Stucco has been around since the dawn of architecture adorning some of the most revered architectural masterworks in history. A close cousin of plaster (made of gypsum), stucco consists of Portland cement. Today its popularity endures for stucco’s ability to weather all types of climates as a low cost, low maintenance, breathable, water and mold resistant exterior surface. People tend to associate stucco with Spanish, Tuscan and Mediterranean style homes. That would be a stereotype and limited view of stucco’s design potential.
In the Deep South, ( in states such as Louisiana) you’ll often find stucco coated front porches and facades on a solid exposed brick home. The French used this stucco-brick combination to create painted accent walls. Whatever the architectural style of home, stucco is a defining characteristic. Stucco out of sync with its architecture looks like a bad makeup job. Stucco in perfect harmony with a home’s style and surroundings is the product of 3 key decisions:
Choosing the right stucco texture is key in defining the architectural style you are trying to achieve. Your choices range from smooth to a wide range of textures and patterns. “Your decision of whether to go with a stucco exterior that is eye-catching or subtle should take into account the visual dominance of other exterior features,” says Orlando Custom Home Builder Jorge Ulibarri, who builds his homes out of concrete masonry with stucco exteriors. “Concrete masonry units work perfectly with stucco as a canvas. Stucco is low-cost, low maintenance, easy and affordable to repair.” Homes that are made of frame construction can also support stucco exteriors by using metal lathes and a vapor-permeable, water-resistant building paper to separates the plaster and lath from water-sensitive sheathing or framing. The method of applying stucco ranges from the fastest method, a base coat with a sprayed-on finish coat or two or three base coats with a finish coat, the more durable and expensive finish.
The curb appeal of a home’s façade can really shine with a great stucco job that provides visual and tactile texture. Stucco has the ability to be sculpted into a variety of interesting patterns that can mimic the look of other materials such as wood, brick, or stone.
Stucco finishes range in quality and price. Smoother stucco finishes (also known as Old World Stucco) are more expensive because they require more technique and skill and are less forgiving. Knockdown is a cheaper stucco finish often used in production homes and costs 20 to 30 percent less than smooth stucco finishes.
“Builders typically use a knockdown stucco finish to hide all the imperfections of the home’s exterior. Some contractors treat smoother stucco as an upgrade,” explains Ulibarri, who uses Old World stucco finishes on all of his homes. Smoother stucco is more labor intensive, less forgiving, and higher quality finish than knockdown. A sleek stucco exterior is created by smoothing the stucco with a steel tool in a range of thickness from light to medium to heavy. Here are a few examples of the different gradients of smooth stucco:
Other stucco finishes include: dash, a rough stucco finish with small peaks of stucco sticking out; sand, that looks like grains of sand on the home; and a lace texture that mimics the look of a heavy lace fabric.
Now that you have decided on the type of stucco finish, you can create a unique signature exterior surface with a custom pattern. Some decorative finishes include a repeating fan pattern (the trowel sweep), a combed finish (thin vertical lines), and briar finish (random lines).
The homeowner also can choose how close or concentrated and pronounced the imperfections will appear on the stucco surface and the shape and pattern of the imperfections such as squiggly lines or bumps. To check out more stucco patterns and possibilities, click on the link www.tsib.org/