Stucco Siding: A Visual Guide to Siding Options

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Stucco Siding


With its reasonable cost, variety of applications, and many recipes for making it, stucco has been in use for hundreds of years. Traditional stucco is a cement-type mixture added to sand or lime. Generally, a wooden wall is covered with galvanized metal screening and tarpaper, then covered with stucco. Stucco is often applied to brick or stone as well. On this Spanish Mission-style home, the stucco is textured to give the feel of age and durability.

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Stucco Siding Today


Stucco siding has seen a resurgence in recent years because it is affordable, easy, flexible, and durable. Stucco can meet most nonstandard design needs such as curves and angles in walls. It performs well in most areas, although warm, dry climates are best.

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Durable and Breathable


Stucco's durability and ability to breathe are its primary benefits as a siding material. Stucco is solid, water-shedding, and impact-resistant. It offers rock-hard protection to the subwall, but water that gets in does not become trapped between the siding and the structure. This makes stucco resistant to rot and fungus and protects the quality of the air inside the house.

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Stucco is classified as noncombustible by the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. A three-coat system of stucco over 2x4s with metal lath attached, a layer of sheathing such as plywood, and a layer of drywall on the inside provides up to one hour of fire resistance.

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The thickness, layers, and unbroken surface of stucco siding reduce noise transmission. Because stucco seals openings as it is applied, it blocks paths that sound waves would follow in other types of exterior finishes.

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Unlike wood siding, stucco is not susceptible to attack from insects, rodents, or other gnawing or chewing creatures.

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Sealing Required in Some Climates


Stucco is relatively maintenance-free but should be sealed in some climates. Subzero temperatures in the Midwest make sealing a necessity to keep the stucco from absorbing water that will freeze and expand, causing cracks, scaling, and leaks. Use a sealer such as a high-quality elastomeric paint. Elastomeric paints will expand and contract with the stucco.

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Sturdy in Earthquakes


Stucco is the only exterior siding that can improve a building's ability to withstand an earthquake, studies have shown. After a major earthquake in California, engineers discovered that framed two-story buildings sided in the traditional three-coat stucco had a far better survival rate than other structures.

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Design Flexibility


Because it can be shaped and textured, stucco is used to achieve an array of architectural styles and designs. This Mediterranean-influenced home displays a small fraction of the number of features, textures, and patterns possible with this extremely flexible material.

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No Painting Necessary


A tremendous bonus with stucco siding is that permanent pigments can be added as it's made so painting will never be necessary. Before choosing a tinted stucco for your house, create a few test panels to see what it will look like when completely dry. The color will change as the stucco dries.

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Can Be Painted


Stucco can be painted, but doing so turns a maintenance-free siding material into one that requires regular upkeep. New stucco must be allowed to cure for six to nine months before any primer or paint is applied. The stucco must be allowed to release the moisture it contains or the paint will not bond with the material and will peel prematurely. Select a paint suited to stucco and apply the primer recommended by the manufacturer.

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Can Be Lime-Washed


If you want to change the color of your existing stucco siding, consider a lime wash. A coat of lime wash gives a house the old-world stucco look. Lime wash was used by early Egyptians and likely even before, as it is relatively easy to make and the materials are available in most parts of the world. Lime wash works by filling hairline cracks with a mixture of lime putty and water, which adds a level of moisture protection but allows the stucco to breathe. While lime wash eventually wears off, making a reapplication necessary every few years, many people simply let it age naturally and achieve the look of a historic patina.

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Can Be Recoated


Recoating stucco siding adds a permanent new finish to the home but does require as much preparatory work as the original installation. Recoating provides the opportunity to try different textures or finish colors. Prior to recoating, the stucco surface must be cleaned so the new finish will adhere. Apply a permeable bonding agent that is geared to your climate.

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Stucco Siding on a Craftsman Home


This Craftsman-style home features spatter-dash-textured stucco walls with pebble-dash column bases and main-floor accent walls. Spatter-dash (or splatter, rough-cast, or wet-dash) and pebble-dash (or dry-dash) were the most common stucco finishes in the early 20th century. The spatter-dash finish is created by throwing stucco against the surface and using a stiff brush for a rough surface. The pebble-dash finish is created by throwing dry pebbles into a coat of fresh stucco.

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Stucco Siding on a Tudor Home


Steeply pitched gable roofs, artfully detailed masonry chimneys, clustered windows, and grand entryways generally make Tudor homes easy to recognize. Elaborate brick or stonework on the first story is usually accompanied by decorative half-timbering, or exposed wood framework, with the spaces between the timbers filled with stucco.

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Stucco Siding on an Italianate Home


Architectural elements sculpted from stucco distinguish this home as Italianate. They include quoins, arches, cornices, crowns, windowsills, and decorative bands. The formed stucco on the body of the walls has been shaped to give the impression of a carved stone structure that will be around for a long time.

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Stucco Siding on an English Cottage


A sloping slate roof, massive chimney dominating one side, stonework, decorative half-timbering, and stucco are the characteristics of an English cottage or Cotswold cottage. The English Cottage style was born of the Tudor style, so the two share many architectural details. The smaller English cottage style became especially popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.

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Economical Choice


Stucco siding requires no painting or refinishing, resulting in savings of as much as $1,000 a year. Costs for stucco systems are less per square yard than brick, stone, cedar, or fiber cement siding. The low costs of installing stucco combined with its versatile design capabilities, damage resistance, impact resistance, fire resistance, and low upkeep costs make it one of the most cost-effective choices for residential cladding.

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