Stucco The standard stucco mix is a combination of cement, sand and lime, and it creates a textured, hard surface that creates a beautiful finish for the exterior of a house. Water vapor and air can pass through the tiny spaces sandwiched between the various substances that comprise the stucco making it a breathable material. So if you do not add a protective coating to stucco, it can easily absorb moisture.
Problems with Paint However if you paint stucco, while you may think that you are simply sealing the surface, you may be causing a big problem, and here is why. To begin with, since stucco absorbs moisture, it actually leaches the moisture from the paint, so it is not an easy task to get good paint coverage. You will use a lot of paint to get the job done, because you will need to apply several coats for a nice looking finish. Once you have all of the paint applied, you have formed a moisture barrier, and now the moisture that the stucco absorbed from the paint and air is trapped beneath the paint. So as the temperatures warm, the water vapor expands. This expansion exerts pressure on the paint layer from beneath, and it frequently causes bubbling and blistering resulting in peeling paint. If you live in a humid area, moisture can really be problematic with stucco.
Another problem that can occur when you trap moisture beneath the surface of the paint is that it may actually move deeper into the structure of the house, wicking into the wood frame promoting mold and rot. Of course mold can cause health problems; so in time you will have to remove the walls and replace the damaged wood.
Despite your best efforts, paint is going to eventually peel on a stucco home, so you have to plan to repaint every few years. This means scraping away the old paint, cleaning the wall, priming and repainting. This process is labor intensive and can be expensive, costing you time and money.
Instead of Paint One of the best options for avoiding the revolving door effect of painting stucco is to simply leave it unpainted. Since stucco is constructed of cement, it is quite durable and it is easy to maintain. All you need to do is clean it regularly with water and a mild soap. By maintaining the exterior and treating cracks when they happen, you can keep your home's exterior looking great. Rather than paint, you can find stucco in a variety of different colors including white and many different earth tones. However, if you want to add color to your stucco, you can coat the existing surface with white portland cement mixed with water and your color pigment.
If you absolutely have to paint your stucco, some paints do work better than other. Acrylic latex painting resists damage from moisture, and has a certain amount of give or elasticity, allowing the paint to accommodate subtle expansion. You can also color your stucco surface with penetrating masonry stains or use clear penetrating finishes to seal your stucco surface.
Most home improvement or hardware stores can suggest the best paint for the job in your particular climate. In general you want to try to maintain the permeable quality of your stucco, which usually means that you want to avoid painting it if at all possible.
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