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Update Exteriors With Stucco

If you want to give your home a new personality, stucco could be a lot of look for the money. In use for more than two millennia, plaster work, or stucco, has long been appreciated for its utility. With its sand and cement base, it’s highly durable, maintenance-free, fire-resistant, and provides some insulation. It also offers a wide variety of textures, colors and finishes compared to a brick, stone or wood-sided home.  

Synthetic stucco was introduced in the 1980s to the American market- an import from Europe that had been tested for decades. Known as external insulation finish stucco or EIFS, synthetic stucco in the U.S. is most commonly applied to wood siding, with a layer of foam board insulation between it and the wall. It can also be applied directly to the external brick and mortar of a house.  

Depending on the material of your home’s exterior, synthetic stucco is first applied either with or without paper insulation on a wire mesh skeleton. Next the home is coated with many layers of plaster, to distribute the material on the surface until it reaches a final thickness of about one inch.  

Stucco can succumb to minor cracks, so you should expect them. They’re easily patched and nothing to worry about. It’s all part of the natural settling process of any home. Brick homes are typically fine with synthetic stucco but be aware that some problems can arise for synthetic stucco applied to a wood frame. If installed improperly, stucco can allow moisture in that could rot the wood underneath where mold and mildew can grow, so watch for cracks ¼ inch or larger, suggests Bob Vila.  However, he explains the addition of polymers, along with other agents and better application techniques have improved the resilience of stucco today.  

For best results you’ll need guttering and drains that direct rain accumulation away from the house, as well as flashing around the base of the material, especially where it comes in contact with new or other materials. The flashing directs water away from the base of the material and is an extra safeguard against moisture buildup and future troubles.  

When considering stucco, remember that it’s best for areas that don’t have a lot of movement in the ground, which is why it’s most popular in the Southwest. It also has a relatively low insulation factor compared to wood, an R factor of .20, which means it has only 20% of the insulation value of wood the same thickness.  That’s why you don’t see much stucco in northern climates. Yet, stucco’s stood the test of time for ages, looks great and keeps maintenance costs low. You can even repaint it if you tire of the color.