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DIY Warrior: Patch Up Cracked Stucco

Filed Under: Exteriors & Facades, Outdoors

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Our very first house was a 1920 bungalow. Okay, so it was small inside, but oh-so-charming! The stucco really amped up its desirability factor, adding a beautifully rustic finish to our little home's exterior.

Stucco -- also known as Portland cement plaster -- has been around for centuries, and with good reason: it's durable and pretty low-maintenance.

On the other hand, cracks inevitably appear from time to time. But don't sweat it. Repairing cracked stucco is a straightforward and inexpensive DIY project!

Skill Level: Beginner and up.

Time Investment: About two hours: one for surface prep and crack repair, and one for painting.

Cost: $10-$25 for caulk or patching compound; more if you need to buy any of the stuff listed below under "Other Supplies."

Fix that cracked stucco! Photo: Mykl Roventine, Flickr

Assess the Problem. In most cases, cracks are caused by normal expansion and contraction of the home. Very long and/or deep cracks, however, will let moisture inside your home's walls. These should never be just patched up and forgotten. You may want to call in a pro to diagnose the cause, which could be as simple as poor workmanship or as serious as a structural problem.

Round Up Your Tools and Supplies. For narrow cracks -- roughly 1/4 inch wide or less -- you have a couple of choices: paintable silicone caulk (like GE's Silicone II) or pre-mixed stucco crack repair compound (like QUIKRETE's Stucco Repair) -- the latter will have more of a stucco-like texture when dry. Both of these options come ready-mixed and can be applied with a caulking gun.

For more substantial cracks, pick up a quart-sized bucket of pre-mixed stucco patching compound. DAP and QUIKRETE both offer versions that are convenient and easy to apply. Because these types of synthetic stucco are made of acrylic latex, they are also quick-drying, flexible and paintable.


Synthetic stucco patching compounds are easy to use. Photo: Dap

Tip: Don't buy an enormous bag of dry stucco mix to fill cracks. You won't need anywhere near this much. Save those big bags for major patching projects; the kind caused by your teenager reversing his car into the house, for instance.

Other Supplies:
- Chisel or screwdriver
- Hose and/or bucket of water and a sponge
- Wire brush
- Small broom or stiff-bristled brush
- Bricklayer's trowel
- Priming and painting supplies: Exterior acrylic primer, exterior acrylic top coat (to match existing paint color), 1 small paintbrush (1 inch wide or less), stirring stick, and plenty of water for cleanup.

Directions:

1. Surface Prep. Gently pry away loose pieces of stucco using the chisel or screwdriver. If the area in or around the crack is dirty, scrub it down with the wire brush. Brush with the broom or stiff-bristled brush to remove dust.

2. Wet the area thoroughly. Existing, dry stucco will suck the moisture out of freshly applied wet stucco or patching compound, preventing it from bonding properly. Wetting the work surface discourages this problem.

Keep stucco moist during repairs. Photo: Corbis Images

3. Repair the Crack. Pack the exposed area with caulk or stucco repair compound. Smooth with your fingers or a damp cloth. Next, take the trowel and roughen up the surface a little bit, just enough so that it matches the wall's overall texture. If you used silicone caulk, you can actually press a little sand into the top layer to make it look more stucco-like.

For a deep crack extending all the way to the base layer (or "scratch coat") fill a quarter inch deep and allow it to cure for a day or two. Depending on the product, you may need to mist the area with water now and again. Finally, fill it the rest of the way and add texture with the trowel.

Tip: To encourage an even tighter seal, first apply a masonry bonding agent inside the crack then fill. Alternatively, if recurring cracks have been a problem in the past, try skipping standard caulks or stucco repair compounds altogether and try a masonry repair product with added flexibility such as DAP's Elastopatch.

4. Cure and Paint. Unlike real stucco, pre-mixed repair compounds dry quickly. The time needed to cure varies from product to product. Just follow the instructions, allowing adequate drying time, then add a layer of primer. Allow to dry then paint to match the rest of the wall.

Hopefully you'll achieve an exact match. If not, the patched area may stand out, in which case you should consider repainting the entire wall.

Did You Know? Stucco is easy to mix yourself. It's just Portland cement, hydrated lime and sand. This How Stuff Works video tutorial shows you how it's done!





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