Stucco homes and home building – a short history. One of the most common, traditional building styles is greatly misunderstood. Stucco, a material that is similar to plastering, has become an efficient, durable process that is prevalent in the United States from the mid-1800’s forward to today. Because stucco looks similar to adobe, it tends to be most popular in states that are highly-influenced by Spanish and Mexican architecture. Of course this includes California, as well as Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Florida.

Many people think of stucco as being the poor man’s brick thinking that it is only used by those who cannot afford a better building material. This simply is not true. Some of the most beautiful and luxurious new homes and hotels are being built with stucco. It gives an Old World look to the building while providing huge advantages over other siding choices.

Stucco homes are prevalent in Tuscan-style exterior designs as well as Spanish Mission architecture and some homeowners choose to use it just for one or two rooms rather than an entire structure. If you want a certain feel for your kitchen or family room, stucco can add a definite flair to your room.

What is stucco?

Stucco is not only an architectural style, but also the name of the material that is used in the creation of this style. Traditional stucco is made by combining Portland cement with water and lime to strengthen the substance. Pigments can be added to the stucco to create a wide variety of colors. Synthetic stucco is also available, and has gained in popularity with home builders in recent years.

How is stucco created?

Traditional stucco is a three-step process and is applied to a wood or stone structure. If it is a wood structure, then an additional step of applying a lath (a wire mesh) to the wall needs to happen before the first stucco coat (scratch coat) so that it has a way to cling to the structure.

The first layer applied to the building, called a scratch coat, usually consists of cement and sand, applied over the lath. Once this layer is applied, it is “scratched” to provide additional surface area for the second layer bonding.

The second layer, called the brown or leveling coat, usually consists of cement, sand and lime. It is leveled and scraped smooth. It needs to dry for 7-10 days before the third coat can be applied.

The third layer (also called color coat) is referred to as the finishing coat.

A color coat is colored sand, cement and lime finish that is applied directly to the brown coat. Color coat can be applied with a trowel to create various designs or can be sprayed for a smooth finish. It can have various colors and using coarser or finer sands can change the consistencies of the final coat. An acrylic finish can be also be applied in a traditional stucco manner and has a long-lasting quality. It also comes in a variety of colors.

About Stucco style

Stucco buildings have been around far longer than you think. They originated in ancient times with Greek and Roman cultures that created stucco surfaces to paint beautiful frescoes. These surfaces were made by combining gypsum, marble dust and glue.

During the Age of Renaissance, stucco techniques were honed by the Italians and spread throughout Europe becoming one of the most common building materials. It wasn’t until the late-1800’s that builders and masons stopped using lime-based stucco in lieu of the newly popular Portland cement. This cement made stucco a harder, more durable material.

Stucco gained acceptance in the United States in the 19th century and the word was commonly used at this time to describe exterior plastering. When the Spanish Colonial Revival-style building became so popular in the early 20th century, stucco gained a permanent foothold on US architecture and is even more popular today because of it’s proven durability, low maintenance requirements, natural resistance to the elements, minimal impact on our ecology, and fire resistant characteristics.

Historians believe that there are a couple of reasons why stucco became so popular.

Stucco is a fairly inexpensive material.
A good artisan could use stucco to emulate fine stonework and patterns.
It is a good weather repellent, withstanding bad weather better than many other materials.
If you love the look and feel of a Spanish home, then you should consider using stucco to create you next dream home. A new stucco home has many benefits to the homeowner, as well as having an Old World feel. It truly is a “dream come true” when you walk into your new stucco home for the very first time.