Home Improvement: Don’t assume you’re stuck with the color of your stucco

By Paint Quality Institute

If you think you’re stuck with the color of stucco on your home, think again. Like wood and other materials, stucco can be successfully painted. And if you’re the handy type, you might even be able to do the job yourself. However, there are certain procedures that should be followed to get the best results.

According to Debbie Zimmer, spokesman for the Paint Quality Institute, every exterior painting project should begin with good surface preparation, and that’s especially true when painting stucco.

Start by making sure that the surface of your stucco is sound,” says Zimmer. “It should be free of dirt and powdery dust, and rough enough so that your primer and paint will adhere well.”

You can accomplish both objectives by cleaning and roughening the surface with a stiff bristle brush, wire brush or — if your stucco has been long-neglected — a sandblaster. Follow up with a thorough rinsing.

The next step depends upon the age and condition of your stucco.

Unpainted stucco that is very new or aged less than a year presents some special challenges. For one thing, it may still contain moisture from the original mixing; for another, it may have a high degree of alkalinity. These possibilities have implications for the coatings you use. If you plan to apply an oil-based or vinyl water-based paint, you must first apply an alkaline-resistant sealer or risk having the paint fail prematurely.

But you might be able to skip this step, according to Zimmer: “If you are going to use top-quality, 100 percent acrylic latex paint, you can often apply it directly to the stucco, since these paints resist the alkaline nature of fresh masonry.” The only exception: When painting stucco that is less than a month old, you should still apply an alkaline-resistant primer or sealer. (Tip: You can eliminate this step by simply postponing your painting for a few weeks.)

Weathered stucco that is unpainted or previously painted involves other considerations. If you see efflorescence — white, crusty salt deposits — on your stucco, you must remove it during surface preparation by scraping, wire-brushing or sandblasting. Even if your stucco shows a slight tendency to produce efflorescence — or if it is very porous or “chalky” — you should apply a sealer or latex block filler before painting.

When applying any type of latex coating to your stucco — sealer, block filler, or paint — you should dampen the surface immediately beforehand. This will allow the coating to dry more slowly, which, in turn, will enable it to form a more durable protective film.

Following these procedures will beautifully restore most stucco surfaces. But what if the stucco is badly cracked? In that case, the best option is to call in a painting contractor with experience applying “elastomeric wall coatings” — very thick, highly flexible paints that are designed to bridge and seal cracks to keep moisture out of the home. Like other paints, elastomeric coatings come in a range of colors, but it takes special training to apply them properly.

Whether you do the work yourself or call in a contractor, the knowledge that you can use paint to change the color and condition of your stucco should be liberating. So, if your stucco is tired-looking, drab or damaged, exercise your newfound freedom and paint!

For more about exterior painting, visit blog.paintquality.com or paintquality.com.

From the Feb. 15-21, 2012, issue

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