Choosing the Right Stucco for Your Home

Stucco is a classic exterior for homes in the Southwest. If you’re planning to build your dream home in true New Mexican style, opt for stucco.

Even though stucco is usually more expensive than vinyl siding as used in other markets, it can provide a wealth of benefits. Stucco homes are more energy efficient. The concrete shell surrounding the home helps keep it cool in the summer, and warm in the winter, and allows the home to breath. It also helps to block out sound from the outside.

Stucco is a great investment for homeowners. It is long lasting and needs minimal maintenance. It can also save you money on your energy bills.



There are many different kinds of stucco these days. Here’s an overview of each one:

  1. Synthetic

Synthetic stucco is gaining in popularity. It looks like traditional stucco, but it’s installed in a single coat, sometimes over a layer of rigid foam insulation sheathing. The base coat is a blend of Portland cement, fibers, and additives. A lath of asphalt-infused paper with furred chicken wire is laid down over a weather resistant barrier. Next, comes the scratch coat, which is a layer of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water applied in a series on horizontal lines scratched into it. Then comes the brown coat. This layer is applied with a long trowel to make sure the cement is applied evenly. During this process, we add fiberglass strips that will allow your stucco to expand and contract without cracks. There is an added cost here, but this step is critical if you don’t want to repair cracks in your home several years later. Many builders do not use this technique, or leave it out and charge you for it anyway. You need to ask your builder to point out this step – it can be seen in areas before the color coat. The final coat is put on with a hawk and trowel and can be installed with a variety of textures. This is the preferred method that we use for longevity.

  1. Traditional

Traditional stucco is a mix of Portland cement, sand, water, and lime that is applied in four coats over an expanded metal mesh layer that’s attached to sheathing. This is the long-standing method for applying stucco that results in a cladding that is between seven-eighths of an inch and one inch thick. This method is the most time and labor intensive, and it is often costlier. The same method for installation used above for synthetic can also be used for traditional. As synthetic has grown in popularity in the southwest, installers have changed their view on excuses not to use synthetic. The main push back for installers is change itself. Either method works fine, and cracks will be mitigated with use of fiberglass mesh.

At John Mark Custom Homes, we take pride in educating our home builders every step of the way. Have further questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us.