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Mjaret 03-01-2007 11:32 AM

Stucco - Shear cracking, need advice.
Ok this is kind of complicated so bare with me as I attempt to communicate this as technical as I can.

The south wall line of this residential home has cracking indicative of wind or seismic damage. Around all opening are considerate cracking larger than what would be called "serviceable".

In particular is a 22.5-ft section of wall that is 15-ft in height from bottom plate to top plate. This 22.5-ft wall section is composed of two 8080 sliding doors with a 3-ft plywood shear wall on either side. The header above these two 8080 sliders appears to be out of plane, at least 10 or so degrees. Around these openings are what I would think are severe cracking (1/8" -3/8", sometimes even 1/4" wide) extending out diagonally from all corners of the openings, as well as cracks horizontal and vertical. There is spalling in areas. The wall also deflects/vibrates a fair amount when pressured by my hand.

The roof above this wall is a cathedral type. There are no ties at all - roof or otherwise. The 4x10 rafters simply land on the top plate.

Now, aside from the obvious lack of shear walls, and possible lack of ties anywhere on the 15-ft high wall, my question is thus; the interior of this wall (drywall) shows no evidence of cracking at all. The drywall interior side of this wall looks smooth with no cracking - not even hairline as far as I can tell. I asked if the interior drywall has been repaired or repaired recently, and I was told no.

Is it possible to have one side of a wall damaged considerably and the other side in perfect shape? Thanks in advance, I am making my mind up on a buy for personal use, but don't want to get in over my head.

concretemasonry 03-01-2007 12:01 PM

If you are thinking of buying a house and have structural concerns, definitely have it looked at by a structural engineer.

All you can get on a forum is an opinion from someone you do not know, based on your description of your observations. Since you may have missed something small, but critical, the best you can get is a third hand opinion and I certainly would not base a home purchase on that.

A home inspector would be fine for the general visual observations and systems operations, but you need a structural specialist also.

Tscarborough 03-01-2007 12:40 PM

Diagonal cracking at openings indicates a lack of expansion joints. There are no ties for the stucco, exactly; the lath is attached to the studs/sheathing with nails or staples. If the home has no sheathing, you will be able to flex the stucco a bit. Regardless, stucco is not structural.

concretemasonry 03-01-2007 01:22 PM

The condition of the header and the "out of plane" location (probably really not as much as 10 degrees, but still significant), crack size, plus the type of structure and crack patterns suggest a possible structural situation. Obviously, the stucco is not structural, but it can reflect the movement of the structure.

Interior cracks can be repaired easily during the process of painting and preparing for a sale. Just because there was "supposedly" no repair does not mean there was none. Who said there was no repair? - the realtor? owner?

I would suggest you have an engineer look at the home if you are serious about the possible purchase.

If the engineer finds the structure sound, then all you would have to consider is the cosmetic repair cost in determining the feasibility of an investment in the home. Then the fee would make you sleep better about your decision.

concretemasonry 03-01-2007 01:54 PM

Stucco cracks
Mjaret -

After seeing responses to your similar posting on an engineering forum, I was reminded of a structure I was called in to analyze. This was for a law suit and not a purchase as you claim to be considering or a repair that you mentioned on the other posting.

The building I was involved in had walls higher than your 15' wall, but was somwhat similiar. Are you sure you have 2x4 studs for a 15' high wall with two major openings? - It could have been "beefed up" internally to maintain architectural appearance. The two large openings in the 22.5' long wall are considerable and the two short "shear walls" running longitudinally do little to provide any stiffness of the wall, which could deflect substantially.

The different properties of the interior and expertior finishes plus the pressure differential due to the possible mini tornadoes can cause forces and damage to one side of the wall only.

These types of situations can get very complex to analyze and definitely require on-site professional observation.

Mjaret 03-01-2007 02:14 PM

Well, I'm not an engineer, but working for a small construction company that does insurance work. I am writing a report to the insurance company stating my observations. Usually the damage is fairly cut and dry, but in this instance it is suspect with the interior showing no signs of damage.

I understand what was said here and on the other forum, but I think I will hire a str. engineer to observe the structure with me on this one.

...and yes, it is 2x4 framing with no special shear walls (steel or simpson strongwall type). I question how it ever passed inspection, but then again it was built 35 years ago.

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