In certain parts of America, particularly in the Southwest, the predominant building siding is stucco: a plaster-like material that is traditionally made of lime and sand and water (today stucco usually also incorporates Portland cement).
Whilst most often associated with Pueblo, Mission and Spanish Colonial styles houses; stucco is also a popular choice for Mediterranean style houses and contemporary architecture that especially prizes a smooth stucco finish for creating clean silhouettes. In this exterior home siding guide we take a closer look at stucco finishes to help you find the right stucco texture and look for your home
When you get talking with a stucco contractor it’ll be important to differentiate between the type of stucco and the style of stucco! The type of stucco refers to the application system that is being used. In traditional stucco siding you can have either a one-coat system or a three-coat (or hard coat) system; and there is also the EIFS system – a synthetic product which looks a lot like traditional stucco!
However, when we talk of styles of stucco, what we really mean is the texture or finish of the final layer. Here are the most common stucco texture finishes that are available on most types of stucco and EIFS siding.Images courtesy of Pinterest
Dash is a highly textured, gritty stucco finish that looks rather as if fine gravel has been added into the stucco plaster mix. Some contractors actually do incorporate gravel into the plaster and this is known as Roughcast. But most of the Dash stucco finishes you’ll see today are simply made by spraying the stucco (with a hopper gun) or splattering it (by hand) onto the final coat; the Dash can be either fine, medium or heavy in texture depending on how much is applied.
Pebbledash is where actual aggregate material (small pebbles, gravel, flint chips, seashells or even crushed glass) is thrown onto the final wet stucco plaster coat, completely covering the surface. This is a particularly popular style of stucco finish in the United Kingdom and parts of Northern Europe.
As you might guess from the name, Sand stucco finishes look like some sand has been added to the stucco mix. This is because some sand has indeed been added! The texture is then finished using a stucco float to create a uniform spread of the texture. Different gauges of sand are used to create different Sand textures, from fine to medium to heavy. The heavier Sand finishes can look a lot like finer Dash finishes.
With this uncommon stucco finish, special round sand is mixed into a synthetic stucco mix and then finished with a trowel resulting in little groove indentations, rather like the space where a worm might have been!
Stucco lace finish is an extremely popular one as it‘s great for hiding imperfections and suits most building designs. It looks rather like a delicate lace pattern, created by applying a final layer of stucco in random directions using a skip-trowel; the final surface is then “knocked down” or flattened slightly creating the lace-like pattern. Again, depending on the trowel application you can get fine or heavy lace finishes.
This finish is the smoothest finish you’ll see in stucco, where the final layer of stucco is scraped flat with a metal tool. A growing trend with smooth finishes is to create a customized mottled color effect, adding a level of uniqueness to your home.
This traditional style of stucco finish is similar to a smooth finish, but uses a specially formulated stucco mix which gives a semi-smooth, irregular texture similar to early California adobe style buildings.
Images courtesy of Pinterest
There are several other decorative stucco finishes that you will come across depending on the contractor; these stucco finishes all involve different ways of applying the final coat of stucco, using trowels or molded floats to achieve different patterns. For example your stucco can be made to looks like a brick exterior, exposed timber beams or a tiled wall. Some other relatively popular decorative finishes are:
– Cat Face: random rough patches are scattered against a smooth finish.
– Briar: a smooth coat with random, imprinted lines in a loose abstract pattern.
– Trowel sweep: a fan-shaped pattern.
– Combed: a thick coat of stucco combed with a special tool resulting in a ridged pattern.
– Freestyle: a catch–all description for stucco that has been hand finished with a trowel resulting in freely applied markings, sweeps or swirls.
As with other types of siding, stucco siding specialists will offer a range of complimentary architectural accents, moldings and trims to finish your building. Depending on your building’s architectural style, some accents will likely be of a different material – for example the Spanish Colonial style often has stone door and window surrounds and wood framed roofs with wood soffit. You can also keep the aesthetic very pure by opting for exterior accents in molded stucco (or composite materials coated in stucco) matched to the color of the stucco siding. Stucco accents include:
– Trims, cornices, sills and bands: different decorative styles are available to be used to frame doorways and windows.
– Arches, Columns, Pilasters and Quoins: decorative elements that add classical touches and can be fluted or non-fluted (quoins are decorative corner blocks).
– Keystones, Pediment Flowers, Corbels and Brackets: available in numerous styles to compliment your building.
– Shutters and Vents: finishing elements for windows and for air vents.
Once you’ve chosen a texture style you like, you will need to think about which color to choose. This is likely to be a tricky decision to make. Most stucco products integrate color dyes in the final coat. Depending on the manufacturer you can create a customized color by mixing different dyes together; furthermore you can also paint stucco with exterior paints that come in every color of the rainbow. You can even choose to use two different colors of stucco on your home to highlight different architectural features!
However, what you should bear in mind is that although well-applied stucco should last a long time, if you are unlucky and do have damage certain texture styles will be easier to repair. For example Sand and Dash finishes are generally easier to patch up, whilst Smooth finishes are more difficult and can be more prone to cracking.
Having said that, getting the best results when repairing damage on any kind of stucco will very much depend on how easy it is to match up the colors; so opting for a traditional or common color and a more easily repaired style might be the best choice in terms of the longevity of your investment.
Finally, no matter which stucco texture style or color you choose, the best results will always come from working with a qualified and experienced contractor who will also advise you on the right kind of stucco application system for your home and what style will best suit your home design.
Is you heart set on Stucco siding? Check out our cost of stucco guide.