So, you’ve undoubtedly seen stucco at some point in your life. It’s actually become a very trendy interior and exterior finish in recent years, even in climates and regions where people generally don’t expect to encounter it. Traditionally, people associate stucco with places like Florida, California or the general southwestern part of the United States, and of course, the Latin cultures of both South/Central America and Europe whence they originate.
Today, you see it everywhere, and why not? It’s a very charming, beautiful material with a lot of personality (without being overstated as a result). But what exactly is this exotic material? Nothing else out there looks or feels quite like stucco, so it must surely be some sort of alien material with no other comparable examples in the known world, right? Well, you’ll be surprised to find out otherwise.
What is Stucco?
Stucco is a type of cement, believe it or not. It has a texture and appearance that looks a lot like plaster, and this is partly due to its consistency and method of application. But, unlike plaster, it’s water and temperature resistant, while achieving the same textured, seamless application across one or multiple surfaces.
It’s glare resistant, very affordable, and mostly a good insulator as well. It’s excellent at deflecting heat. It’s not fantastic at trapping heat for the most part, but with modern formulae and additional insulation technologies, it can function just fine for that, hence its appearance in cold and temperate climes in recent decades.
Stucco Building Codes Standards
Actually, in almost all states, it falls within the same standard sets (Chapter 14 in most states) for interior and exterior walls.
The one exception is that in some cases, minor cracks, fractures or chips in stucco are less of a cause for alarm than in other materials, due to the consistency and nature of how stucco works, and how it is repaired or remediated. But in most cases, you simply need to comply with the same building codes applicable to other interior and exterior finishes.
However, this varies a good bit from state to state, so be sure to consult with local authorities in case you happen to be in a location with abnormal or specific code standards that aren’t the norm. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Advantages of Stucco
Stucco’s biggest advantage is that it’s a continuous structure once it’s applied. Being a form of cement, it’s a pliable coating that’s spread over a surface, at which point it cures into a solid shell. Its closest analog is plaster, which is applied in and for the same basic reasons.
Unlike plaster, however, stucco isn’t as fragile as egg shells. While it’s not as resilient as other forms of cement and concrete, it holds up to mild bumps, scuffs and other impacts inside the home, without needing to be repaired in most cases. It requires a hammer to be taken to it, to do immediate, hole-forming damage usually.
It’s also resistant to water, heat and cold, which means that unlike plaster, it can be applied to interiors and exteriors in pretty much the same manner. Really, you don’t need different formulations or types of stucco for either application, which means that if you’re choosing to go with this material for your indoor and outdoor surfaces, you can have a single contractor handle it all for a better price, and with a single standard of practice.
The Disadvantages of Stucco
Of course, nothing’s perfect, and that includes stucco. This material can be a bit of a hassle once it shows signs of fatigue – and all materials eventually do show fatigue, that’s the law of entropy. Unlike siding, if stucco is damaged, your best bet is to remediate it. This involves tearing down an entire wall’s stucco layer, sheathing and insulation, and rebuilding it from the ground up.
It’s not modular like bricks or siding, meaning that to get to the root cause of the problem (usually water damage), further damage has to be done initially. Stucco is also not the best at containing heat, versus deflecting it. Its popularity in hot climates is due to its ability to fight the sun’s heating of a structure. This is less of an issue with modern materials, but if you live in an area where it gets cold for protracted timeframes, you’ll need additional insulation measures.
Pre-Mixed Stucco Manufacturers
There are a great many manufacturers of pre-mixed stucco, which does save a lot of money due to the laborious process of mixing the stuff from scratch. It also holds everyone to similar standards for formulation and quality. Among them are Parex USA, Omega Products, Mission Stucco, Merlex Stucco, Eagle Building Materials, California Stucco, and BMI Products.
Can You Color Stucco?
Yes! It’s possible to add coloration to the actual material in some cases, though often, it’s given an acrylic or other finish, along with paint. But colored stucco mixes do indeed exist. Just know, you’re committing to the color with this, and built-in coloration can affect its integrity, cost, and ability to deflect sunlight.
How do You Keep a Stucco Surface Clean and Maintained?
Most maintenance is all about keeping the finish and paint intact, which adds additional shoring up against the invasion of water. Once cracks form, you need to seek professional help, it will probably need remediated eventually.
To clean stucco, merely hose it down, or use soap and lukewarm water. Use a soft sponge or soft-haired brush to gently scrub built-up dirt and other debris off. Don’t use abrasive materials or a pressure washer!
To learn more about stucco and more technical details about building codes (especially state to state), fill out our contact form or call us today! At JDT, we know stucco.