Stucco Wall Leaks in Los Angeles Homes

Moisture is the leading cause of stucco wall leaks in Los Angeles Homes. Most people believe that stucco walls are waterproof and maintain a water-resistant barrier or building envelope.

Homeowners across Los Angeles who have stucco-clad wall homes will at some point have to deal with water intrusion. Here in Southern California, the building material of choice just happens to be stucco exterior wall covering for your home or commercial building.

Unfortunately, this stucco siding material isn't constructed to last forever. Rain leaks, water intrusion, incorrect installation, stucco cracks even hairline cracks, and improper flashing, are just a few reasons why stucco will leak, it's usually just a matter of time. Even brand-new stucco walls leak.

The exterior stucco wall if installed properly,  is made of Portland cement applied over a water-resistant barrier. Of course, other building materials assist in the installation but for the most part, is waterproof paper and Portland cement. Stucco contractors in Los Angeles understand how stucco walls are supposed to be installed to maximize the resistance to water intrusion.

Los Angeles Construction Defect Water Intrusion Testing

Water intrusion in stucco walls is just as common in new homes as in older homes and commercial buildings. For new stucco homes, the process for locating and diagnosing rain leaks, improper installation, mold, water damage, water leaks, and the like, is a forensic investigation like the ASTM E2128 forensic test.

Stucco leak construction defect investigations here in Los Angeles can be a handy tool in locating the origin of the water intrusion to make the necessary repairs. Here is more or less the beginning process in a typical forensic investigation;

  • Establish that a stucco wall water intrusion issue exists via visual inspection
  • Properly inspect the area by a water intrusion expert around where the issue exists
  • Document when the rain leak occurs, the weather conditions specifically
  • Hire the appropriate water intrusion building expert to investigate

After an initial evaluation by the water intrusion specialist, they will determine the appropriate method for isolating the moisture leak. Water infiltration over time will lead to a multitude of issues such as;

  • Mold for one thing
  • Building deterioration
  • Interior water damage

Of course here in Santa Clarita where happen to reside, most houses here are constructed with stucco siding. most of the stucco services we deal with are leaks within the waterproofing. Most of our clients who have never experienced this type of issue are reluctant to have the issue formally tested by a company like ours, building leak detection because calling a contractor who specializes in stucco wall repairs or waterproofing services.

Unfortunately, these types of contractors may be good at installing stucco siding, by not so good at forensic construction defect water intrusion t.esting. Admittedly, it isn't as easy as just getting a water hose and applying water to a wall. It's so much more complex than that.

Stucco and Water Leakage

For the most part, stucco siding is a very durable water-resistant exterior building cladding. I mean it lasts for years with little to no maintenance. That said, however, stucco is a very porous material and absorbs water.

Now, once water is introduced to the stucco wall, it will either run down the wall's inner waterproofing and out the weep screed, or it stay inside the building wall. It's at this point that water intrusion can become a real issue. If the water sits inside the walls it can enter the interior of the building materials via the flooring. This type of moisture infiltration can be picked up via thermal imaging and even a visual inspection with the use of tools like moisture meters.

Older homes in Los Angeles and the surrounding area will not typically have weep screeds. The wall covering will generally extend to the cement or concrete patio or sidewalk. It doesn't take long periods for this to occur. It can happen as quickly as one single rain event.

It's the inner waterproofing membrane that mostly determines how the water intrusion will perform once inside the wall. Believe it or not, water leakage will enter the stucco wall even through paint. you heard that correctly... paint is not an effective barrier against water intrusion. Much to many people's surprise, water penetrates paint very easily.

Forensic water intrusion testing in Los Angeles

Forensic water intrusion testing in Los Angeles

So if you think you have water intrusion how can you as a home or business owner confirm this? Well, that's the easy part. Moisture leak detection via forensic water intrusion testing in Los Angeles is the only way to achieve this. So here is how that works...

A company like Building leak detection will come out and first perform a visual inspection of the issue. They may incorporate thermal imaging in their inspection or just look at the system and use a moisture meter. Moisture mapping is an easy and effective way to isolate an area where water is perceived to enter a structure.

What does a stucco siding inspection cost?

The cost of a building stucco siding inspection is $250. Here in Los Angeles nothing is free... the least of which is a professional diagnostic inspection by a professional water intrusion specialist. We know this because we do them all the time.

The forensic inspection where the building envelope is sprayed and tested with water following the ASTM E2128 is an entirely different test and thus fee. These fees here ain Santa Clarita and Los Angeles can easily run into the thousands of dollars to locate water leaks so it's hard to place a price on this service.

Common Locations for Leaks

The most common locations for leaks in stucco are within windows, walls, flashings, penetrations, and doorways.

For windows that are installed incorrectly, leaving holes or even using flashing that is incorrect or incomplete will without a double lead to a water leak at some point in the future. I've seen where flashing was installed onto the window frame before installation and in those cases, the window leaked. Believe it or not... I've even seen where no flashing was installed at all.

Doors are extremely similar to windows in the way they both get installed. therefore, doors leak in the same manner as do windows.

Wall cracks are a way for water to enter a building. It's interesting to see firsthand, but we've personally witnessed cracks in stucco siding walls where water entered the dwelling immediately. I'm sure other types of siding can leak similarly, however, as a water intrusion specialist, we have only seen stucco leaks here in Los Angeles.

Water intrusion testing for new homes in Los Angeles

New Home Water Intrusion Leak Detection

Most people who purchase new homes are under the assumption that because it's new, there is generally nothing wrong with stucco siding, window installation, flashings, or other penetrations into their homes. The fact of the matter is... most homes have some type of issue that can go undetected for years until it manifests into something more significant.

It's not uncommon to test windows, walls, or doors in new home construction. I mean... we do water intrusion testing on new construction all the time. Well, it's more on the forensic side of our testing, but still, it's testing all the same.

Water Penetration Inspection Before You Buy a Home

It's my opinion that with each new home sale, the home buyer should hire a water intrusion expert to examine the building with the use of thermal imaging or just by plain sight. In either case, it's far better than hiring a general home inspector for this task.

Poorly Installed Water Barrier Products

Surely there is no easier way to make a building leak than having poorly installed water barrier products. But... here in Los Angeles it happens and happens all the time. We would not be in business if not for these contractors who continue to install windows, walls, and doors in a manner that leads to eventual water leaks.

Infrared Thermography Testing

There is no better way to look for a water leak in your home than with the use of thermal imaging. First of all, thermal imaging is the least intrusive means of gathering useful moisture intrusion-related information with the least amount of work.

Thermal imaging in a nutshell. Here is how thermography works... the camera detects heat. So in the case of water leaks in homes, the water is usually colder than the interior ambient temperature which shows up in colors as darker or lighter depending on the pallet chosen.

Most contractors don't usually have thermal cameras due to the cost of these cameras. A good camera will generally run about $25,000. As a water intrusion expert, we want to have better thermal imagers because the image itself is less pixilated. You see... the more pixilated the image, the less you can clearly see. These are called false positives.

Why are false positives bad? False positives are bad because if the operator misdiagnoses the water leak event, it can lead to destructive testing which otherwise may not have ever happened.

Infrared Thermography Testing

Not all thermographers are qualified

Not all thermographers are qualified to operate a thermal camera. To be blunt... very few are. Most people who use thermal cameras think that they just need to look for the different temperatures and that is a water leak. Not necessarily. Again... a false positive.

Thermographers who are most qualified are level 3 infrared thermographers like the operator at Building Leak Detection company. Marc Mazza is a qualified level 3 operator who understands how to use and apply thermography to homes and buildings correctly.

Windows, Curtain Walls, and Rain Leak Detection

As a water testing agency, we test all of our products and systems following the minimum standards set. the standards will usually come from an organization like AAMA or ASTM. These two companies lay out the testing standards and procedures on how curtain walls, windows, and rain leak detection are to be carried out.

The Myth About Rain Leaks

The myth about rain leaks comes from those who have no idea how to solve them in my opinion. Let me explain... some say that you should always use a water hose on the exterior of your house to locate rain. leaks. Although possible and surely effective... it's not a standardized testing method. Contractors who are more or less old school and not following with the new testing methods and standards will fall back on their ways of testing or investigation and in many cases, not find leaks.

Another myth about rain leaks is that they happen in heavy rain and are always in the roof. Not the case. With just a little rain and mild wind, a rain leak can happen and happen in doors, windows, walls, and penetrations.

Multi-Prong Inspection Process

So we use a multi-prong inspection process for testing or investigating rain leaks in buildings and homes. here is a short list of our methods for locating signs or indications of water intrusion. We use thermal imaging Moisture meters help locate signs of moisture intrusion Stains are indications of water leaks A water spray rack helps in identifying water leakage Why Water Hoses should Never be Used in Water Intrusion Testing

Why Water Hoses should Never be Used in Water Intrusion Testing

Alright... this is a topic that is heavily debated, why water hoses should never be used in testing for water intrusion. For starters, water hoses deliver a tremendous amount of water onto the subject which can in some cases, force a specimen to leak.

Water hose water intrusion testing cannot be duplicated. So in the case of litigation, both parties may want to have their own rain leak investigation company perform their own tests so these tests have to be standardized.

Door Leak Detection

We can evaluate door leaks in Los Angeles by a simple water infiltration test or just with the use of thermography. There are usually signs or indications in the form of stains in the frame area where it connects the building. Other methods for door leak detection depend on the door. Sliding doors operate differently than swinging doors and those get tested differently with a different test standard like the AAMA 501.2 for example.

Water Test Standards in Los Angeles

Water Test Standards

Where you are testing for forensics or quality assurance there is a test for everything. Both AAMA and ASTM produce various tests that act more or less as instructions as to how a water performance test is to be conducted. The tools used for these tests are extremely professional in that they are calibrated equipment, unlike a water hose. The water hose will apply water in a manner that cannot be duplicated, unlike a standardized test.

These tests are designed so the operator no matter who he or she is can reproduce the results at any time by following the same guidelines. This works well for litigation for example.

Here is a short list of the various testing standards;

  • ASTM C1601
  • AAMA 511-08
  • AAMA 502
  • AAMA 501.2
  • ASTM 1869
  • ASTM D4263
  • ASTM D5957
  • ASTM E2128
  • ASTM 7053 and 7053M
  • ASTM E1105
  • ASTM E331
  • ASTM E547

Wall and stucco leaks

Wall and stucco leaks are extremely common in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas. It's unfortunate but expected because the housing isn't getting any younger. Building systems are not designed to last forever and they break down just like you or I would. The building envelope is designed to last anywhere from 30-50 years and even less considering there are houses built in the early 1900s.

Let's be honest... I'm not aware of too many systems that can last that long with zero issues. Take into consideration the sun and rain... those components just exacerbate the deterioration process even more.

Stucco leak detection is a big business here in LA for these reasons. Now take into consideration the installer. Multiply that by thousands and that's how many are in business in the greater Los Angeles and surrounding areas. And consider that many of them do installations of stucco siding differently.

Now you can start to see why stucco and wall leaks are so very common. Another example of why it's so important to have a water intrusion expert inspect your building before purchase or... annually for potential rain leak weaknesses.



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One thing is for sure, as a homeowner or business owner it's wise to protect your investment. Water intrusion management starts with a plan... that plan includes regular rain leak detection inspections by professionals... like building leak detection services. Contact us for water intrusion testing here in Los Angeles and surrounding counties, we are LA's popular choice for moisture investigations.