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Moisture Testing and Assessments

The only accurate method to measure moisture in a residential or commercial property is to intrusively probe the exterior wall sheathing. Probing allows access to structural areas where hidden elevated moisture causes problems. The testing shows the extent of the moisture and possibly shows where the moisture intrusion begins. We have ways to determine if water intrusion is happening in most all wall cavities. Stucco, brick, wood, vinyl, metal, you name it, we know how they are to be constructed and know how to test and assess each one. Fact: A leaky window will leak in any wall cavity.

Stucco testing protocols require drilling two small holes 3/16”- 1” apart in strategic locations to probe the sheathing/structure with a protimeter moisture meter. All holes are sealed with a colored acrylic/silicone caulk and every effort is made to hide the holes and match the color of the sealing caulk. Testing does not cause damage to the home.

A report is generated showing what was found at each test site, with details of construction techniques, maintenance items and potential entry points for water.

Commonly Asked Questions

Moisture intrusion is water that enters the wall cavity through openings in the siding, like windows, decks, roofs, etc. It is also happens when windows, attics, and walls have condensation happening in the winter months from warm air leaks. Here are some signs that you might have moisture intrusion:
1) Do you have peeling paint on siding or trim?
2) Have a moldy or musty odor in your home?
3) Does the irrigation system water your walls?
4) Do you have moss or lichen growth on the siding?
5) Do you have staining on the siding?

Water entry into the exterior walls of the home can be catastrophic to the health of both the home and inhabitants. Over 90% of moisture problems found in the walls of homes is hidden and unseen, in the wall cavity. Water intrusion usually happens as a slow drip being slowly absorbed into all the wall materials. As the water accumulates, the wall cavity becomes the perfect living space for fungi and mold to grow and rot the walls. A probe test of the home will identify where and how significant issues exist.

Very seldom is the stucco the cause of the problem. The stucco aggravates the problem because it does not dry out as quickly as other sidings. Other causes like windows, decks, roofs and openings are usually the culprit for water in the walls. Stucco’s bad rap comes from the cost to repair. Much more expensive than the cost to repair a vinyl sided home. Remember a leaky window will leak into any sided home.

Most water intrusion happens through openings in the siding, like windows, decks and roofs. The openings are either not adequately flashed, properly wrapped to shed water, caulked to stop water entry or designed wrong. Water can also enter the walls from condensation that happens from air leaks under interior walls, around windows and doors or any other penetrations.

During a moisture stucco probe test, we are assessing the moisture level and condition of the sheathing used to encapsulate the home framework and support the siding. Sheathing is considered part of the structural framework of the home.

  • If you are considering window replacement, know what the damage assessment is before making the window purchase.
  • If you are wanting to sell your home, especially stucco clad, and knowing that a buyer will insist on having the test completed, be proactive. Even a home with known issues is saleable, but an untested home is a risk.
  • If you are considering purchasing a home, especially stucco, insist on having a certified moisture test conducted as part of the purchase inspections. The chances of damage and the cost to repair are very high.
  • After an exterior remodel, test near the first-year anniversary of the construction completion. If moisture is still found, follow-up with the contractor for repairs and annually check until dry.
  • After a water intrusion, large or small, is experienced or finding a strange stain. Testing will identify the cause and extent of the leak to show how far the remediation efforts are needed.
  • In some states, prior to the 10-year anniversary occupancy date. This inspection will show if water has entered the wall cavity and caused structural failure. This is when the contractor or insurance company will usually be responsible for structural damage.

There is no good or bad time other than during extreme cold or when the exterior walls are wet. Spring will usually exhibit higher moisture levels in compromised areas, but non-compromised areas will still have dry levels. Summer and drought conditions will lower higher moisture levels, but damage assessment and saturated moisture levels will still exist. Winter moisture levels are usually dryer unless the moisture is coming from the inside out. Wet areas are often frozen solid giving a more solid damage assessment, but the ice will still read elevated. Filling the test site holes used to conduct the test need to be dry and above zero on any given day.

Scanners use radio waves to measure the density of the material it is scanning. They do not measure moisture. Water increases the density of wood which helps guide the inspector to where to probe and obtain the actual moisture level. Infrared photography measures temperature differences, not moisture levels. Results are usually misinterpreted, and probing is still required to verify for accuracy. A visual inspection will often lead to problem areas. Getting 2 probes in contact with the sheathing is the only accurate way to measure moisture. We try hard to make sure the holes are sealed with color matching caulk.

There is always a risk when buying any home. Over time, water intrusion happens to all homes. Windows will leak, the wind blows a certain way, or just forgotten maintenance- water will find a way in over time. If water gets behind the stucco, the stucco slows the drying process. Stucco has been blamed for most intrusions but are rarely the cause. A siding that slows drying also slows water entry. The short answer is it is a risk to buy any home without a certified moisture test and analysis, but stucco should always be probe tested.

If there has been a moisture event, all home’s, regardless of the siding, can have mold. Mold is everywhere, and any home that has or had a moisture source will potentially have mold. Stucco homes may be more susceptible because of the walls have slower drying ability. This allows moisture to accumulate in the wall space creating a petri dish of fungus and mold. Moisture testing is important to determine where conditions are conducive to mold growth. Where moisture exists, the likelihood of mold is high.

Most damages found behind the siding are the result of construction defects, not one-time events. We always advise to at least check with your carrier if there is damage found. It never hurts to ask!

The general SPF woods used in home construction should have a moisture level of 19% or less. Typical dry readings are 6-15%. Any moisture level above 16% can be a sign of moisture intrusion.

Stucco gives a home a unique look that is durable, adds value to the home, and does not require a lot of the maintenance other homes need. Stucco can also provide energy savings and can last for 50-80 years. The cons are the stigma stucco has with moisture intrusion. It's the fear of expensive repairs should the wall cavities get wet. However, if a stucco home is tested and found dry and then kept maintained, a homeowner should not have concerns. “It’s usually not the stucco that causes moisture problems”. A leaky window will leak on any home, regardless of the siding.

Give us a call and we can always help break this down further for you upon inspection.

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