Uh-Oh Stucco?!

11 Replies

Looking for your advice and expertise on Stucco siding. Anybody with experience with Stucco siding in Minnesota MN would be great.

What I know (at least I think I know):

I know that there are two (or more?) types of Stucco, real and synthetic. I've read that synthetic comes along with many problems. I also read that if it is real Stucco then it is very reliable. Since I am from Minnesota there are drastic temperature changes and also very wet.

What I'm wondering:

How long does real Stucco siding last?

Is synthetic Stucco the beginning of a bad deal in a climate like MN?

Can an inspector tell if it is real or synthetic? Or would one have to have a specialists check it out?

Any other comments/ opinions are welcome.


I have a 1928 stucco house in South Minneapolis and I assume it has real stucco.  That stuff is HARD and has a high cement content.  Impossible to chip with a hammer.  I was cutting for adding windows in an original attached garage and the stucco was about one inch thick.   It's so strong I believe it's stronger than the 90 year old stick framing it hangs from.  When cutting out 5 by 9 windows with an angle grinder and diamond blade, that big rectangle came out in one piece.

Generally performs best when applied over an older masonry product, I.e old brick, as opposed to plywood. That is because it does absorb some moisture.

I prefer to get 2 coats of stucco applied over wire mesh with a bonding agent mixed in. Then I'll have a coat of a Dryvit product (I use masterwall) applied on top. It is latex based so does not absorb moisture. It feels like liquid caulk with cement mixed in when it is wet. It has a color built in so does not require painting.

@ Kyle Soderman, in Minnesota i do not think you would have problems with either, the temperature is cool enough there and i believe you mostly have snow there, the problem with EIFS ( synthetic stucco) was moisture getting and staying behind the system, today there has been a lot of improvements to it. but if you are hit with hale or anything hits the siding enough it can chip or dent. i agree with @Marc Jolicoeur, real stucco is as hard as a rock, and it will last many years. I am a general contractor, i do not install either but have had professionals install both on houses and have worked on many houses with both. if i was to have the choice for my own house, i would spend the extra money and put the real stucco on.

Real stucco old older homes in Minnesota is not usually a huge concern.  It is the, "newer," stucco on air-tight Minnesota homes where poor flashing around windows and other areas often causes moisture intrusion and then the stucco, "locks in," the moisture and causes huge and expensive problems down the road.  Search Woodbury and Stucco if you really want to be freaked-out about new stucco homes, it talks about a large percentage of homes in this ares that needed 10's of thousands of dollars of repairs due to poor stucco installation.

Structure Tech in Minneapolis purchased the company in Minnesota that was the lead stucco testing company and they can pin probe the stucco in certain areas to check for moisture intrusion, but this is a very expensive test ($300-$800 depending on the number of probes).  They also can use a infrared camera or a borescope to do an inspection at what may be a lower cost, but they usually only use these for newer stucco homes since that is where the problems normally area. 

Older stucco homes are usually breath enough to where there are no issue with moisture collecting and causing issues like in new stucco construction.  Upon home inspections where I have worked with buyers or sellers and older stucco homes, the inspector will usually will advise the buyer to get the seller to patch any cracks (make sure you use the right stucco patch and elastic paint) and we are good to go.  So you should be OK with old stucco, but I would call a good inspector like Neil from Structure Tech if you have any specific concerns.  Best of Luck!

When we relocated to the Twin Cities, our RELO package would not allow us to even consider a stucco home. As we moved several years ago, I don't recall the wording around how this was stated. 

Given that RELO is a small part of the market, I'm sure this type of rule would have no impact on resale value, however, I thought it was an added point to mention within the context of this post as we had to pass on even looking at several homes that met our criteria due to the stucco siding. I've always found this experience interesting as we moved from South Florida where stucco--and mold--were so commonplace.

Thank you all for the fantastic input! @Jay Hinrichs @Marc Jolicoeur @Max T. @Patrick Liska @Kristen Schade @Karin U.

The main reason I bring up the point is because there is a 4-plex I am currently looking at which has Stucco siding and has been on the market for about 490 days. This home was build in 1941 (I would assume this counts as the "older Stucco" so it is probably real) and I am confused as to why it has been on the market so long. I was thinking that the Stucco siding could be part of the issue.

It is also worth mentioning that two of the units are in the basement which has been torn down to the framing and the home comes with no appliances.

I did walk the outside of the property and if I remember correctly there were no major cracks in the siding.

Any idea why this property may be sitting on the market so long? Do people not want to deal with all the work needed for the basement units? I should also mention it is reasonably priced.

People don't always want to deal with deferred maintenance but the basement units that are torn down to the studs probably means there was water damage by water intrusion and/or burst pipes and that may be more of a concern to buyers.  Plus it may be hard to finance in the current condition.  Water issues and mold ca be a nightmare especially in a rental due to liability issues.  Best of Luck, sounds like a bit of a project property.

have to agree with with @Kristen Schade - sounds like water problems and financing like he said, banks will not lend if it has problems, you may have to go hard money and pay cash for it. You may be looking at a complete re-piping job. Given the year of the place, I would think it is real stucco, any home inspector would be able to tell the difference. But the good news is, with no cracks it means the foundation should be nice and sound.

@Kyle Soderman Sounds like that condition would be hard to find financing on.  Not alot of people have an appetite for a large rebuild like that. 

Be careful on your renovation budget.  Its likely overpriced, given its condition, if its been sitting that long.

I guess I never really thought of WHY the basement was torn down to the studs. That is a great point. I am most likely going to contact my agent this week to view the property and at that time i'll hopefully get more information on the condition of the interior. Also, to be clear, the main floor and upstairs units look to be in fantastic condition (minus not having appliances).

As I am renting right now I was thinking of house hacking the property and using a 203k loan for the project. That way there would be no additional rehab costs up front. After rehab was complete and the mortgage has been "seasoned", I would refi to get rid of mortgage Insurance.

Obviously, this all would be contingent on the extent of needed rehab and how much it would cost. I am thinking @Kristen Schade and @Patrick Liska are right considering the long length of time the house has been on the market. i.e. water damage, mold....