View Full Version : Symmetrical Stucco Cracks On Both Sides of House

Michael Thomas
06-09-2008, 01:21 PM
The only significant stucco cracks on this structure are located 20.5 and 21.25 feet back from the front on their respective (east and west) sides, and extend from the bottom to top of the stucco, interrupted by windows. Both cracks are above window openings in the basement walls.

The east brick foundation wall is badly deteriorated above grade and has been partially rebuilt. The west exterior foundation wall is in good condition at the exterior.

The is no evidence of distress at the interior above the foundation - floors are reasonably flat, windows and doors operate, and there are no wall or ceiling problems in the area of the exterior cracking.

There is no visible movement out at the eaves above the cracks.

In the basement the tops of the foundation walls have no significant dips and the rim joists are not displaced inwards or outwards. The foundation walls are paged, on the east side the parging has horizontal hairline cracks along it's entire length.

Normally I would not be concerned about this degree of stucco cracking.

But it bothers me that it is the only cracking and that it's so symmetrical, that the cracks are present above both the deteriorated and intact foundation walls, as though the distress on the east side has transmitted itself to the west (perhaps by levering the joist ends at the west up, using the the center foundation beam as a fulcrum?) - so much that the little voice in the back of my head is staring to whisper "SE... get an SE's opinion....", which I have never recommended before absent something a lot more dramatic than this.

Comments or suggestions?

Pictures are:

1) West wall
2) Crack below west 1st floor window
3) Crack between west 1st and 2nd floor windows
4) East foundation wall below crack (entire wall is much like this)
5) Crack below east 1st floor window, there is another above it between the 1st and 2md floor

Jim Luttrall
06-09-2008, 05:39 PM
Any chance the cracks were just creating their own expansion joints to relieve thermal stress?

Michael Thomas
06-09-2008, 06:26 PM

It's possible - as I said, normally these would not much concern me.

Part of the diagnostic difficulty in this case results from the fact that both lower cracks are patched, so I can't tell if they are wider than those above, or wider at their bottoms than tops below the first floor windows - "self-made expansion joints" should be pretty even.

Another thing that makes me uneasy is that both cracks line up so exactly above and below their interruptions at windows, and that they occur so close to the same distance along their respective walls.

Likely I will recommend the SE, and if the clients elect to have him take a look meet him on site - I guess if I'm off the deep end , I'll hear about it.

I'll post if there is an SE evaluation, in the meantime any other other comments or suggestions are appreciated.

Jerry Peck
06-09-2008, 07:43 PM
Being as I don't see any of the required control joints on that wall (vertically or horizontally), it is no wonder it is cracking, at least it cracked in the small areas (which is also the likely place for it to crack).

As Jim said, thermal expansion and contraction, the stucco will crack, that is why control joints are required.

Rick Sabatino
06-10-2008, 07:44 AM
Most of the stucco houses in my area do not have control joints. These are anywhere from 70 to 110 year old houses. Stucco also to the ground and sometimes below grade. Although it may not have been below grade originally.

Michael Thomas
06-10-2008, 09:17 AM
On this house, at this age, there will be no control joints and likely no metal lath, either.

Rick, would you be at all concerned about these cracks?

Rick Sabatino
06-11-2008, 07:03 AM
IF there is no evidence in the basement of movement I don't think you have a structural problem. The cracks and a seal around the window frames could pose a moisture intrusion problem if not repaired. The sills look dried out and water may have entered. I would look closely at the facia and eves above both cracks also. My neighbors house lost two stories of stucco on a bay area of the south wall because of leaks behind the gutter in this area.
The only metal lath I've encountered in these old houses is used in the corners.

Michael Thomas
06-11-2008, 09:49 AM
Thanks for you observations - out there in Oak Park you are in stucco heaven (or hell).