September 13, 2018

All You Need to Know


The structure of home is so compelling; an inviting melody shared with every material, color, frame, and finish. Your exterior serves as an anticipatory note, introducing the grander story your home shares within, and it’s important that the note speaks to your heart. Perhaps it’s a look you’ve grown up with or an architectural form you’ve always dreamed of having, but choosing your exterior style is a major decision, and we want to help!

From Modern to Colonial or Craftsman, exterior styles run the gamut. That means whether you’re house hunting or building new, it can be helpful to narrow down your options. One way to do that is to evaluate the exterior material closely, determining whether it’s a finish that you 1) like the look of, and 2) are interested in maintaining. We’ve already covered the brick basics, and today, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about stucco!

Before we dig too deep, we thought it would be helpful to share a few notes on the advantages and disadvantages of stucco. Hopefully this quick list will serve as a guide for anyone out there currently on the fence about the material!

Advantages: Durable. Versatile colors and textures that create a custom look. Less expensive than brick. Requires minimal maintenance (dependent upon proper installation and lack of damage.) Can be painted. Fire-resistant.

Disadvantages: Brittle finish that can crack over time, making it a poor choice in regions where the soil is high in clay. Offers minimal insulation.

Stucco Finish

Stucco perfection at our client’s Washington D.C. home

Stucco Type

Stucco is a popular exterior finish throughout many Houston neighborhoods. Often seen in Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, stucco offers a variety of styles, and we’ve learned that those looks can be split into three primary application types: traditional three-coat stucco, newer one-coat stucco, and exterior insulating and finish systems (EIFS), which is a synthetic product that looks similar to traditional stucco.

Green Building Advisor shares this:

Three-coat stucco is a longstanding cladding system that has a scratch, then base, then finish coat, resulting in a 7/8-inch- to 1-inch-thick cladding. This system is the most time and labor intensive.

One-coat stucco systems have just one base coat about 1/2-inch thick with a thin finish coat, so these claddings are sometimes called “two-coat.” The base coat is a blend of portland-cement, fibers, and proprietary additives, with each system carrying its own International Code Council (ICC) Evaluation Service (ES) report that dictates the installation details. There is less labor and time required for this system than three-coat stucco, but custom installation standards must be followed.

Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) are essentially one-coat systems, but the marriage of a stucco finish to exterior rigid insulation brings with it different water-management details than the other two types. EIFS claddings consist of synthetic stucco applied over an insulating layer of rigid polystyrene insulation, and that insulation can be up to 4 inches thick. EIFS has many energy advantages over conventional stucco.

Marie Flanigan Interiors – Stucco Home in Bellaire, TX

Stucco Style

Venturing into stucco style is a deep dive, friends! Many of them go by a few different names, and there are even decorative finishes to explore. We crafted a nifty little guide to sum up a few of the most popular:

Guide Stucco Finish Style

A graphic is great and all, but who would we be without offering up a few examples of stunning stucco style?

image of white stucco home

Alys Beach is renowned for its stunning white stucco architecture. Credit: Coastal Living

Not your typical Spanish style stucco – love this “new” traditional spin! Credit: Unknown

spanish stucco home poolhouse

via Reagan Andre Architecture, one of our favorite local Houston firms

Care and Maintenance

spanish stucco home traditinoal influence

credit unknown

We’re wrapping things up with a few tips regarding care and maintenance:

1. No matter how solid your foundation might be, stucco cracks are bound to happen! Minor cracks can be easily repaired on your own but larger, more substantial damage will require the help of a professional.

2. Stucco is porous and gets dirty over time. Regular cleanings can be done with a standard garden hose or a pressure washer on the lowest setting. Bob Vila offers detailed cleaning instructions here!

3. Invest in annual inspections. Although lesser issues are easier to address, it’s important to know whether areas of more considerable problems exist. Those larger areas should not be ignored as they can lead to unwanted pests, mold growth, and more!
We hope you’ve gleaned some inspiration from these nitty-gritty stucco details, and we’d love to know more about your personal experiences with this material. Drop us a line below, or hop over to Instagram and tag your beautiful stucco project with #MFIMoments! Can’t wait to see what you’re up to!

Join the Conversation

  1. Melody J Biddle says:

    I have a 1987 Stucco home with lots of “fancy” stucco trim. I need help with selecting a color scheme with 1. body, 2. accents, 3. trim. Trying to bring the poor house into the new millennium.

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