Before we start to debate the pros and cons of stucco, I think it is advisable to explain what stucco is.
Stucco is a coating of cement plaster that covers the walls of your house. It looks nice and is easy to paint.
Nowadays there are two types of stucco. There is cement stucco and EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish), which is synthetic. Both varieties have pros and cons.
In Europe, stucco is used a lot. Europeans only paint their houses every ten or twenty years, because most of their homes have stucco applications. The stucco there is always applied on brick, with no paper insulation between brick and stucco that can cause moisture penetration and air bubbles. In the USA, stucco is also applied on sidings, which allows easier penetration of moisture and can cause cracks.
In general, stucco adds stability to the material it is applied on. It is fluid and adapts to any style in architecture. It is maintenance free, fireproof and has insulation qualities. Also, it is environmental friendly and gives your home a certain quality of construction.
The cons are that stucco will cause minor expansion cracks. Of course, these can be tolerated and are easily patched.
Applying stucco can be a messy affair, so don’t do it when you don’t want to get dirty. If you’ll need to remove stucco debris, it can cost you extra.
Seen from a distance, stucco may have a flat look, with no texture like sidings.
Never use stucco on a new house immediately after construction, as the house will ‘set’ and your efforts will go to waste.
Cement stucco is durable, as you are in fact covering your walls with a layer of rock. Cement stucco is composed of sand, a bit of lime, cement and water. It is in fact a sort of concrete that is attached to your house.
It depends on the material underneath how the stucco is applied. When you have brick walls, no insulation paper is needed. On wood, waterproof (?) insulation paper is used, along with wire mesh and metal flashings, which channel water to the exterior of a wall.
If you want to color your cement stucco, it is best to choose a masonry penetrating paint. Avoid paints that form a film that can later on peel off.
EIFS is synthetic and can come in one coat or two coat systems. In definition impervious to water and water vapor. EIFS stucco can actually work as a barrier, so you can do without the insulation paper – or so it is thought. It’s been known that water gets behind the EIFS system and can’t get out. Numerous houses in the USA are suffering from wood rot, caused by their EIFS coating.
When you use EIFS, better check that the flashings are used well. They must be at the bottom of the stucco, where the synthetic stucco comes into contact with other materials. The flashings will direct the water to the exterior of the wall.