What Is Stucco? Everything You Need to Know

Although you’re wondering “what is stucco?”, chances are you’ve seen it before.

Stucco is one of the most popular siding options for houses in the United States despite being one of the oldest in the game. This is thanks to many advantages it offers including durability, versatility, and cost-effectiveness.

If you want to learn more about stucco, then you’ve come to the right place! In today’s article, we’re discussing the different types of stucco, its benefits, application conditions/requirements, and tips to boost its longevity.

What Is Stucco and is it durable?

Stucco is a plaster-like product that’s applied over the exterior and interior walls of houses and other buildings. It’s a cement-based siding material that also features sand and lime.

It’s applied in several layers until its thickness reaches about 1 inch. Once it hardens, stucco becomes very durable and demands minimal care.

The texture of stucco sidings varies depending on the method of application and the finish you choose. It can be anything from grainy to smooth and can be brushed or troweled.

Typically mixed on-site, stucco can go over wood or masonry frames. To stick to the supporting structures, it should be applied on top of a lath (a galvanized wire mesh). This also makes the whole assembly a lot sturdier.

Western and Southern regions of the United States rely heavily on stucco for house sidings. It‘s also used in the Midwest, spreading more and more in Northern areas as newer types of stucco are on the rise to resist some of the material’s limitations when it comes to staining and insulation.

What types of stucco are there?

Generally speaking, there are 2 types of stucco: outdoor and indoor. The choice depends on the location where you plan to apply stucco.

  • Outdoor stucco: this type is used to cover exterior structures such as sidings, framing, concrete walls, adobe, clay, or cinder blocks. It’s designed to resist UV radiation and direct sunlight as well as stormy weather.
  • Indoor stucco: this type doesn’t feature special resistance against the elements. It’s applied over indoor structures and walls to produce a stone-like look.


Stucco is available in 2 systems that vary in the way they’re made and used. They also require different application techniques.

  • 3-Coat system: this is the older stucco system with a longer application process. The main steps are ‘lath, scratch, and brown’, which is why it’s called 3-coat.

To further explain, this method calls for installing paper and wire, spreading a scratch coat, and then applying a brown coat. To finish, a top coat is added. 

  • 1-Coat system: this is the newer stucco system with a less complicated application process. It’s made out of quick-dry Portland cement, fibers, sand, water, and chemical additives.

This system combines applying the scratch and brown coats into 1 coat, making the process 2 main steps instead of 3 (yes, despite being called a 1-coat system). Applying 2 coats is a lot cheaper and quicker than 3 coats.


For the final coat, stucco has 2 two main types that can be used in both outdoor and indoor applications as follows:

  • Cement — this finish requires combining cement with water and sand. After that, you can choose a color (standard or custom) and add it to the mix.
  • Acrylic — this finish features the same ingredients as the cement stucco, but it also contains crushed stones. Acrylic stucco offers more vibrant colors with brighter shades.

That said, both cement and acrylic stucco can have different looks and textures depending on their finish. There are many options to pick from including popular ones such as the dash finish, worm finish, sand finish, Santa barbara finish, cat face finish, and Spanish lace finish. 

What Are the Benefits of Stucco?

There’s a reason why stucco is so popular. In fact, there are multiple reasons as you’ll see in the following benefits of stucco:

  • Stucco is a very durable siding material, unlike other options on the market. It doesn’t demand special maintenance and can serve you for decades.
  • Stucco is very customizable and has a wide variety of looks. This includes dozens of finishes, textures, colors, and styles.
  • Stucco can resist fires with a rating of 1 hour. This is a huge plus for hot areas.
  • Stucco is highly cost-effective compared to conventional vinyl, composite, and wood siding materials thanks to its longevity, durability, and less-demanding maintenance.

Does Stucco Require Special Climate Conditions?

Thanks to its durability, stucco is suitable for both cold and hot climates. However, it can be problematic if you live somewhere with lots of rain or snow.

This is because the exterior of stucco is prone to damage by excessive moisture, especially if the stucco absorbs water as it can lead to the formation of water packers below the surface layer.

Does Stucco Crack?

Traditional stucco is vulnerable to hairline cracks and stress cracks. Stucco can absorb a lot of moisture and this can lead to problems. Luckily new installation methods have been developed. Therefore cracks should be minimal as long as the application process is done properly. You need to make sure that the moisture can get away. Often an air gap is installed to do this. There are special materials to do this.

That said, newer formulations of acrylic stucco are developed to suppress cracks to a remarkable degree.

Does Stucco Stain?

Stucco can stain if it’s exposed to water for a long time. This can also lead to moisture pockets and other moisture-related issues.

To avoid such problems, position your sprinkles at a distance from any stucco exterior and install gutters.

Stucco can crack quite easily if it hasn’t been installed properly.

Does Stucco Provide Insulation?

When it comes to traditional stucco, insulation is well below impressive. However, newer stucco systems are designed to provide better insulation. Often insulation is installed first and then stucco is added after this. It can make the house wider though.

Can You Color Stucco?

Yes, stucco can be colored by mixing in pigments to get the desired shade. Stucco can feature a wide range of tints from white and beige to pink, yellow, and orange.

Does Applying Stucco Require a Professional?

Yes, it’s best to let a professional apply your stucco. Besides requiring special training and particular knowledge of application techniques, you’ll also need special tools and equipment to get the job done.

Not to mention, applying stucco takes a team of 3 or 4 people.

Wrap Up

Stucco is a plaster-like material used to cover walls and various surfaces both inside and outside homes and buildings. It’s widely popular in the United States thanks to its durability, low maintenance, versatility, and cost-effectiveness.