Maintaining Stucco Home Siding | Stucco Siding Maintenance

Maintaining Stucco Siding | Stucco Siding Maintenance

Stucco siding has a unique look that can be contemporary, stylish, and modern, but it is also widely used for architecturally-specific genres for instance, to complement the terracotta roof or wrought iron of a Spanish hacienda or Mediterranean-style building.

It's that versatility, along with its above-average performance, that makes stucco a popular choice with savvy homeowners. It is very durable and strong, and when well taken care of, it can last for decades. Some stuccoed facades have lasted for centuries!

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Maintaining Stucco Siding - Continued

Stucco can be dyed or painted any color, which makes it appropriate for just about any project you can think of. Its rough, multi-dimensional surface is visually appealing. The resulting texture can add depth and interest to a building, especially to a structure with a more institutional sameness to it, such as an otherwise bland apartment building.

Stucco is also naturally insular, and can help to keep a home cool. This is why it is so often used in warm and temperate climates, such as Greece, Italy, or the American Southwest.

Stucco is also extremely resilient, and while it is not the cheapest siding choice available to consumers, there are clear benefits to choosing stucco. For one, it is fireproof. In states such as California, that is one reason why stucco remains a popular siding choice, along with the fact that it meshes so well with the state's Spanish colonial history and architectural motifs.

Stucco is a mid-price siding option; not as high-end as stone or brick, but also not as budget-oriented as vinyl or wood. Even compared to vinyl or wood, it's not the cost of the material (which is roughly the same as vinyl) so much as it is the labor involved that makes its install cost higher.

Installation of Stucco Siding

Stucco is a mixture of Portland cement and limestone that is sprayed or spread over wire lath (usually tar paper and chicken wire) or fiber-cement board sheathing. The underlying lath or sheathing is used to increase the flexure and tension.

The desired color can be mixed in before applying the stucco, or it can be painted later, after it's dry. It typically takes two or three coats to get the desired effect, and it should be allowed to dry thoroughly between each coat. It needs to dry, or cure, slowly for 24 to 48 hours, often under a layer of plastic. If it dries too quickly, it might shrink too much and crack.

Stucco can't be applied directly to wood, because it won't adhere. The wood will absorb all the moisture. The tar paper and wire framework thus not only allows for greater strength, but also encourages the stucco to 'stick.'

Applying stucco can therefore be a bit tricky, and while you can do it yourself, it is recommended that you hire a professional if you want the best results. Many DIY stuccoers find themselves redoing the project several times before achieving success. If you do it yourself and it doesn't turn out right, don't lose sight of the fact that doing it again means you have to remove the first attempt before you even try to start over. This is why it's best to hire a pro from the start.

Beware of imposters! Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) is a completely synthetic material that is often confused with traditional stucco. EIFS is actually an acrylic-polymer coating of Styrofoam that is generally applied in the same manner as stucco. However, EIFS is more expensive and less effective. It is more vulnerable to weather extremes and isn't as durable. Be sure to get the real thing!

Hardiness

As it is a porous material, stucco absorbs moisture, but the moisture also evaporates back out really quickly for the same reason. Even in rainier or more humid climates, stucco is a solid performer against the onslaught of nature.

Stucco is a very durable material, but it isn't particularly forgiving when it comes to building movement. The lath underpinning helps it to be more flexible, but it can crack fairly easily in such cases.

However, there's a reason why stucco is still a popular siding choice in locales like California and the Mediterranean, where the earth is known to move quite violently it can be easily and inexpensively repaired.

Stucco Siding Maintenance

Given the performance of stucco over time, anyone looking for a good, solid defense against the elements and a long lifespan should definitely consider stucco siding. It is resilient, long-lasting and attractive, and it doesn't require much in the way of maintenance, which is an appealing quality to most homeowners.

Stucco siding just needs to be hosed off occasionally and repainted or repatched as needed. You can lightly pressure wash your stucco, even using an appropriate chemical treatment, as long as you do it carefully.

Hairline cracks can be fixed with paint, but if the crack is as wide as a credit card is thick, or wider (up to about an eighth of an inch), you'll need to use a brushable elastomeric sealant. You can also use a premixed stucco patch mixed with a little Portland cement for a better bond. Make sure the area to be patched has a ragged outline! Cracks tend to reappear on straight lines.

Just like when it was first applied, patch jobs need to cure slowly, so shade or cover the areas during hot weather, and try to keep the area damp (about 90% humidity) for 24 to 48 hours. If the patch dries too quickly, it'll just crack again later.

If you've got fissures wider than an eight of an inch (movement cracks) or areas where the stucco has flaked off to reveal the lath, you'll need to call a pro out to rake and fill the areas with a urethane sealant or similar.

Pay special attention to movement cracks, as they indicate bigger problems and can't just be patched. Consult a professional for advice.

Repainting Your Stucco Siding

If you decide to change the color of your home, stucco can be repainted. While it has a long lifespan and won't need to be re-stuccoed for decades, it can nonetheless be re-stuccoed whenever you choose.

You'll need to use a quality acrylic latex that is formulated for use with stucco, or an elastomeric. If the area you live in isn't prone to wind-driven rain, the acrylic latex will provide an excellent defense. If you have a substrate problem or frequently experience wind-driven rain, elastomerics are the better choice due to their heavier film build and elasticity.

Overall, stucco is a solid investment for any homeowner. It is durable, attractive, breathes well and is fire resistant, and can even help keep the house cool. It is low to medium maintenance, and if well taken care of, can last for decades and even well into the next century. Stucco is a mid-priced siding choice with an excellent performance record, and a solid choice for homeowners who expect a high return on their investment.

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