We offer stucco inspection and building leak detection services for residential and commercial buildings using the latest technology and good, old fashioned common sense. We have been doing this for a very long time and we are good at it.
Stucco provides a beautiful and durable exterior finish for any home or commercial building, but it can and often does allow water penetration which can lead to serious water damage in exterior walls. Stucco leaks can remain undiscovered for years, resulting in extensive wood rot, mold growth and insect infestation so it’s a good idea to have a professional stucco inspector or EIFS inspector identify problem conditions before the damage gets too severe.
We also inspect EIFS. Inspection of EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish System) involves similar techniques, and the problems caused by water penetration and leakage through EIFS are very similar to those that occur with cement stucco. EIFS is often referred to as ‘fake stucco’, ‘synthetic stucco’ and ‘synthetic plaster’.
Why do stucco walls leak?
My staff and I have inspected and evaluated thousands of building leaks over the last 45 years and we see the same issues over and over. When it comes to leaks at stucco walls the problem is nearly always due to defects in the flashings and moisture barrier behind the stucco layer. Stucco should be viewed as a ‘system’, not just a layer of cementitious material applied on a wall. Before any stucco is applied the wall substrate must first be covered with a moisture barrier and all door and window openings must be flashed and properly integrated with the moisture barrier using sheet metal flashing and peel and stick membrane type flashing. If this is done correctly the entire wall can be made completely watertight before the stucco is even applied. If the flashings and moisture barrier are not applied correctly the wall will probably leak. It’s that simple.
Our Inspection Methods
We recommend a phased approach, beginning with a low-cost Basic Inspection to ensure that the scope of inspection and overall project cost is appropriate to the condition of your walls. If problem conditions are discovered during the Basic Inspection we will recommend a more detailed inspection utilizing one or more of our proprietary inspection protocols, StuccoScan™ or WallScan™.
We usually recommend starting with a relatively low-cost inspection accompanied by the client. The cost for the Basic Inspection usually ranges from $500-$750 for most residential and small commercial properties.
The Basic Inspection includes primarily a visual inspection of both indoor and outdoor surfaces of exterior walls and includes a verbal report to the client as the inspection proceeds. It is intended to provide a low-cost way to find out if there are obvious defects in the stucco or visible indications of water intrusion at the indoor side of the wall. Where we find defects in the stucco on the outside we often find signs of corresponding water damage on the inside.
If significant issues are discovered during the Basic Inspection, a Detailed Inspection is warranted. A Detailed Inspection may include any or all of the following, as appropriate:
- Detailed visual examination and probing of exterior construction details.
- Identification of likely sources of leakage at exterior walls.
- Photographic documentation of relevant conditions.
- Thermal imaging of exterior and interior sides of exterior walls using a FLIR E60bx
- Moisture meter testing of exterior and interior
walls using several different types of moisture meters.
- Moisture probe testing. Two small holes are drilled through the stucco to allow
insertion of a two-prong moisture probe at locations where water penetration into the wall sheathing or framing is suspected.
Our Testing Methods
Water Penetration Testing
When a Detailed Inspection indicates a probability of water penetration or leakage into exterior walls we may recommend water penetration testing to determine precisely where the water is entering the wall and to
identify the path of leakage inside the wall. Water Penetration Testing is performed precisely and systematically to allow us to determine the exact cause of leaks. This allows us to form solid expert opinions for matters of litigation or to develop specifications for repairs.
Water Penetration Testing may involve simply applying a low to medium stream of water from a water hose onto various wall and window surfaces, or it may involve the use of hand-held spray nozzles or, in some cases, calibrated spray racks as described in greater detail on our Water Testing page.
It is sometimes necessary to make test cuts, or to open walls up, either by cutting exploratory openings in the sheetrock at the
interior side of the wall or by cutting out sections of stucco on the outside of the wall. Test cuts are sometimes necessary to
evaluate how a stucco wall is constructed and almost always necessary when assigning responsibility for construction defects.
You may have seen photos on other websites of large, gaping holes where stucco walls have been torn apart to reveal underlying
conditions. That is not what we do. We have refined our techniques over the years to learn what we need to know about the causes of leaks and the existence of construction defects and hidden water damage with a minimum of test cuts. We make test cuts in a very controlled and methodical manner so as to photograph and document precisely how the stucco and underlayment was applied. A completely waterproof covering is then applied to protect the test cut area until the permanent repairs can be made.
When doing water penetration testing at walls or windows we employ our own proprietary inspection and testing protocol, WallScan™. WallScan™ allows us to detect changes in the moisture content of the wall assembly without having to cut large openings to observe leakage as it is occurring. WallScan™ also allows us to map the boundaries of the high moisture areas and better determine where test cuts should be made – if at all.