Q: I am buying a home that has pigment in the stucco, supposedly to eliminate having to paint the house. I had a home inspection done and the inspector recommended the house be painted because “stucco is porous and thus will let water in, and the paint acts as a sealer.”
Do you think this kind of stucco should be painted?
The color is just fine and the house is only 7 years old. Can I safely avoid the cost of a house painting?
A: We have no idea what the home inspector is talking about. In fact, it makes us suspect that the inspector’s brother-in-law is a painting contractor.
A 7-year-old home with a traditional stucco finish does not need to be painted.
You are correct that pigmented stucco – called a color coat – is applied to eliminate the need for paint. Depending on the color applied and the location of the home, it can last decades.
We grew up in a home in the Bay-O-Vista neighborhood of San Leandro, Calif. Our dad was a plasterer by trade, and it was only natural that he gave our boyhood home a stucco finish.
The color mom and dad chose was a pale yellow. The home was built in 1962. Bill drove by there a few days ago on his way to visit a friend. The stucco was still there and to our knowledge it has never been painted, nor has a new color coat been added. It looked as good as the day we moved in 43 years ago.
As far as absorbing water, that’s pretty far-fetched. Stucco is a concrete product and it is water-resistant. Unless there are severe cracks or it is immersed in water, absorption is not a problem. In fact, when Bill owned a stucco house, part of his biannual maintenance program was to give it a good bath with a power washer.
Traditional stucco is applied in the following manner:
First a layer of builder’s felt is stapled to the side of the building. Then metal lathe, which looks like chicken wire, is nailed over the felt. Corner pieces made of wire are attached so that the plasterer can make crisp corners.
On many jobs, a product known as K-lathe is used. K-lathe has the wire attached to the builder’s felt. Using it eliminates the separate step of applying the felt.
Three layers of stucco are applied over the lathe. The first coat is the scratch coat. The scratch coat is pressed into the lathe forming “keys,” which, when dry, hold the stucco to the wall. The scratch coat is so named because it is scored with a tool with multiple tines when wet.
This gives the scratch coat “tooth,” allowing the second coat, or brown coat, to adhere to the scratch coat. Finally the color coat is applied. The finished product is about an inch thick.
So, to answer your question, yes, you can safely avoid the cost of painting. If at some point in the future the color on your home becomes faded or you decide to change colors, an alternative to paint is to have a new color coat applied.
Our final piece of advice: Next time, find yourself another home inspector.
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