Everything You Need to Know About Stucco—and Why It’s Great for Warm Climates

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated July 28, 2021
Modern stucco house
By slobo via iStock / Getty Images

Stucco siding is a low-maintenance, low-cost option that will protect your home in an eye-catching way

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What makes stucco so special? This siding is as strong on the inside as it is rough and rustic on the outside. Though stucco is available in numerous styles and finishes, it’s actually less expensive than many alternatives. Basically, it’ll protect your home in style while also cutting down costs—especially if you live somewhere warm.

What Is Stucco and How Does It Work?

Stucco is a type of siding that’s made from a mixture of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water. It’s both malleable and durable, making it an ideal canvas for unique designs and colors while being sturdy enough to stand the test of time. 

Though traditionally applied in three coats, many modern processes only require one. Pre-mixed kits are readily available, too.

What Are the Different Types of Stucco?

There are two types of stucco to choose from: traditional and synthetic.

Traditional Stucco

This type of stucco is a combination of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water. Though it’s waterproof, it’s also prone to developing cracks over time. On the bright side, it’s also easier to repair than synthetic options.

Synthetic Stucco

Unlike traditional stucco, synthetic (or acrylic) stucco is made from a mix of acrylic resins and polymers, rather than cement. While it’s better at retaining heat than traditional stucco, it’s more expensive and harder to customize.

Why Should I Choose Stucco?

In general, stucco does an excellent job of insulating hot and cold air. In fact, its energy-saving potential is one of its biggest draws, especially in warmer climates. 

It also has a natural resistance to fire and it’s a lot easier to maintain than other types of siding, like vinyl or wood.

What Are the Most Common Types of Applications?

Stucco house exterior
By soleg - stock.adobe.com

There are a handful of ways to apply stucco, and each comes with several pros and cons.

Three-Coat Stucco

The traditional stucco application consists of three coats:

Once the stucco is applied, you finish with a top or finish coat, just as you would with any other siding. 

Three-coat stucco is twice as thick as one-coat stucco and doubly durable, too. On the downside, it takes much longer to apply and cure, and the extra time and materials will usually be reflected in what you pay.

  • Wire and paper (also known as lath), which is layered onto the home’s exterior walls

  • A scratch coat

  • A brown coat

One-Coat Stucco

This process combines the lath, scratch coat, brown coat, and even the finish coat into one single master coat. It’s an inexpensive alternative because it requires fewer materials and less time to apply, but it’s also much thinner and, as a result, not as protective.

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems

This is a newer form of stucco application that can consist of up to six layers and is done with synthetic, rather than traditional, stucco. 

Exterior walls are first coated with fiberglass mesh and foam board insulation, then sprayed with an acrylic-polymer coat of styrofoam-based stucco. It’s more expensive than traditional or one coat applications, but it can provide extra insulation to your home and almost never cracks.

What’s the Difference Between Stucco and Plaster?

Plaster is a lot more versatile than stucco. It doesn’t require as much preparation before application and can easily be applied to many different kinds of surfaces, like drywall and concrete. While stucco is exclusively reserved for exterior walls, plaster can even be applied inside of a home.

Can I Apply Stucco or Should I Hire a Pro?

Applying stucco is a relatively easy project for a homeowner to DIY, but it does require a fair bit of equipment that you might not already have tucked away in your toolshed. Trowels, stucco floats, scoops, and mixers are just some of the pricier items you’ll need. 

Hiring a local stucco professional will cost more than doing it on your own, but it’ll save you from having to track down all those materials.

How Much Does Stucco Application Cost on Average?

The cost to hire a pro to install stucco ranges from $1,900 to $7,500, and is about $5,000 on average. Materials cover about half of this cost, so it can be significantly cheaper to complete the process yourself.

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