Stucco Homes Are Totally Underrated—Here’s Why

published Mar 9, 2019
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The ancient Greeks and Romans had some great ideas that are still around today in some form (The Olympics, geometry, newspapers, grid systems, bacchanals, etc.) Another unsung hero from the period? Stucco (the form of siding similar to plaster) which was formerly used as a base for painting frescoes.

Though the average homeowner is no longer using it to paint “The Last Judgment,” they are still using it to side their homes. But let’s face it: A stuccoed house’s rough exterior can make it hard for some to love. You might want to consider working through your issues, though, because it offers multiple benefits for homeowners (especially those in certain climates).

Stuck on stucco? Here are three reasons to love it (and, of course, one reason some may want to stay away):

1. It’s classic

Stucco is typically used to replicate traditional Mediterranean architecture, but can be updated to look modern, too. The material easily lends itself to various colors and textures, explained Bruce Bronster, a New York City real estate lawyer and home-builder with several properties currently for sale in the Hamptons.

Bronster notes that stucco can be more easily manipulated than other materials for texture—think anywhere from soft and swirly to rich and layered. It also can be easily tinted.

2. It’s moderately priced

Two of the most common types of stucco are traditional, or “real” stucco, made with a cement compound (available in one-coat or three-coat systems); and synthetic, referred to in the industry as EIFS (exterior insulation and finish system.)

While traditional stucco is cheaper to assemble than brick or stone, it’s still more expensive than wood or vinyl siding, explains Allen Dzbanek, senior vice president of design and construction with Douglaston Development in New York City. This is mostly because it requires labor-intensive masonry. Cement stucco is commonly layered in three coats over wood or metal lath and building paper, Dzbanek says. One coat stucco only requires one quick coat over a layered base of insulation.

EIFS is usually the most expensive, as it’s a complicated system that requires up to nine layers of base layers and coats.

3. It requires minimal upkeep

Homebuyers are often wary of traditional stucco homes because of their required routine maintenance, but the siding can last for 50 years with minimal attention if applied correctly when a house is built, Dzbanek says.

If the siding does need some TLC, you can simply apply a fresh coat of paint or silicone sealant every five to 10 years, Bronster adds.

“My experience is that it actually weathers as well as any other siding,” he says.

4. Water is its worst enemy.

Stucco’s worst enemy is cracking. Dzbanek is experiencing this issue firsthand with his house: It has taken the brainpower of several contractors to repair a crack in the traditional stucco on a 1980s addition.

If the installation of the material and its underlying layers is haphazard, water can seep inside and wreak havoc, making houses in wet climates particularly susceptible to this kind of damage, he says. Movements can also pose risks for traditional stucco, whether from a house settling naturally or environmental causes like earthquakes.

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