as result. The last thing I can tell you is that your home owners insurance company may not insure your home with EIFS on it. Or you may not be able to sell through a relocation company as they often refuse to take that type of home on when an employe is transferring out of their area and their home. So you can see its not as simple as a yes or no answer. And believe me I was brief on this answer. There is many more things you would need to know before you decided to install this type of product on your home. If indeed that is what your thinking to do. Oh yea, Anderson and Pella will not warrant their wood windows if they are installed in a EIFS house. Regardless of the type of flashing detail it is or was installed.
  • Khatija A Khatija A on Jun 17, 2012
    Thanks for the quick reply. Wow, I did not know it was this complicated. What is best way to care exterior of the wood frame house as well as have good insulation?
  • Khatija A Khatija A on Jun 17, 2012
    Thanks for the answers, but I'm still hoping for more ideas.
  • Depending upon your area and what CA provides as far as rebate programs, pour in place foam is the best for walls. But that is one of the last things you want to do when thinking about saving energy in a home. Think of a home like a big chimney. The basement, or crawl space is where the air comes in to it and your attic is where it leaves. If you simply cap off the opening at the bottom the fireplace will try to draw air from somewhere else such as leaking windows or doors etc. If you simply cap the top the air moving up will slow down, but will still want to escape out the sides. But if you close both the top and the bottom the air pretty much stops flowing all together. To a point that is anyway. So the question is what do I do? Well first thing is to have a professional energy audit performed on your home done by a BPI professional. This will cost you around $300 or so. The auditor will perform blower door test, combustion safety tests and review your entire energy loss with you. These tests will determine exactly where your energy loss is and will help guide you on where to insulate and were to seal. With that information he or she can then determine your best methods of air sealing and insulating your home that not only will give you more comfort and energy savings, but will provide you with all your options regarding costs and paybacks as many states have special rebate programs that most homeowners are not even aware about. A good example would be windows. Many people are in the understanding that they will save all sorts of money by upgrading to super efficient windows. The fact is that in most cases it takes over 50 years for the new window to pay for itself in energy savings alone. While it will make the house look better, sell better, less noisy from the outside. It does little to save you money. Remember heat travels up more then it does sideways. As far as improving the outside of the house. There are many things you can do to improve your exterior, not withstanding paint. What you can do is simply a matter of what you have and the look your trying to achieve in the process. Can you post some photos of the front and perhaps the sides of the home? There are many talented people on this site that can offer up some great ideas on how to transform your home to become the envy of the neighborhood.
  • Patty S Patty S on Jun 17, 2012
    In Arizona, wood frame houses are stuccoed all of the time. My winter home there is stuccoed, there are few houses that aren' and most ARE wood frame.
  • Leslie D Leslie D on Jun 17, 2012
    Same is true in Vegas, Patty. Most every house here is stucco over wood frame. Read this. The only thing I would add to this is to make sure you do not have ground touching stucco, allowing whatever your local code requires (normally 6") and although more expensive, an elastomeric paint, when properly applied, will help prevent moisture problems.
  • Leslie D Leslie D on Jun 17, 2012
    I should add to research and use only a reputable contractor, checking their BBB and state contractors board for any problems. This is especially true with EIFS (synthetic stucco), which is "too waterproof", and can trap moisture if not properly installed. There's a fine balance between waterproofing and still allowing moisture to escape and dry/drain properly.
  • Things to remember. Stucco works different in different climates. CA has a high humidity level and much more rain. Local codes do not dictate how the stucco is applied or how far it needs to be above the surface of the ground. Although I do agree that six inches at least be done. As far as painting, it is not done on new stucco as the color is in the finish. And if later the stucco needs to be repainted it is suggested that the manufacture of the stucco material dictate what type of paint is used. While the stand by is elastomeric paint, its not always the recommended choice of the manufacture of the product. Stucco is a very complicated product. While most of the suggestions are pretty good generic answers and follow great logical sense. There is a lot more going on in the wall system that needs to be considered before using this type of product on the home. My personal feeling on this. EIFS is a great product. But it must be carefully and properly installed. Being a 3rd party EIFS inspector for the past 20 years or so. I can tell you that I have seen only a handful of installs out of the hundreds that I have seen that were done as the manufacture had said to do it. Tells you something about this. In fact once the EIFS industry started having issues many of the other siding manufactures came out with disclaimers telling people that they will not be held responsible for water damage behind the siding if its not installed according to their directions. Which I would add is the reason for many of the construction failures we see every day. Many contractors simply do not keep up to date on the new technology that is available to them. I saw this when TGI framing joists were coming into the industry. The contractors treated them like any other wood joist, by cutting them, drilling them and nailing them into place. What they did not realize they were compromising the integrity of the product with oftentimes disastrous results.
  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Dec 31, 2020

    With prep work and metal