remodeling hell #1.2: stucco & drywall

So it’s been a little bit since my last entry on this.

We got the permit I was so nervous about beforehand, and have already had two inspections on it, both apparently passing with flying colors. I suppose it pays to be meticulous.

The windows were installed, and look beautiful. They brighten up the room immensely.

I had to install a new diagonal cross-member to replace the existing one that had to be cut to put the windows in, then I had to insulate — we found Johns Manville Formaldehyde-Free Easy-Fit insulation, which is actually pretty cool, despite being fiberglass. Good for insulation, but makes bad itchies, even with coveralls and taped-up gloves and boot covers (although that does help a little bit).

We also put AstroFoil radiant barrier in all the stud cavities behind the insulation, since that wall faces south. We put astro-foil under the roof rafters in a couple of uninsulated parts of the house, and it smooths out the temperature swings (remember, California is a desert — hot during the day, cold at night) immensely. At some point I want to put it under the rafters across the whole house, but due to the amount of crap in the attic, that’s rather a large project.

That part wasn’t really all that bad. But then comes the stucco issue…

The people who installed the windows don’t do stucco. They said I should find a mason to do the stucco work. So I look around in all sorts of places, and find out that the people who can do stucco either don’t want to talk to me unless I want to redo the whole house, or are too busy to take on my job.

Interspersed between calling and getting turned down by contractors, I research what it might take to do it myself. It turns out I have to break away the existing stucco to a certain distance around the new windows, ensure that the building paper is meshed properly with the window flashing paper so that water drains correctly, then put new stucco mesh over the parts that don’t have any, then apply the stucco in three coats. The first few sites I’ve seen say you should use a cold chisel and ball-peen hammer.

Hah. Those sites obviously have never *used* a cold chisel and ball-peen hammer to break away stucco — either that, or I have the special diamond-hard brand of stucco. I get maybe a quarter of one window broken away over an entire Saturday. On top of that, the chisel ends up going through the existing building paper that I need to save, making it holey. Yuck.

Researching more in despair, someone recommends using an air chisel. I talk to a few people, and find that Harbor Freight Tools sells air compressors and air chisels on the cheap. Plus you can get all kinds of cool attachments for an air compressor.

So I buy an air compressor and an air chisel. Not too bad. I try it out, and it goes MUCH better. But it still takes me a month of weekends to finish breaking out as much stucco as I need.

So finally, with the requisite amount of stucco removed, I silicone up all the cracks in the building paper, re-flash the big gaps, and silicone the building paper together so that it all sticks.

Then, I get a bundle of chicken wire and some steel wire, and put this in place over the existing chicken wire mesh. Which would be fine, if I wanted the wall to be bowed out 3 inches in front of the window glass. Even putting pressure on the chicken wire by jerry-rigging a couple of wood jacks doesn’t make it stay.

The bank down the street from me has also been getting new stucco work. They’re using a much finer mesh, that looks more like a steel grille. I also discovered that apparently you can nail the stucco mesh to the studs through the building paper — I was leery of this since I didn’t want to introduce any possible leaks (water -> mold = bad), and as I understand it stucco remains porous even after it dries. But it looks like nailing through building paper is OK. I may
silicone around the nails just in case.

So this weekend, I’m going to replace the chicken wire I put up with the finer mesh (which I can get at Home Depot), and try and mix up a batch of stucco base coat. With any amount of luck that’ll work.

I’m getting more and more confident about drywall, though. I ordered and picked up some GP DensArmor Plus drywall panels, which are just like standard drywall panels, except that they use a fiberglas mat instead of paper to coat the panels. Not only does the mat not support mold growth (yay!), I’m guessing that it might even be slightly more fire retardant.

The only bad side about this stuff is that, since it’s got fiberglass matting, it’s about as bad as fiberglass insulation in terms of the itch factor. Even with that, though, I’m happy with it — the first night I got it, I got the first panel installed, with cutout for the window and outlet and everything. I’m going to work on the second and possibly third and fourth panels tonight.

Then, we have one final inspection (the “did you put drywall up over the insulation?” inspection), and then we can tape the drywall, paint, floor, and trim this room. If the re-stuccoing goes as well as I hope, I should be able to move on to the rest of the house after this room is done.

One thought on “remodeling hell #1.2: stucco & drywall”

  1. How about the doggie door? If you have to stucco around it, wouldn’t it be better to cut for it now? No? Just curious. BTW, smoo wants to save the other one (the patio door one) for the back room…
    Please give me a check list of things I can do, k? I love you!

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