Stucco meeting ground

If a stucco wall meets the ground and continues under the surface of the ground, is this considered a defect?

Not enough information.

What is the stucco applied to? Does it have a drain plain? Is it EIFS?

It’s applied to concrete block…not sure if it’s EIFS. It’s in Melbourne, FL built in the 90s.

Okay, I am not there and I cannot see it. But if the plaster is applied directly to the concrete block with no drain plane then it is ok IMO

In my area stucco to the ground, conventional 3 coat wire stucco, is common. And, the way termites get into those houses.

It’s a defect in a new build, not a defect in 50+ year old housing stock.

Great question and one with varying answers. I’ve sat in countless CE classes where I’m told it’s wrong, wrong, wrong if there isn’t 2" of clearance above hardscape, 6" above soil. Then, go out in the field and find it’s buried 95% of the time. Age does seem to be a factor (but shouldn’t IMO). Old installs it’s ALWAYS buried. Newer is usually better… but often EIFS which is a whole other kettle of worms.

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Only considered a installation or lawn maintenance defect. Many landscaper/gardeners build up soil, after trenching backfill, placing plantings up against stucco walls.

Stucco requires xx inches of clearance. I recommend from 2" to 8" inches of ground clearance depending what the surface of the ground is.

What does your jurisdiction recommend?

Hope that helps.

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Here’s a link to a 24-page study on stucco failures in Florida with drawings of typical application of stucco over block in which the stucco is run down into the soil a few inches.

The stucco and block are both Portland cement-based products so there’s no need to hold the stucco above grade or flatwork. This wouldn’t apply to stucco on a wood-framed wall. I would not under any circumstances use the recommendations in this report for anything but general knowledge and refer serious defects to stucco repairmen.

There are also several lengthy but readable reports on Florida stucco by a stucco contractor who’s also a code officer and consulting engineer that are highly opinionated but very informative at stuccoinstitute.com

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Thank you for your answer

Thank you Daniel

Robert, that depends on how the stucco was originally installed, and if there is a weep screed. In my area nearly all the houses were built with wood frames, no weep screed, tar paper to the ground or below, stucco over that. Then the landscapers build up, the house sinks, and the termites have a feast.

This is the existing construction, and was considered proper at the time of installation (1900 to maybe the early 1970’s). The foundations are shallow enough, you can’t even really dig down.

I understand Bryce, but if no visible damage can be seen it is a landscaping deficiency.
Beside digging down in several areas, looking for defects, I use thermography.
I always call for further review of the stucco.

A lack of weep screed with stucco on frame is significant, but this study from Woodbury, MN about its incredible number of stucco failures–like almost half of them that were built pre-1999 before the changes–doesn’t even mention weep screeds in the summary:

Window leaks, a lack of kickout flashing, improper deck flashing, and grade above the wood framing are the primary causes that account for the majority of the damage. All other causes are secondary. Generally, walls without windows or other openings sustained little or no damage.

I came across this study on Reuben Salzman’s excellent blog. In any case, it’s important to keep in mind how and where the water’s getting into the wall in the first place!

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