For centuries, builders have lined their homes and buildings with textured masonry and other stucco finishing materials as a cost-saving shortcut to producing consistent-looking profiles. For example, why do most new houses have blown stucco ceilings (also known as “popcorn”)? Producing a visually flat ceiling (or wall) surface requires a great deal of time and materials. And master gypsum skills are needed to hide uneven drywall defects and finish each tape joint with the required 3 layers of gypsum drywall compound. But with a textured siding, the builder can lift the drywall more or less when it is seated, glue it together with a single coat of plaster, and the resulting defects disappear under the illusion of a “level” textured surface. The results look new and consistent, the builder saves time and money, and hopefully transfers those savings to you. It is a perfect solution! … Until it cracks.
Fix a smooth surface crack
When a crack develops in a flat wall or ceiling, the repair is fairly simple. It is covered with a strip of paper tape (if inside) or mesh tape (inside or outside), passed over with the putty knife and the appropriate interior or exterior patching compound in three thin layers (each one wider than the last to float). take it out with the surrounding surface as smoothly as possible) and sand it down enough to remove the edges.
A smooth plaster like this is easy to achieve with some practice once you understand these fundamentals. And as you practice, there are no mistakes that can’t be easily fixed with a little more plaster or a little more sanding. The most common mistake is applying the compound too thick. This creates excessive sanding and bulging patches.
But what about the crack in a textured surface? Obviously, you can’t just tape, thin, and sand. The result would be a long, flat patch in the middle of a textured profile (which I’ve seen too many owners stuck in my career). It stands out as a serious rash and adds insult to injury. You cannot undo or fix a repair like this. The only way to get rid of a bad stucco repair is to remove all the textured material on the entire surface and replace it with a new one. That is an expensive undertaking and can be avoided if the repair was done correctly the first time.
Working with textured materials
There is often a misconception that one can simply remove the textured layer of masonry or popcorn stucco (or whatever) from around the damaged area to fix the substrate and then replace the textured material only in this place. It sounds reasonable in theory as long as you use the exact same material as a replacement. But in practice, it is almost always impossible.
With great skill and experience, a finisher can bevel the outer edges of the damaged area so that when the new material is applied over the exposed substrate (drywall, brick, concrete, etc.) it can be gradually smoothed outward. edges without overlapping surrounding material to keep it level with existing grade. But even this shows a slight ridge around the repair and is noticeable to those who know it’s there … that is, YOU. And this is the best thing to do without a complete replacement. The most common approach I’ve seen people try is to simply try to cover the crack with more of the same material used on the overall surface. The problem with this is that anything you add to the surface of a textured profile will only increase where the damage is with a hump in a sea of bumps. So what should you do if you are not a master mason and you don’t want to spend the money on the complete removal and replacement of your stucco just to fix a few cracks?
Easy crack repair for textured surfaces
To understand how to repair a crack, you must know the anatomy of the crack. Sometimes created by sudden impact, sometimes by the long (or short) natural process of shifting and settling, and often by water leakage, the crack is a break in the solid substrate. And through the laws of weight and gravity, the crack can only move, grind and grow. It never gets smaller and rarely stays the same. No matter how you repair the crack, it will only hide it from the eye as it continues to thrive below the surface waiting for its chance to reappear. That is, unless you want to go through the expensive and complicated process of replacing the entire substrate. But who wants to do that if there is an easier way?
Ultimately, you want a repair to be invisible, or at least, depending on the severity of the damage, inconspicuous in plain sight. To accomplish this in the middle of a textured surface, the repair has to fill in the crack, preserve the surrounding texture, and not reopen as the surface shifts over time. Solid drying fillers like gypsum and drywall compound can easily fill the crack, but they do little to preserve the texture and, at best, result in poor approximations of the surrounding surface. They also dry hard and brittle, allowing the underlying crack to easily break through the surface in no time. So the ideal material must remain flexible to keep up with the movement of the crack and has to make the crack disappear within its native profile. What can do all of this and apply easily? Latex caulking.
Simply run a small bead of latex sealant along the surface of the crack, wet your fingers with a little warm water as a lubricant, and massage the sealant into the crack while “washing” it into the surrounding texture. Make sure the crack is well filled in and the excess caulk around the edges is finely mixed with the texture. Let it dry well and then paint with latex paint to preserve elasticity. It’s as easy as that! But never use silicone sealant for this type of repair, as you cannot paint over it.
In cases where you cannot paint the surface for one reason or another (for example, a very large exterior wall in unpainted stained masonry), use a sealer in a color that best matches the surface color and be sure to Remove most of the material from the outer edges of the crack before it dries.
A flexible repair is a durable repair. As your home changes, expands and contracts, so does your latex caulking sealer.