13 Types of Stucco Walls (Various Finishes & Textures)


Types Of Stucco

When you’re working on putting together an interior, nothing adds a little bit of texture like a coat (or three) of stucco. Stucco offers an impeccably exotic feel that helps your home feel elegant yet welcoming. The right type can turn your home into a desert paradise, or a European villa. Of course, to get the ambiance you want, you’ll need to know what type of stucco you want to snag…

There are two main categories of stucco: traditional and synthetic. Within those two major umbrella categories, you can find a massive array of different finishes. The most commonly-mentioned types of stucco you might find include:

  • Dash
  • Cat Face
  • Worm
  • Spanish Lace/Lace And Skip
  • Smooth
  • English Stucco
  • Float
  • Santa Barbara
  • 1-Coat Stucco
  • 3-Coat Stucco
  • Traditional Stucco
  • EIFS System Stucco

Wondering which stucco you’ll want to get stuck with can be a little rough. Thankfully, UpgradedHome has all the research you need to make your home’s coat worthwhile…

Traditional vs. Synthetic Stucco: The Two Big Categories You Need To Know

Before we get into the many subcategories, we’re going to talk about the two big umbrella terms used in stucco. When most people categorize stucco, they mention whether it’s a traditional stucco or a synthetic one. These terms refer to how the stucco is made.

Traditional Stucco

Traditional stucco is made of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water. It’s the “old school” way to make things happen. It’s generally heavier and more durable than synthetic stucco. However, the big drawback is that it often takes more coats to apply, which means you might have a harder time installing it.

Most traditional stucco is pretty expensive to get and repair. However, homeowners adore it so it’s worth every penny.

Synthetic Stucco/EIFS

Synthetic stucco is also known as EIFS, the Exterior Insulation and Finishing System. The entire concept is to give a home’s exterior a stucco-like finish for a less expensive price tag. EIFS is a six-layered stucco-like finish that has a light build and is relatively easy to install compared to old school stucco.

While it is less expensive, synthetic stucco isn’t very durable. In the past, synthetic stucco had a fairly bad reputation due to its tendency to get moldy.

Stucco Finish Types

Knowing whether you should get synthetic or traditional stucco is great, but now you’re going to need the type of finish that you want to get, too. So, let’s get started…

Dash

Dash is one of the most popular types of stucco finishes you’ll find on the market. It has a very gravelly look, with a strong rough texture. Most people prefer to use it on home exteriors, especially if they want to have a modern home exterior. It looks great with all colors, and is fairly easy to install. In some parts of the country, it’s also known as “roughcast” stucco.

One cool thing about dash stucco is its traditional application method. The finishing layer is literally sprayed onto the home’s exterior!

Float

A close cousin of dash stucco is float. Also known as sand stucco, this finish has an even and grainier feel than dash. The idea behind it is to give your home a sandy, floated look that looks pristine. Most homes use lighter colors for this stucco, and it remains popular as an exterior stucco pattern. This stucco is particularly popular among business exteriors due to its delicate appearance.

Float stucco has to be applied gently, by hand, with a float trowel. Otherwise, you won’t get the results you want. You can choose a coarse, medium, or fine type of sand finish for this option.

Cat Face

You might have seen stucco that is smooth in some parts, but contains patches of rough texture in others. This is known as “cat face” stucco, primarily because older versions would look like cats’ faces poking through the walls. While most people wouldn’t see this unless they were under the influence of certain hallucinogens, the name stuck for the most part.

Regionally, this is also known as Montalvo or California stucco. However, we’re just going to call it a cool interior stucco to use on your walls.

Spanish Lace

Spanish lace is an interesting, smooth-yet-not-smooth type of finish. The bumps are there, but they aren’t rough like dash or sand. After a certain level, all the bumps end up being a flat surface, leaving grooves underneath. These are also known as skip-trowel finishes or lace and skip finishes. If your home has faults, then adding Spanish lace can cover it up.

This is one of the few types of stucco that only requires two coats instead of three. With light layers, it looks like a cloudy lace, like the photo above. When heavily layered on, it looks like you literally applied lace to stone. It’s neat like that.

Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara look is pretty popular in California, primarily because it comes in a wide range of colors. This is a semi-smooth finish that is made of ultra-fine grains of sand. This gives it a silky yet rugged look that’s perfectly Western. It’s suitable for both outdoor and indoor settings, too.

If you’re a fan of Santa Barbara stucco, you’re in for a treat. This can be easily obtained via both traditional and EIFS styles, which means it’s affordable at virtually any income level.

Smooth

Oh, the velvety look of smooth stucco! This is a finish that is known for being ultrafine, and for having a feel that almost resembles velvet. In terms of visuals, you might notice some color differences that look like patches or even “tie-dye blots.” If you want to have an industrial look to your room, this polished concrete vibe will do wonderfully.

While it is wildly visually appealing, the truth is that it’s kind of a hard type of stucco to apply. This often requires the hand of an expert stucco installer. Since it can be difficult to install, the price of smooth stucco is high. Repairs, too, are pretty hard to do—especially if you’ve got cracks.

Worm

No, these don’t have creepy crawlies in the stucco. Worm stucco finishes are easily recognizable by their “streaky” appearance, with many lines throughout the wall’s surface. There are many different subgenres of worm finishes, including swirl and “putz” stripes. This is a good option for people who want to have a bold interior that has a more geometric look to it.

Worm stucco involves large aggregate pieces added to the stucco, giving it a stripey look that juts out. Sometimes, it’s even rubbed in by hand. This gives it the groovy indents that people enjoy. The issue with worm stucco is that you might have a hard time getting a smooth repair.

English Stucco

British stucco is one of the oldest forms of stucco still being used today, and it’s easy to spot. It’s a heavily brushed-on finish that looks like layered brush strokes when it’s complete. Sometimes, it will even have upward curls that you can feel branching off the stucco’s finish. This gives it a heavily painted look that works well with older buildings.

Because you can only do British stucco with traditional stucco, it can be a pretty pricey option. This, along with its antique appearance explains why you usually only see this on older buildings. The good news here is that it’s remarkably forgiving and can be a cinch to patch. So if you have it, then you definitely are in luck in terms of durability.

Types Of Stucco By Application Style

Now that we’ve gone over the different types of finishes, it’s important to remember that there is yet another way to categorize your stucco: application processes. The vast majority of stucco are going to be either 1-Coat or 3-Coat stuccos. Let’s talk about these two major categories, just to help you get a bit more situated.

1-Coat Stucco

This is actually not a single coat, but rather, a cement base coat followed up by a top coat. In many cases, you will also apply a foam that helps the stucco’s structure get a better grip. This is a common style for Spanish Lace stucco, smooth stucco, and dash stucco.  However, other types can also have 1-Coat options.

3-Coat Stucco

If you get traditional stucco that is going to be extra heavy, then chances are you’re going to need a 3-Coat stucco. This, too, is a bit of a misnomer. This involves the following parts:

  • A Cement Coat. Traditionally, it’s at least 7/8 inch thick. This acts as the base coat.
  • A Water-Resistant Barrier. This is usually asphalt-covered paper that’s tacked to the base coat.
  • One Or More Layers Of Scratch. Scratch can be a number of different things, including a wire grid, a rough coat of stucco, or a brown layer.
  • A Finishing Coat. Sometimes this is called a primer, other times it comes with a primer. Go figure.

What Are The Easiest Types Of Stucco To Maintain?

This is a tough one to answer, simply because they all tend to do fairly well with a regular cleaning using a bleach-water mix. However, there are still some elements that might make one type of stucco better for you than others. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Synthetic stucco is not as water-resistant as traditional stucco. This means that you may have to space out your washing, or that you may need to make time to address mold patches more frequently.
  • Getting traditional stucco means that you can have an easier time with hosing and scrubbing. Synthetic is more prone to breaking, which means that high pressure water and aggressive scrubbing is likely to cause breakage. After all, synthetic stucco is hollow, so if you hit it with too much pressure, it might crack.
  • If you want to maintain or update your exterior’s look, you can paint stucco. Smooth finish stucco is easier to paint than something along the lines of dash or worm.
  • Smooth stuccos and sand stuccos are generally easier to clean. There is less chance of having stucco fall off and even lower chance of having your stucco get clogged with moss or mold.

Which Stucco Types Are The Longest-Lasting?

Generally speaking, this isn’t something most people should worry about. Stucco siding is not exactly fragile by any means, and actually happens to be one of the best siding options. Most stuccos will last between 50 to 80 years with proper maintenance, assuming you don’t live in an area that is overly wet or prone to extremely high winds.

While stucco is still admirable when it comes to durability, there are some types that seem to be more durable than others. Traditional stucco is obviously the more durable type in terms of make (or system). With that said, there’s also a little more information we know—at least, anecdotally. Stuccos that are a little bit chunkier (like dash or Spanish Lace) tend to be slightly longer-lasting than others.

How Can You Tell If You Have Synthetic Stucco On Your Home?

Knowing the type of stucco you have on the side of the home isn’t something to overlook. It’s vital, especially if you want to repair cracks that you start seeing or if you want to add a new section onto your home. Thankfully, figuring it out is pretty simple. Just knock on the stucco siding to find out if it’s synthetic.

Synthetic stucco siding tends to have a hollow sound. Traditional stucco, on the other hand, will have a thick, filled-in feeling whenever you knock on it. Of course, if you have a type of stucco specific to traditional, it’s safe to assume that you have traditional stucco.

How Much Does Stucco Siding Cost?

To a point, stucco is remarkably steady when it comes to prices. Most places will add stucco to a home’s siding for anywhere between $7 to $9 per square foot, depending on the type and the area you live in. If you want to have synthetic stucco instead, the price is far lower, at around $3.90 to $7.95 per square foot. 

It’s important to note that repairing stucco or replacing stucco doesn’t have the same cost as just adding some siding for the first time. If you want to replace stucco siding, you can expect to add a dollar to the price of your stucco, solely from the cost of sandblasting to clear out the old. 

How Much Does It Cost To Repair Stucco Siding?

This is a surprisingly pricey issue, indeed. Though it can vary from type to type, labor is the bulk of the costs. Materials are nominal, in most cases. Labor costs will be between $60 to $120 per square foot, with synthetic stucco being the pricier pick. Material costs can vary greatly, with the full range being between $10 to $50 for the stucco, plus an additional $50 for finishing materials. 

Overall, you should expect to see a repair bill that is at least several hundred dollars if you have a serious repair. If it gets to the point where you have a very large hole punched in your stucco, then you might need to get a full replacement order for that wall. This can easily amount to several thousand dollars, depending on how bad the damage is.

Is Stucco Outdated?

Believe it or not, this depends on the type. Some types of stucco finishes are notoriously outdated, while others are considered to be timeless. If you want to keep on-trend, here’s what you need to know:

  • British, worm, and Spanish Lace stuccos are all considered to be pretty dated. They tend to harken back to the Victorian era, the 1970s, and the 1980s respectively. If you are going for that look, then that’s great and you should use it. However, you can run the risk of making your home look too retro for comfort.
  • Sand, float, smooth, and dash stuccos are timeless. Ever since they were first invented, these types of stuccos became stylish and remained stylish. This is primarily because they offer timeless, clean lines that most people find attractive. Since clean lines are versatile, you don’t have to worry about these types causing a “ding” to your property values.
  • Cat face and Santa Barbara stuccos tend to be location-specific. Both of these stuccos are modern, sure, but they come with a catch. These are stucco styles that tend to be associated with specific parts of the United States. Oddly enough, they are both closely liked to SoCal. If you’re looking to channel California, or maybe a little bit of the Southwest, then these are great options.
  • When choosing your stucco, remember that color will play a huge role in how modern it looks. A good amount of paint can modernize old stucco pretty quickly. For example, cream-colored Spanish Lace can give a place a very Tudor look. However, if you paint it slate grey, it will look more modern and urban.

Related Questions

Is stucco considered to be an expensive siding?

Believe it or not, stucco is considered to be one of the most expensive types of siding that you can buy. The reason why is twofold. The materials are pretty pricey due to the high price of cement and the sheer quantity of cement that you will need for a full wall. Moreover, applying stucco is a highly labor-intensive endeavor.

If you love the look of stucco but don’t like the price tag, it’s understandable. You can save a considerable amount of money by switching to a synthetic stucco. You will get the same look, similar durability, and decent energy efficiency at a fraction of the cost.

How well does stucco insulate your home?

Stucco is decent, but it’s not the best at the insulation. Cement and other extremely thick materials tend to be better at insulation than stucco. This is actually one of the reasons why it tends to be more popular in areas with temperate weather. With that said, it’s not like stucco is terrible or unable to insulate your home.

A good way to explain it is that this material is great for people who are okay with middle-of-the-road insulation. Adding some weatherstripping can help you get more out of the insulation than you’d think.

Should stucco be sealed?

Stucco can and should be sealed, especially if you live in an area that is rich in moisture. Sealant can and will help improve your stucco’s water resistance. This means you might be able to prevent mold growth or rot by sealing it as soon as you can.

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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