This week, the subject is stucco. One homeowner wants to know how to repair holes made during an insulation project; another wants to know how to hang a bike and a wisteria vine from her stucco wall.
Q: We recently had R-13 fiberglass insulation blown from the exterior into the walls of our home. The house was built in 1941 and has stucco siding. The insulation contractor said any homeowner can easily patch over the wooden plugs put into the holes. The plugs are recessed slightly, but we’re sure we will be able to tap them in a bit to a depth of 3/8 to 1/2 inch if necessary.
We hope it will be easy, but more important, we want it done correctly. Can you recommend a product and method?
A: You bet we can. But first, congratulations for biting the bullet and opting for the blown-in insulation. The payback should be great, both in comfort and energy costs, during the hot summers and cold winters.
Contractors insulate stucco buildings by drilling holes through the stucco and blowing in loose insulation material into the stud bays. The process leaves at least two holes approximately 2 to 3 inches in diameter in each bay. Holes are closed with a wooden plug. Each plugged hole then must be patched to match the existing stucco.
The installer is right; the job is easy. There is no reason we can think of, other than infirmity, that any homeowner shouldn’t tackle it. Begin by tapping the wooden plug in to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Repair the indentations with stucco patch, available at hardware stores and home centers. We assume there are a large number of holes, so get a sack of stucco patch. It may seem like a lot, but it’s cheaper than buying several smaller boxes.
We also suggest you fortify the stucco patch with a bit of Portland cement. Don’t make the mix too wet; the viscosity should be just short of chunky peanut butter.
Apply the mix with a putty knife and level it with a scrap piece of 2-by-4. Finally, give it a swipe with a damp (not dripping) sponge to expose some of the sand. You’ll probably need just one coat, but check for shrinkage after it dries and apply a second coat if needed.
To finish, prime the surface with a coat or two of a thick primer. Kilz will do. The goal is twofold: to seal the new stucco and to approximate the look of the 40-year-old stucco, which we’re sure has more than a couple of coats of paint on it. Then apply a finish coat or two of acrylic or latex paint.
Try the first few holes in out-of-the-way places so you get the hang of it, and the house should be warm and cozy with the stucco looking good as new.
Q: I just bought a stucco house and I want to hang a bike on the outside garden wall. Also, I have a wisteria that needs nailing onto my stucco. My brother, a contractor, just shakes his head. Help!
A: Sounds as if your brother doesn’t want to take a busman’s holiday. Hang the bike from large, rubber-coated hooks available at hardware stores and home centers. These hefty hooks are made to screw into the framing of a structure, usually the ceiling joists, but they also work in wall studs.
If your new home is an older one, it probably has plywood or board sheeting under the stucco. This should give the screws enough purchase to hold the bike. If there is no sheeting, you’ll have to find the studs. In either case, use a masonry bit to drill through the stucco to the wood. Then use a wood bit to drill a pilot hole into the wood member. Finally screw in the coated hooks and hang the bike.
As for the wisteria, no nails allowed. We suggest you install a trellis as a home for the vine.
Bolt a couple of 2-by-4s to the wall using the same techniques you used for the hooks. Buy a prefab trellis at a home center and screw the trellis to the 2-by-4s with wood screws. Tie the wisteria to the trellis with green plastic landscaper’s tape.
The learning curve isn’t very steep on either of these projects. Who knows, perhaps if brother-contractor sees you start doing this stuff, maybe he’ll be guilty enough to help out. In any case, expect him to stick his two cents into the mix.
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