Why Stucco? A concise summary

the_bo_kaap_cape_town
The Bo-Kapp area of Cape Town features colourful stucco houses (Photo: http://www.holidaybug.co.za/)

Here is a summary of the reasons why one should choose stucco as an exterior cladding. This is not a balanced article, it does not include the reasons why stucco should be avoided.

1. Versatile

Can be applied over many different types of surfaces including concrete masonry or wood framing

Can be applied seamlessly

Can be layered to creates a heavily textured surface

Can be used in new builds as well as renovations

2. Installs quickly

A conventional house usually requires between one and two days, including drying time

3. Energy efficient

Low U-value (or if you prefer the inverse, high R-value)

4. Durable

Expands and contracts as the temperature changes

Reduced risk of flaking, cracking or crumbling

Can last over fifty years with little maintenance

Rot, mildew and mold resistant

5. Enhances value

Earthquake resistant

Fire resistant

Sound dampening

6. Low maintenance

In warm and dry climates, little or no maintenance, except occasional washing to remove spots or stains

In hot and humid climates, little maintenance

In cold and wet climates, little maintenance provided

  • snow is cleared away from walls
  • eavestroughs direct water away from walls (that’s a Canadian word for gutters)

7. Reduced house insurance premiums (in North America)

8. Many options

Textural

  • Coarse
  • Pebbled
  • Raked
  • Smooth
  • Swirled

Colour

  • Pigment mixed directly into the mix
  • Can be repainted

 

Stucco

My childhood home was clad in rockdash stucco. There are no rocks in it, only 3 – 6 mm pieces of broken coloured glass. It is a technique not favoured today, in part because it is extremely difficult to repair.

314+Ash+Street+New+Westminster+BC
Pi House, 314 Ash Street, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada. I last lived there in 1972. It looks as if the new owners have had to repair the stucco to the left of the entrance. Repairs are what makes rockdash stucco houses so problematic to own.

My wife’s childhood home was also clad is stucco, but in a form of roughcast, which is slightly less of a problem to repair because it adds stones to the mix, whereas rockdash puts them on top.

Despite the fact that there are numerous ugly stucco buildings, I still find it the most appealing method of cladding. It has only taken me forty years to come around to this view. OK, sixty five years plus. Wood rots. I’m not in a social class that uses stone – being neither a laird nor a crofter. I’m not brutal enough to appreciate massive concrete. Nor am I English, so brick doesn’t have much appeal either. I am stuck with stucco.

I had considered manufacturing cement fiber sheeting, but in order to make the sheets thin enough (4 – 8 mm), the process requires the use of expensive silica sand and even more expensive special purpose chemicals.

Wikipedia states that stucco is the predominant exterior wall material in both residential and commercial construction in five states: California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stucco

While many stucco houses use a subdued pallet, this does not apply in all cases. Personally, I would like to have our house continue to be bright yellow.

Bright-Yellow
My preferred colour of stucco, here combined with stone and wood, in a climate warmer than Norway’s. (Photo: http://thestuccoguy.com/stucco-colors-which-one-to-choose/)

There are many other colours available, some even less subtle:

Another-Pink-Theme
Another attractive colour for a stucco building. I grew up with pink inside the common rooms, as well as outside our house. My bedroom was blue. (Photo: http://thestuccoguy.com/stucco-colors-which-one-to-choose/)

There is not an excessive amount of information about DIY stuccoing on the net. Here are three important sources:

  1. For restoration work: https://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/22-stucco.htm
  2. Text materials about contemporary methods: http://thestuccoguy.com/
  3. Videos about contemporary methods: https://www.youtube.com/user/StuccoPlastering

 

My plan for the spring of 2018 is to use stucco as part of Project Pumpkin, the construction of a ca. 15 m3 gardening shed, to replace one expropriated.