What You Need to Know About Stucco in San Jose
Stucco used to be a thing of the past, but it has been making a comeback as homeowners are choosing hand-troweled mixture of lime, cement, and sand for that Mediterranean look. It allows a good range of textures from smooth to pebbled or stippled surfaces. As long as you choose the right San Jose stucco contractor, you will end up with a dainty exterior wall that remains intact for years to come.
History of Stucco
Although you probably don’t care about the history of stucco, perhaps you’d be somewhat interested in its composition. In ancient times, stucco contained lime, a commonly occurring mineral, which you will find in ancient Greek structures. You don’t have to go to Greece, however, to appreciate plaster’s antiquated charm. Americans in the southwest have been building rock-hard walls using timber, stone, and stucco.
The advent of the twentieth century saw a new era of stucco in construction and architecture. Builders were replacing lime with cement to produce sturdier walls. Thanks to the climate of places like San Jose, stucco tends to remain durable for a long time. Although it’s not uncommon in the northern and eastern states, stucco walls in these regions tend to suffer from premature cracks because of the unstable soil. Cracks in stucco can cause rain to seep into the wall, especially without water resistant building paper underneath it. Nonetheless, modern stucco has additional agents that enhance its flexibility and durability.
Advantages of Stucco
Stucco is great for a number of reasons. First, it’s fire resistant. Even an inch of stucco coating is enough to keep fire from one room to spread to the next room for an hour — thus, giving your home a 1-hour firewall rating. Family houses benefit from stucco firewalls, as the material delays the spread of fire, giving homeowners enough time to call the fire department.
Aesthetics is another reason people opt for stucco. Adding color to the mixture gives your wall anything from soft pastel hues to dark shades. Stucco complements earthy designs. Hence, you will see houses with roof shingles and stucco walls.
Stucco is hard but brittle, and this brittle nature is why it tends to crack. Houses whose foundation tends to settle will see more cracks on the walls. For this reason, stucco isn’t good for places where the soil is clayey. Clay tends to swell and shrink depending on conditions and causes home and building foundations to shift as well. Cracking isn’t just a problem of houses built on shifting soil. However, even houses built with good foundation can still develop tiny cracks. Stucco repair in San Jose can address these cracks.
In the mid-1900s, technology allowed stucco to be sprayed onto walls. Spraying stucco is faster and more convenient than applying it using a trowel or putty knife. However, spray-on stucco isn’t as sturdy as hand-applied stucco. The former tends to form several large cracks that cause the material to fall off over time. We don’t recommend that you spray the material even if you have the equipment unless if you’re an experienced builder who knows what he’s doing. A trustworthy stucco contractor in San Jose can do the job reliably.
Stucco isn’t good for places with cold winters because it’s not a good insulator. An inch of stucco has 0.20 R-value. In comparison, an inch of wood has an R-value of around 0.70-1.40. That means, on a cold day, your house can lose much more heat, and you will be spending more on heating. Stucco is good, however, in places with warm climates. That’s why it’s perfect in San Jose.
Okay, so how do we apply stucco?
Stucco application is time consuming, and some skilled professionals think it’s donkey work! I’m not surprised that many DIYers don’t like doing it. Yet if you go to the wrong contractor, you could end up breaking the bank. How you apply the material depends on the structure of your house. Do you have wooden frames? They need more stucco coating than concrete walls. The material is applied in layers, with each layer left to dry and set before applying the next.
Traditionally, the material is applied in three coats after applying the water-resistive building paper and metal lath or stucco netting. You can’t just smooth stucco over the wooden frame.
The first coat, called the scratch coat, is spread over the lath. When the first coat is firm to touch, but not completely dry, run a raking tool over it to form shallow grooves. This is why it’s called the scratch coat. Leave the coat to dry for 1-2 days, but keep it damp by spraying mist over it to prevent shrinking and cracking.
The next coat is called the brown coat, which is another layer of stucco about 3/8 of an inch thick evened out on the surface. The brown coat acts as the base coat for the finishing, wherein you can add colors for your desired look. You can choose to have textured finish or smooth finish, which can be achieved with various techniques. If you’re working on concrete or brick walls, you only need two coatings — the brown coat and the finishing coat — and you don’t need to attach metal lathing on the existing masonry.
On the other hand, you probably haven’t heard of one-coat stucco. It’s a modern procedure that uses a mixture of stucco and fiberglass. The mix is applied over the lathing.
Every part of the house needs maintenance. Your roof needs maintenance. Your bathroom needs cleaning. You need to check your walls for cracks. Basically, if you need to keep everything in shape, you have to look at it regularly and see if problems should be taken care of.
One of the worries about stucco is cracking due to an unstable foundation. Your foundation moves because the ground underneath it moves. What can you do about it? Well, you can install guttering and downspouts and grade the soil around your house so that it slopes away from the foundation. This way, the soil around your walls doesn’t soak up water during a downpour.
Because stucco is rough, dust and dirt builds up on the surface. This minor issue can be addressed by brushing the surface or washing with a garden nozzle. Do not use high-pressure nozzle or hard brushes to avoid damaging the surface.
Mold is another issue with stucco. Though it’s a minor issue, the dark discoloration on the wall looks hideous. But again it’s not a major issue. You can use bleach to remove the unsightly fungal growth. Mix one part of bleach with three parts of water. Use a sponge or brush to apply the solution to the affected areas. Then rinse with a hose.
Stucco can also stain white when exposed to moisture for a long time. White vinegar addresses this minor problem. Spray white vinegar on the affected surfaces and allow vinegar to sit for several minutes before rinsing the area with water.
Stucco doesn’t need stringent care. As long as you keep it clean, it stays good for several years. If you need a fresh look for your stucco walls, you can paint or repaint the wall. Most people can do paint jobs on their own.
San Jose Stucco & Plastering makes your home the best place for you to live. Call us at 408-290-1546 if you have questions about stucco installation and maintenance in San Jose.