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How to Repair a Cracked Stucco-Retaining Wall | Ask This Old House

Ask This Old House mason Mark McCullough travels to San Diego to repair a crack in a concrete retaining wall with a stucco finish.
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Time: 2-3 hours

Cost: $50

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Repairing a Cracked Stucco Wall:
Cold chisel
Margin trowel
Finishing trowel
Tuck pointer
Masonry brush

Shopping List:
Type S mortar

1. Start by making sure the entire crack is fully exposed. This may require digging out the back side of the retaining wall with a shovel.
2. Once the full crack is exposed, take a chisel and a hammer and remove concrete on both sides of the crack until you have one continuous gap in the wall. This will make it easier to slide the mortar in. The gap should be about 1-2”.
3. Clean out the enlarged crack with a hose or a bucket of water.
4. Mix the mortar in a bucket with a margin trowel. Add a little more water than usual to allow the mortar to flow more easily into the crack.
5. Scoop up the mortar with the margin trowel and pour it slowly into the crack. Use the tuck pointer to push it firmly into place. It helps to hold a finishing trowel against the back side of the crack to keep it from pouring out. Leave about _” on the front side of the wall to leave room for the stucco pattern.
6. Allow the mortar to dry for about 1 hour.
7. Mix a new batch of mortar at the normal consistency.
8. Apply the new mortar to the front of the crack using the margin trowel until it is flush with the rest of the wall.
9. Allow the mortar to dry for about 5 minutes.
10. Using the tuck pointer, the masonry brush, and your fingers, carve out small chunks of the mortar to mimic the texture of the stucco pattern. Dampen the brush and expose some of the sand in the mortar. Do this until the texture of the patch matches the texture of the rest of the wall.
11. Allow the mortar to dry and cure for about 3-4 weeks.
12. Once the mortar has cured, apply a masonry stain to it until it matches the rest of the wall.

Mark points out that if a retaining wall is cracked or damaged, the best way to remedy the situation is to identify what caused the crack in the first place and eliminate that cause. However, in many cases, that type of solution won’t be practical for a retaining wall.

To simply alleviate the symptoms, the materials required to repair a concrete retaining wall, including the trowel, masonry brush, and mortar are fairly straightforward and easy to locate at home centers. The masonry stain can also be found at home centers. If you bring a chip of the retaining wall with you to the home center, they should be able to closely color match the stain.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by MJM Masonry (http://mjmmasonry.com/).

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Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.

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How to Repair a Cracked Stucco-Retaining Wall | Ask This Old House


  1. this guy has no clue what he is doing , didnt match it at all , no experience and it shows

  2. "Don't be afraid of it" is contractor for
    "Stop being a little 🐝" 🤣

  3. Hello I have a huge crack in the stucco of the overhang of my house. It is an inch wide. I am very concerned that it will get worse. I think maybe it was from the last earthquake. Please advise how I would fix this if, you would like I can send you photos also, thank you Kristy Gunzelman

  4. I do not understand what a "masonry stain" is, at the end… is that a type of paint?

  5. You widened the crack to 1/4" with a chisel before filling it with mortar. Other videos suggest just running a bead of some kind of stucco repair "caulk" and working that into the crack with a finger, then a sponge to feather out the repair. Your thoughts?

  6. That's it don't be afraid of it, get as deep as you can, yep that's it, clean it out as you go. 🤣🤣🤣

  7. Excellent video.
    However, I would do the project a bit differently. As a home owner in San Diego with exterior stucco wall, I would use real stucco materials (Omega Base 2 or Base 10 with right color match or La Habre Base 100 or 200 with right color match, cost less than $20 for a bag of 90 LB of Base and 1 Lb color match).

    Fill the gap as shown in the video with with real stucco materials AND no PAINTING.

    You do not paint a stucco wall ever. The main reason for having a stucco wall is that it breathes and let the water/moisture out through the pores. Once you paint the stucco wall, the breathing advantage is no longer exists and it is prune to peeling and periodic need for repainting. A good stucco structure should last 30, 50, or 80 years. If a cracks develops, fix it with real stucco material, not with synthetic fillers or mortar mix that can not be color matched.

  8. Lol pretty obvious where the patch was.

  9. Thats actually fantastic, really great 🙂

  10. Can I use cob to fix stucco?

  11. Not sure how much it will open up and I thought the texture was pretty weak.

    I'm just a simple handyman in only have 25 or 30 jobs under my belt with stucco and concrete pass work but I have learned a ton not only from This Old House but from Kirk Giordano on YouTube his family and business…

  12. Idk. That crack looks kinda CGI to me

  13. They could of just took the wall down and do a bigger one or at least where the roots wont crack it

  14. Almost as bad as the crack tbh

  15. Did he just said narly!!!
    This dude needs an upgrade.

  16. If he works his missus like he uses a hammer, she’ll be one un happy woman

  17. that patch looks like crap lol

  18. I feel that they should drive several screws on to the wall to hold them together

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