Home Renovations How To Paint And Clean Stucco

The basics of cleaning and painting stucco walls, with product recommendations.

Stucco is considered to be a versatile and economical exterior home finish. If stucco is well cared for, it is beautiful and durable. Stucco is basically a mixture of concrete, sand, and lime. It is generally used to cover exterior walls made from concrete blocks or poured concrete. Stucco is often applied in a variety of interesting patterns and is easy to use.

Though stucco is considered durable, it does need some maintenance and care. You may want to update the look of your home, or improve its worth by painting the exterior a new color. Whether your stucco is new or in need of a fresh coat of paint, you want to clean it properly to prepare it for its new look.

The first step in the painting process is to find and repair any damage to the surface. Hairline cracks in the stucco are easily filled in during the painting process by the paint itself. Anything larger needs to be repaired. Larger cracks can be filled with an acrylic or silicon based caulk. Use a brush to slightly widen the crack and remove any debris and the resulting dust. Use your finger to apply the caulk for best results. Allow to dry and reapply if necessary. A neat trick is to use sand to camouflage the repair. Before the caulking begins to dry, blow some sand from your hand at the repair spot. The sand will stick to the caulk and help hide your handiwork. Cracks larger than a quarter inch may be due to the building shifting over time or the result of storm damage. A contractor with experience in stucco repair should be hired to deal with these larger cracks.



After your cracks are filled, the next step is to clean the surface. You'll want the surface to be free of dirt, dust, mildew, grease, and any chipping or loose paint. If you encounter chipping paint, use a stiff wire brush on the surface. Remember to wear protective gear to protect your eyes and skin. If you suspect lead paint, consult with a professional about proper removal.

For general cleaning, use water first. A very soft brush is best for hand washing. You can also clean the surface with a light pressure spray wash using water only. If you find this is not cleaning the surface adequately, you may needs to use a cleaning agent. Try to find a detergent that is friendly to the environment. If you use a detergent, be sure to rinse the surface well after cleaning.

If, after cleaning, you find the surface seems chalky or powdery, you might want to consider a coating of masonry surface conditioner. This will give the surface some protection from further crumbling and will protect the finished paint job from chipping and loosening in the future. This also stops the stucco itself from soaking up your paint as it is applied.

Your next step is to inspect the area that you will be painting. Be sure that all trim on doors, windows, and areas around lighting fixtures are secure. Use caulk to fill in and seal any problems.

Once all areas are taken care of and all caulking is dry, the only thing left is to apply the paint. Look for a high quality acrylic paint made for painting stucco. A better bet might be what is called "elastromeric" stucco paint. Elastromeric paint is a thick durable paint that will flex with the movements of the building as it shifts over time. It is also durable and water resistant. This is especially useful if you live in an area prone to high winds and driving rain. Elastromeric paint also has insulating properties.

The best way to apply the paint is with a paint sprayer. Hand painting will work, but it can be harder to paint into the pattern of the stucco. If you don't own a paint sprayer, they can be rented. Check the paint can for manufacturer's instruction for the spray spread rate. This will most likely be 40 to 60 square feet per gallon. This rate is optimal for best finish on stucco wall finishes. Two coats of paint are recommended for a durable and beautiful finish.

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