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A complete stucco siding installation guide for lean householders

Stucco siding is no stranger to the exterior of homes. It has been a trusted source of protection and durability for thousands of years, adorning houses from Florida to Greece and everything in between. Though this siding's ingredients have changed over the years, it's retained its good name and dependability. Stucco is best for dryer, warmer climates. You're better off avoiding it in humid, cooler climates because water is its mortal enemy. However, the upfront expense is lower, it's an attractive, natural siding choice, and it lasts for up to a century without needing repairs in the right setting. Stucco could be the right choice if you like the look and are willing to keep up with regular cleaning and maintenance. Keep reading to learn about this widely-used siding option's costs and upkeep requirements.

A complete stucco siding installation guide for lean householders

What is stucco siding?

Derivative of Mediterranean and Spanish architecture, stucco siding is an exterior cement coating composed of limestone, sand, portland cement, and water. Additives are sometimes used to further strengthen the end product too. While all these elements can be hand mixed, most will opt for the pre-mixed version, only requiring water for bonding.

Applied on flat pieces of wood called lath, stucco creates a fortified and seamless finish. Synthetic stucco is a newer material in the stucco siding world. Even so, it's still a viable choice as it's made from acrylic resin, creating more resistance to cracking.

Traditional vs synthetic stucco siding

Traditional stucco includes sand, lime, water, and usually cement; glass fibers and acrylics may be added for reinforced durability. Cement stucco is quite hard and must be applied on a stable mesh base, known as a lath, to prevent cracking. It is long-lasting, versatile, and easily maintained.

Synthetic stucco is relatively new to the market. This type does not add cement or lime but rather an acrylic resin, which makes it resistant to moisture and water damage. It is often applied over a foam board rather than mesh and is more reliable overall. The acrylic resin allows for more movement, making the siding more resistant to cracks and breakage. This type is also slightly more expensive than traditional stucco.

Stucco siding - Benefits and downsides

With plenty of pros, stucco gives you ample reason to make it your home's siding of choice.

  • Insulation. Stucco's thickness and level of density make it a rather good insulator. Layers of this sturdy siding create an airtight finish, offering you more energy efficiency in the coolest and warmest of months.
  • Durability. The cement mixture is known for its heavy-duty strength. Its ability to resist pests, fire, and mold is unmatched. Likewise, it's able to stand against the worst of weather events. Its lifespan of about 50-80 years proves a durable material worth the investment.
  • Low maintenance. One of the best qualities of stucco is that it does not require much maintenance, just some occasional cleaning. Spraying a bleach mixture on the stucco and then hosing it down soon after will leave it spotless. Also, small cracks and holes are simple fixes most homeowners are able to handle on their own with a good quality caulk.
  • Customization. Stucco can be finished in several ways, including a smooth flat finish or raised textures for a unique finish. Some of the most popular textures among stucco siding are knockdown dash, sand, and cat face. Also, stucco can be mixed with a plethora of pigments meaning color options are limitless.
  • Sound dampening. While it isn't considered soundproof, stucco siding does provide a level of sound dampening by mitigating outside noise. Similarly, it can help diminish noise coming from the inside out.

While there are many benefits to applying stucco siding, there are a few drawbacks to consider when making your decision.

  • Professional installation is needed. To achieve an even layering and seamless look, it’s recommended that homeowners hire an experienced professional for installation. A stucco installation professional may charge $8,500 to $16,088, a significant portion of any project budget. However, you will save money on repairs down the road by ensuring that your siding is correctly installed to seal out moisture and maintain efficiency.
  • High upfront cost. When considering the cost factor, stucco is often priced higher at the onset than other siding types. This is mainly due to the installation and labor expenses; the material itself is actually very affordable. Stucco siding may cost between $5 and $9.58 per square foot installed. However, it’s important to note that stucco siding requires little maintenance and upkeep costs and has greater longevity than other types of siding. All things considered, stucco siding may pay for itself in the long run when you account for the lower energy bills and minimal repair and replacement costs.
  • Not for all climates. While stucco siding is ideal for sunny, moderate, warm, and dry climates, there are a few climates that are not a great match for this type of façade – very damp areas and wet, tropical locations are not suitable. While stucco is an excellent water repellant, it has its limits. Eventually, the stucco will become oversaturated if constantly exposed to heavy rainfall, leading to decreased efficiency. Underlying layers of wood and internal home structures may begin to take on moisture and deteriorate over time.

What to consider before stucco siding installation?

Whether you’re thinking about having stucco siding installed or are looking at a stucco home, it’s important to think about the pros and cons of stucco to see if it’s right for you.

Here are the main things you’ll want to consider:

  • Your location. The climate, average rainfall, proximity to water, and more can all affect the durability and effectiveness of stucco. If you’re in a dry, hot area, stucco can be a great choice because it deflects heat and keeps the interior nice and cool. If you’re in a humid area or where it gets very cold, stucco is a poor choice because it’s not a great insulator and is prone to damage from humidity. 
  • The look. Stucco is a look in and of itself, so how does it fit with the way you want your home to appear? Stucco looks most natural in Spanish Mission-style architecture, but it’s an interesting twist to add to other architectural styles as well. Make sure you like the unique appearance of stucco enough to choose it for your home. 
  • Repairs and damage. Stucco is more easily damaged than other types of siding, like brick and natural stone. Are you willing to be vigilant about maintaining stucco and having any small cracks or holes fixed right away? That’s the only way to keep it in good condition long term. 
  • Cost. Stucco is more costly than non-insulated vinyl siding, but consider how affordable stucco is compared to other siding types like stone or brick. If you’d love a natural stone home but can’t afford the high price, stucco could be a great option. You can have a builder use stucco techniques like roughcast or pebbledash to get the stone look without the higher cost. 

How much does stucco siding cost?

Expect to pay between $6 and $9 per square foot to add stucco to your home. This includes labor and materials. If you decide to hire the job out rather than DIY, the labor portion will set you back between $2 and $3 per square foot.

For the stucco material itself, the cost ranges from about $5 to $6 per square foot. You will also need to budget for the stucco base (around $31 for a bag that covers up to 480 square feet) and the finishing coat (around $17 for a bag that covers 35 square feet). Other costs include any necessary supplies or equipment you don’t already have. If you hire a pro, this probably won’t be an issue, of course, since they most likely will bring their own.

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