Stucco Siding – What is it, Pros & Cons and Stucco Repair
Stucco siding is an ancient siding option appreciated today for its classic good looks and excellent durability. The material can be tinted to exactly the color you want for your home’s exterior, and design enhancements are possible too. Visit our siding homepage for guides to other types of siding or read on for more about stucco.
WHAT IS STUCCO?
Stucco is a mix of Portland cement, sand, limestone, water and additives to increase the material’s strength and flexibility. The application of stucco has several steps:
- The home’s exterior might be covered with a vapor barrier such as tar paper
- Heavy wire mesh known as lath is attached to the exterior to hold the stucco
- Traditionally, stucco is applied in three coats: the scratch coat which creates adhesion to the lath, the brown coat that produces a thick and even layer, and the finish coat which includes the specific texture desired
- All coats can be hand-applied or sprayed on
- The finish coat can be smooth or textured in a variety of attractive ways
- One-coat stucco is just a thick finish coat and has been developed to reduce the time and cost of installation
Note: This article is concerned with traditional forms of stucco siding. For more information on synthetic stucco (or EIFS) click here. And you can compare stucco vs EIFS here.
STUCCO DURABILITY AND CLIMATE
Stucco is very durable. While most stucco installers provide warranties of 15 to 20 years, properly maintained stucco siding can last for more than 100 years. The proof is in the fantastic condition of many stucco-sided buildings dating back to the 19th century or earlier.
Stucco siding can be effective in most climates when it is maintained in good condition. However, since moisture can transfer through stucco, it might lead to moisture problems in the home’s framing in very damp climates. In freezing climates, water might get into cracks in the stucco and cause severe damage during freeze and thaw cycles.
Historically speaking, stucco siding has been the most popular in the Southwest where it is used on about 60 percent of homes. Nationally, stucco accounts for about 23 percent of siding.
PROS AND CONS OF STUCCO SIDING
Let’s take a look at the positives first.
Stucco siding advantages:
- Stands up well to weather, wind and debris
- Choice of any color and many textures
- Can be formed to create decorative enhancements to the exterior
- Low maintenance
- Resistant to fire and insects
- Quiets outside noise
- Offers some insulation value
However it’s not a perfect siding material.
Stucco siding disadvantages:
- May crack as a home expands and contracts with temperature changes, settles or gets jostled by earthquakes
- Experienced professional installation is crucial for performance and appearance
Note: Stucco can be painted, but many experts discourage it due to the fact that moisture passes through stucco. When painted, moisture leaving your home can be trapped in the stucco and cause the paint to peel or worse, cause mold to form in your home’s framing.
Stucco advantages over other building materials:
- Stucco costs less than brick, stone, most wood and some vinyl and aluminum siding
- Durability (50-80 years) is greater than vinyl siding (20-30), aluminum siding (20-30) and fiber cement (30-50)
- Requires less maintenance than wood and fiber cement
- Resists fire, insects and weather better than all but brick
Stucco disadvantages compared to other building materials:
- Material costs more than some vinyl, aluminum and fiber cement
- Not as durable (50-80 years) as brick (75+)
STUCCO REPAIR COSTS
If your climate isn’t too wet and the stucco is installed properly, you can expect to enjoy many years of problem-free stucco siding. Repairs aren’t needed often, but when they are, patching stucco and stucco crack repair is quite easy and affordable.
Cracks in stucco are the most common, yet infrequent, issue. The most effective, long-lasting stucco crack repair is to fill cracks with a flexible exterior caulk. Use a caulk gun to apply the caulk and a putty knife to work the caulk into the crack. The best crack repair caulk is elastomeric which means it is both very strong and very flexible.
Chips in the siding should be repaired with stucco patch. Large chips can be set back into place using elastomeric (Acrylic) caulk as the glue. Smaller cavities can be filled with caulk or patching material to form a durable stucco patch.
If you would prefer leaving stucco repair to the pros, an experienced stucco contractor will know how to patch stucco for best appearance and durability.
The stucco repair cost you’re quoted will depend on the number, length and severity of the crack or required patch. The cost of repairing stucco might be nothing within the warranty period. Beyond that, stucco repair cost is usually $1 to $2 per linear feet of crack. Most stucco repair professionals will also have a one-time service fee of $50-$200 that might be waived if the total cost of repairs exceeds it.