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I would like to securely attach window security bars to the outside of my new house but it appears to have this fake facade. Its a row home (e.g. townhouse) in Baltimore City and the front is brick (which I understand how to to work with) but based on the edges around a pipe coming through the back exterior, it appears to be a 1/4" metal mesh with stucco over it.

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I drill through the area in the top right of the image and it quickly goes through the first layer, then drops to the second layer, and quickly goes through that. I can't find anything solid within 2.5 inches. I tried using a magnetic stud finder and that did work either.

The best think I can think of is use some of those heavy duty drywall anchors. Any other suggestions?

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You have a couple options, depending on the level of pry resistance you require.

  1. Pilot for screws into the wall sheathing. Use at least a #10 wood screw, and pilot about half the shank diameter into the wood, then the shank diameter through the stucco (to prevent spalling and cracks). With long enough screws you'll have good grab into 1/2" wall sheathing, which should be OSB or plywood. It is possible that you have fiberboard or gypsum sheathing, in which case this won't work at all. If your bars have two screws at each corner this will provide fairly solid holding power. If there's only one screw, I'd look at #2.

  2. Find the studs. They will probably be on 16" intervals from one end and alongside each window or door. You might have the best luck searching from the inside using a stud finder or a small drill bit. Use wood screws that penetrate at least 1-1/2". Pilot through the stucco and a short distance into the stud to guide the screw and prevent glancing misses.

  3. Use a more modern means of security. An electronic system with glass break sensors might be more suitable. Screws can be removed and bars can be cut.

Notes:

  • The foam behind the stucco will compress under heavy forces, resulting in damage to the stucco. Do not run the screws in beyond slightly snug.
  • Drilling through the stucco compromises its weather resistance. Consider dabbing silicone or urethane caulk behind the hardware as you install it to seal those penetrations.
  • Repairing stucco (beyond small screw holes) is an art form, and getting a good texture and color match can be difficult. Do as little damage as possible.
  • Hitting studs usually requires custom sizing or adjustability. This may be a problem when buying off the shelf.
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  • Thanks. I'll try 1 or 2. Security systems are nice but in a place like Baltimore, making yourself not be the lowest hanging fruit by having visible deterrents like security doors and bars is the most important thing. – Rozgonyi Nov 21 '19 at 2:59

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