Stucco is the most common exterior cladding in California. It's a great material — until doors and windows need to be replaced. Then it becomes a problem, because the contractor must remove it from around the openings without damaging the remaining material or the building paper behind it. That can be particularly difficult on older homes, because the building paper — which serves as the code-required "weather-resistive barrier" (WRB) — is often as brittle as the parchment in King Tut's tomb.
The traditional way to replace a door or window in stucco is to break out the old stucco, install the unit, and then restucco around it (see "Replacing Windows in Stucco Walls," 6/04). The problem is that not everyone has access to a plasterer who's both skilled enough to make inconspicuous patches and willing to do small repair jobs....
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