Dear Angie: The stucco exterior of my 100-year-old house is cracked in several places. How should it be fixed?
— Veronica L., Albany, N.Y.
Dear Veronica: Because it's not unusual for stucco — a sturdy cement plaster — to develop cracks, repair isn't always necessary. It depends on the size of the fissure and its cause. But you want to be careful about who you hire.
Stucco material and application methods vary, depending on how old the structure is, where it's located and who did the work. Look for service providers with experience working on local stucco-covered homes and, specifically, on older homes such as yours. Be sure your contractor knows how to work with the stucco type on your home.
Some contractors consider working with stucco to be an art form. There are service providers who specialize in stucco. Others who may be able to handle stucco repair include general contractors, painters and handyman services.
Repair techniques depend on the size of the cracks and the specific makeup of your home's stucco:
■ Hairline cracks are most easily handled, sometimes with a premade stucco patch material that has elasticity. That kind of repair may cost you a few hundred dollars for a small job, with the cost rising based on the length of the crack.
■ Repairing cracks a penny width or larger can cost thousands and require removing paint and loose pieces of stucco.
Crack repairs may last for months or decades, depending on what's causing the fissure. A hairline crack repair may last for years, while a surface repair of a larger crack caused by an underlying problem, such as a settling home, may require repeated repair.
Highly rated stucco service providers suggest seeking a warranty that covers repairs for at least a year. They also advise that significant cracks not be covered over until the underlying cause is addressed.
Stucco is a porous material. If you need to paint over a repair, the paint needs to breathe, too, something indicated by a paint's "perm," or permeability.
Painting companies with stucco experience will typically do both the stucco repair and painting. In fact, repair of minor hairline cracks may be included in the cost of painting your home.
Often, even after a relatively small stucco repair, you may need to repaint the entire side of a house to ensure a uniform look.
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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