Stucco Parapet Repairs
Legalities in AZ with Various License Limitations Regarding Parapet Repair
I’m not a lawyer and the following are my interpretations and opinions based on two in person conversations with the AZ Registrar of Contractors (ROC) in house attorney Joseph Citelli and Director Jeff Fleetham on 2/9/2018 and 2/4/2020, several response letters 7/23/2018 & 4/18/2018 to scope of license questions from me to the ROC, and also publicly available information on the AZ ROC website regarding scopes of various licenses.
(An image of the 4/18/2018 letter which is most relevant here is at the bottom of this page.)
That said, in Arizona the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) determines what types of contracting licenses exist and the scope or limitations of each license type. This is a big deal regarding who can legally work on homes with parapets. The reason it’s a big deal is parapet repairs either need to be done by a General or Remodeling contractor, or alternately three different specialty licenses are usually needed. The three specialty licenses are Stucco, Roofing and Painting.
In a nutshell Painters can apply paint, caulk and do incidental stucco spot patching. They can’t patch or coat elastomeric roofs, do significant amounts stucco patching or use polyester fabric for parapet or stucco work.
Roofers obviously work on roofs.
However according to the AZ ROC, ROOFERS CAN NOT:
Apply elastomeric to the tops of parapets.
Apply polyester fabric to the tops of parapets walls.
Apply caulk to tops of parapet walls.
Remove or replace stucco.
Remove rotted / rusted galvanized mesh.
Patch over existing stucco with more stucco.
Paint parapet walls.
The above listed items are things a Roofer CAN NOT do.
Its my opinion the reason parapets are basically off limits to Roofers is legally (in Arizona) parapets are a wall and not a part of the roof system. So a lawyer or builder would think of a parapet as a wall, while a physicist or home owner would think of a parapet top (and possibly inside parapet wall) as a part of the roof system since it’s a critical part of keeping water out of the house.
My letter didn’t ask them about stucco contractors, but its easy to follow ROC logic on what they would and would not be allowed to do. Its my opinion they would do stucco work, but not be allowed to work on roofs or paint. I don’t know if they would be allowed to use polyester fabric on parapet tops, but logic here would dictate they could not paint the stucco once applied, with or without fabric.
Now, on to the actual Parapet section of this page.
Stucco Parapets are a magnet for cracks. Being on top of the roof they are in the sun for far more time than any other parts of the house. In the sun longer means they get hotter. Ironically at night they also get colder since the roof is also the coldest part of your home at night. Being the hottest and coldest the parapets experience a great deal of movement from the daily heat cycle caused by the sun. More movement means more cracking. Hotter also means the paint dies sooner. More cracking and more dead paint means more places for water to get in.
The crack shown in the photo below is an example of a typical crack in a stucco parapet. Patching and coating it with elastomeric rubber paint is pretty straight forward.
In the past few years a fairly large percentage of the calls I receive about bad parapets are related to what I believe is bad Chinese galvanized metal imported from around 1995 thru 2005 and used as an underlayment for masonry stucco. If you’d like to read more about this, the following two links are good places to start. If you want to skip the articles – they say the galvanized metal which most people think of as rust-proof or seriously rust-resistant is in fact not.
- Chinese Steel Sheets Fail Product Test
- Galvanized Pipe
Good news. Its not hard to tell when rusty metal mesh is involved in parapet cracks. As mentioned the above picture is a “normal” crack in a parapet. The picture below is a cracked parapet with failed metal. Failed in that it no longer exists. There is supposed to be a metal mesh like chicken wire in this crack. You can see a little bit of whats left by the letter “m” in AABrite.com.
So to paraphrase so far. Regular parapet cracks – easy and not so expensive to fix and paint. Bad Chinese metal parapet cracks – more work and more expense to fix and paint.
A little more bad news about the Chinese failing metal.
If you have the bad Chinese metal you also need to know after getting it repaired, patched and painted there is very likely going to be a second outbreak on the parapets at some point in the future. The mesh is pretty important for keeping the stucco from getting big cracks. When repairs are made we cut out the bad sections we can feel. They have a hollow sound when you tap on them and there’s some movement. After the patches are complete, some more of the metal is going to give way (fail). It will then take a while, as in months to years, for these smaller unknown areas to finish rusting and to crack out. In 12 years I’ve never seen the second round go over 20% of the size of the first patch.
The most important part of owning a home or building with stucco parapets is to keep a good healthy layer of roof coating (called elastomeric) on the tops of the parapets. This helps two ways. Elastomeric acts like rubber cement and helps hold everything together and secondly its highly water resistant. No water coming in, no rust. If you stop the rusting then the stucco can stay strong.
Now if your worried about the metal mesh failing in the stucco walls and making bigger problems, this is fairly rare and we’ve only seen it a few times since 2003. Based on my experience its the parapets, and occasionally around a window where the water has to change directions as it flows downward through the stucco towards the weep screed (drain on the bottom of a wall). If you do have bad metal and get a leak around a window – get it taken care of as soon as you become aware of the problem. Letting it go will allow water to get into the metal and start rusting it in the wall.
I inspect the parapet and determine how many feet of stucco are going to be removed and replaced. The price is based on how long a job is expected to take and how much material its going to be required. One stucco bag is only going to fill one cubic foot on average. As an example a 5,000sq/ft house with failing Chinese metal on lots of parapets could take 100 bags. From my perspective thats a big job, though whether its 5 bags or 500 the work is the same.
Based on my price calculations a homeowner will have to decide how much paint work is going to be allotted to the job. I much prefer to paint the entire home after parapets are repaired since this is gives me the most control and the least amount of problems with regards to providing a uniform appearance. Painting the entire house is not always an option, then we have to agree on what smaller parts are getting painted since from the ground different parts of the parapet will be visible. This is done on a case by case basis.
After agreeing on price and scope of the paint work we are ready to start.
We break out the loose parapet stucco with a hammer.
Galvanized metal mesh is installed as needed and attached with nails.
The hole is filled and the parapet is roughly shaped with a rubber sponge float. The first layer of stucco fill is allowed to dry out. When it dries it will shrink some and crack around the edge of the patch. A second layer of stucco is then put over the patch. It too will shrink, but much less than the first coat.
The third coat is worked over with a wet sponge float and the texture is scrubbed up. There is some art work involved here with matching the existing texture.
We have screens for separating out specific sizes of sand to add to the stucco the match the existing texture the best we can.
The texture is wet down to slow the drying process and avoid cracks. The water also lowers the PH if masonary patching compound is used. Synthetic compounds don’t need to have the PH lowered.
If a masonary compound was used we then put on Eff stop primer – to stop the high PH masonary from attacking the new paint.
Rubber elastomeric paint is usually then put on the top of the parapet.
Before parapet repairs, painting and roof coating
After parapet repairs, painting and roof coating
Before parapet repairs, painting and roof coating
Throughout pictures, for example see After parapet repairs, painting and roof coating
Defective Chinese Metal Update
[Feb 2, 2021 Update: The 1995-2005 dates for defective Chinese metal have been on this website for years. Occasionally we would notice a parapet that was a year or two or three past this date. At the time we believed this was basically left over metal from the 2005 stock. More recently we’ve seen several homes built as late as 2015 with rusting / rotting metal in them. As of 2/02/2021 there is almost no information easily available on the internet regarding this phenomenon, and some of the information that used to be available is now gone. We are now seeing a small but ever increasing number of homes built more recently with this problem. If you are a material scientist, researcher, lawyer or supplier and have more information please contact me.]