Hitting The Wall

There comes a point in nearly every project we do that I just get into some aspect that just absolutely sucks. On this project, that is all the stucco breakout for the relocation of the new windows and doors.

Old stucco is hard.

Concrete gains strength as it cures, and this stuff is miserable. I’ve beat on it with a hammer, chipped it with a chisel and demolished it with my Bosch Bulldog rotary hammer. The key to this task is to maintain the integrity of the waterproof barrier behind the stucco. Normally that would be relatively easy, but here in California, many houses are open-framed. There is no plywood or other sheathing on the exterior. So when you beat on the stucco, it just caves in the tar paper behind it. Every time you crack, tear or break the paper, the potential for water intrusion exists. In some areas, it doesn’t matter all that much. At the top of the wall, there is good weather protection under the eaves, so we would have to see real horizontal rain for that to be a problem.

Other areas, not so much. For example, around the new windows. Here, is a prime area for water to get into the building envelope. And since this is the west-facing wall of the house, it’s critical to get the details right because the majority of our storms come off the ocean. Every window on this wall is moving due to the new layout of the bedrooms. So it’s not like I have any choice. It’s just dirty, dusty, tedious work that is not at all fun.


Starting the breakout. It’s easier across the header, because there is solid wood behind the tar paper. I need about 6 inches on all sides to get the window flashing in place.

The worst part of it, though, is the lack of feeling like I am getting anything significant accomplished. I can easily spend all day working on one window opening but there is always more work to be done prior to actually setting any windows. I want to get most of the breakout done in an area in order to keep the new windows clean and to prevent them from getting any damage while I am working nearby. So the house walls are a sea of temporary patches and plywood panels to try to maintain some level of security.


This opening is actually getting infilled with studs and will get a stucco patch.


By the time I am done, the wall will be more holes than stucco. Time to shift strategy.

As I move along, I realize that this west wall is starting to look too much like a patchwork quilt. Between all windows moving, the relocated electric panel, the relocated cable TV and phone box connections and the new location for the water heater, there will be more patches than there is original stucco. it just seems to make more sense to completely strip the wall back down to bare studs. A call to my stucco contractor confirms this thought. It will be less expensive and more watertight if we start from scratch. So more work it is.

I just don’t think I have it in me.

I’m calling a demolition company in the morning.

2 responses to “Hitting The Wall

  1. Some times in life, we have more $$ than time! Give yourself permission to call for help.
    When the project is completed, it is going to be soooo lovely!


  2. Pingback: Long Overdue Update: Another Concrete Pour and More Demolition |·

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