How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manufactured and modular homes
Do stucco walls mean a house is concrete block?
Friday, June 22, 2018
“But I thought this house was concrete block!” is a comment we hear often, with a sigh of exasperation, from our inspection customers when we tell them that the stucco walls of their future home are constructed with wood studs and plywood sheathing. The stucco is simply a surface finish. If you grew up in South Florida in the bygone era of the 1950s through the 1980s, like we did, stucco walls meant it was a concrete block house about 99% of the time.
But construction methods have changed throughout all of Florida and, today, a stucco finish could be synthetic stucco (also called EIFS), or hard-coat stucco over expanded metal lath on a wood stud wall, or stucco on concrete block.
Here are two ways to determine the type of house structure hiding under the stucco surface:
- Hard-Coat Stucco and Synthetic Stucco (EIFS - Exterior Insulated Finishing System) over a wood frame wall will sound slightly hollow when you pound on it with your fist. EIFS is a thin finish over an insulating panel, will not feel as solid as hard-coat stucco, and the finish will be smoother. Stucco over concrete block will feel like solid rock.
- Windows in wood frame walls are set close to the outside face of the wall, typically within 1-inch or less, but windows in a concrete block wall are recessed about 3-inches.
Be careful not to make the mistake in assuming that a house is 100% concrete block or wood frame. Some homes are combination of the two, most often a concrete block house with a wood frame and stucco addition.
There is actually one more way to verify—and with certainty—that a stucco home is wood frame or concrete block, and that is to look at the top of the wall from the attic. We recommend that you leave that chore to your home inspector.
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To learn more about exterior walls and structures, see these other blog posts:
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