How to stucco a house – Comprehensive guide on applying stucco

Applying stucco to exteriors enhances the aesthetic appeal and durability of a building. This detailed guide outlines the meticulous process of preparing different substrates, including wood sheathing, masonry, and brick, and emphasizes the critical importance of three separate coats: the scratch coat, the brown coat, and the color coat. Learn the steps for repairing cracks, hanging building paper, installing trim accessories, and applying galvanized lath. Discover the significance of using suitable stucco formulations for undercoats and topcoats, along with detailed instructions for spreading, curing, and finishing each coat.

Substrate Preparation

Wood Sheathing:

To ensure a solid foundation for the stucco application on wood sheathing, it’s imperative to take meticulous steps. Begin by covering the wood with not just one but a double layer of grade-D waterproof building paper. This acts as a barrier against moisture, safeguarding the wood substrate from potential damage over time. Once the building paper is in place, the next crucial step involves securing galvanized metal lath to support the stucco. This lath provides structural reinforcement, enhancing the overall stability of the stucco system on the wood sheathing.

Masonry or Brick:

Preparing masonry or brick substrates demands careful attention to detail. Address any existing cracks by employing fresh mortar, ensuring a smooth and even surface for the stucco application. Further enhance the substrate’s cleanliness by washing it with either a power washer or a solution of trisodium phosphate and water. This not only removes dirt and debris but also creates an optimal surface for stucco adhesion. Before applying the first stucco coat, it’s crucial to wet the wall thoroughly. This pre-wetting process promotes better bonding between the substrate and the stucco, ensuring a more resilient and enduring finish.

Hanging Building Paper and Installing Trim Accessories

The process of hanging building paper and installing trim accessories plays a pivotal role in the overall success of the stucco application.

Building Paper Installation:

Commencing from the bottom of the wall, hang a double layer of building paper with precision. Each successive layer should overlap by at least 4 inches, creating a robust barrier against moisture infiltration. For vertical seams, ensure an overlap of at least 6 inches to reinforce the protective envelope around the structure. Extending the building paper at least 16 inches around corners is essential for comprehensive coverage. Fasten the building paper securely with galvanized roofing nails or staples, guaranteeing its steadfastness even in varying weather conditions.

Trim Accessories:

Fastening trim accessories is a crucial step in achieving not just a functional but also an aesthetically pleasing stucco finish. Utilize galvanized nails to secure trim elements like casing beads firmly. Among the necessary accessories is the weep screed, an essential component located along the bottom of each wall. This particular trim accessory facilitates proper moisture drainage behind the stucco, preventing potential issues related to trapped moisture and ensuring the longevity of the stucco system. Precision in installing these trim elements contributes significantly to the overall effectiveness and durability of the stucco application.

Applying Galvanized Lath

The application of galvanized lath is a critical phase in reinforcing the stucco system and ensuring its longevity.

Fastening the Lath:

Carefully fasten galvanized lath or netting to the prepared substrate using galvanized nails or staples. The penetration depth of the fasteners should be at least 1 inch into the studs, providing robust structural support. Maintain a spacing of 6 inches between the fasteners to evenly distribute the load and enhance the stability of the lath. Ensuring that horizontal seams of the lath or netting overlap by 1 inch and vertical seams by 2 inches is essential for creating a seamless and resilient foundation for the subsequent stucco coats. This meticulous application of galvanized lath contributes significantly to the structural integrity of the entire stucco system, preventing issues such as sagging or detachment over time.

Spreading the Stucco

Mixing process

The key to a successful stucco application lies in the meticulous mixing process. Utilize two distinct types of stucco – a specialized base coat formulation designed for undercoats and a lighter finish coat formulation reserved for the top coat. Achieving the right consistency is paramount, and this can be attained by judiciously adding water to the mix. Consistent mixing ensures that the stucco adheres effectively to the substrate, guaranteeing a resilient and enduring finish.

Scratch Coat

Initiate the stucco application process with the scratch coat, a foundational layer that establishes a robust bond with the substrate. Apply the scratch coat directly onto the previously installed lath or netting using a square trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Employ sufficient pressure to force the stucco material into gaps, creating a uniform surface. Screed the material flat to achieve a precise 3/8-inch thickness, and utilize a raking tool to scratch the surface, forming 1/8-inch deep horizontal grooves. This not only enhances adhesion but also provides a textured surface for subsequent coats.

Brown Coat

Following the scratch coat, proceed to the brown coat, which adds depth and solidity to the stucco system. Trowel another layer onto the substrate to a depth of 3/8 inch, ensuring a smooth and even application. Fill any voids or imperfections with additional material to create a flat surface. To further refine the texture and smoothness, float the surface with a sponge masonry float. This meticulous application of the brown coat sets the stage for the final color coat, contributing to the overall durability and aesthetic appeal of the stucco finish.

Color Coat

The color coat is the crowning layer of the stucco application, adding vibrancy and visual appeal. Mix the finish-coat stucco with water, incorporating colorant as needed to achieve the desired hue. Apply the color coat to the wall with a trowel, ensuring a uniform thickness of 1/8 inch. Employ various techniques to introduce texture, using long strokes, knife swaths, or other methods depending on the desired finish. The color coat not only enhances the visual aesthetics but also serves as a protective layer, completing the stucco application process.

Curing and Finishing


Allow each stucco coat to undergo a thorough curing process lasting 24 to 48 hours. During this crucial phase, mist the surface as needed to prevent shrinkage and cracking. Proper curing ensures the stucco system achieves maximum strength and resilience, preparing it for long-term exposure to varying weather conditions.

Smooth Finish

For those aiming for a sleek and smooth stucco finish, employ a sponge trowel once the stucco has stiffened. Flatten the surface with careful strokes, creating a polished and refined appearance. This step is especially beneficial for those seeking a modern or minimalist aesthetic, enhancing the overall visual appeal of the stucco finish.

Dampen the Surface

Maintain the surface in a damp condition for several days post-application to prevent cracking while the color coat undergoes its curing process. This precautionary measure safeguards against potential structural issues, ensuring the stucco achieves optimal durability and longevity.

Best Practices and Seeking Professional Help

Best Practices

To attain a flawless and durable stucco finish, adhere to a set of best practices that encompass precise application techniques and meticulous curing procedures. Consistency in execution and attention to detail are key factors in achieving a stucco surface that not only meets but exceeds expectations.

Professional Help

While DIY stucco application is feasible, there are instances, especially with extensive repairs or complex application scenarios, where seeking professional assistance is advisable. Professionals bring expertise and experience to the table, ensuring optimal results and addressing challenges that may arise during the stucco application process. Consider consulting with experts to guarantee a flawless and enduring stucco finish for your project.


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