How easy is parging over a cinderblock exterior wall?
June 18, 2013 9:15 AM   Subscribe

The semi-exposed basement level of my house is ragged looking cinderblock. I would like to smooth it over with some kind of stucco or parging. Is this practical?

First I'm trying to gauge how involved it would be, labor-wise, and if I was capable of doing it without any experience. The side wall is 20'x15'. The back wall is 15'x50'. I'm still not 100% what the materials/tools necessary would be.

I'm also wondering if there's a downside to this, would it adversely affect anything (drainage, etc). I'm basically just going for a more modern a seamless look. Thanks!
posted by deern the headlice to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you talking about the exterior or interior exposed wall? I'm guessing exterior?
posted by LionIndex at 10:02 AM on June 18, 2013

If we're talking about partially finishing your interior basement. Here's a You Tube that shows how to do this.

Venitian plaster is made for this kind of project, but talk to the oldest guy at your big box store (or the paint store) to get tips.

I'd say it depends on the integrity of your walls. If you're having breakdown and efflorescence, then you might want to reconsider (and call a foundation guy.)

It may be cheaper to put up furring strips and then dry wall (not easier, but cheaper...)

We simply painted our cinder block walls and that really helped a lot! Use a really thickly napped roller and put on a couple coats. You can even have them sand your paint to give it more texture.

For cost and ease, start with primer/paint, and then see how you like it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2013

(Sorry I am indeed talking about the exterior of the house, not the inside...)
posted by deern the headlice at 10:10 AM on June 18, 2013

Oh! Wow.

At least get a few estimates first. By the time you buy everything you need, and waste material, and curse the heavens, a pro could have done it for the same price, in about 1/4 the time. Also, a pro is going to be able to tell you if you have structural issues that need to be addressed prior to the application of whatever.

Here's a You Tube for DIY!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:15 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's kind of an odd method of stucco application in that video - that looks more like EIFS.

Putting stucco on a CMU wall is generally easier than putting it on wood framing because you already have a stable base. On light framing, you'd need to put up three coats of stucco before finishing - brown, scratch, and color. Over a block wall, you can generally eliminate the scratch coat. I think the only real special things you'd need would be a weep screed at the bottom to create a finished edge, and maybe corner beads or expansion joints. The X factor would be waterproofing - if you live in a wet area where the temperature drops below freezing often, you might want a way to mitigate water intrusion through the stucco so that it doesn't start flaking off after a few freeze-thaw cycles, but I'm in SoCal, so I don't know anything about how real a possibility or concern that is.
posted by LionIndex at 10:32 AM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sure. There is a structural product which may still be called "Blockbond" (with fiberglass fibers for strength) for use on un-mortared block walls. It is expensive and probably more than you need for this project. It is also waterproof. There are other parge-on products which ought to be less expensive. You will need a wheelbarrow and/or a mixing trough, a plastering/parging trowel, maybe a hock (to hold cement between wheelbarrow and trowel), and a hose to wet down the wall and a hoe and a shovel.
Seems as though you will need a staging to reach the high parts, and assembling that and using it will take time. Not counting staging assembly and disassembly, my guess is that you could put a nice finish on your walls in three days. Almost any tint can be mixed in.
If the unaccustomed motions of parging wear your arm out, it could take longer.
posted by Hobgoblin at 1:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys. But for someone inexperienced, is stucco or EIFS mostly pretty straightforward to do and not risking any permanent changes to the integrity of the house? I just want to make sure it's something that could be done alone (I live alone) rather than getting a friend's help. Or, hiring someone.
posted by deern the headlice at 2:01 PM on June 18, 2013

I wouldn't tackle it. It's an art form, and one that takes a while to learn. A guy who did dry wall said, "It'll take you a minute to learn how to do it and a lifetime to perfect your technique." My home drywall escapade was a disaster.

Do this. Replace some dry wall in your house. If you're happy with how it came out, if it's smooth and you didn't feel the need to heave either the tape, the mud or the float at the cat during the process, you might want to try stucco.

Is the delta between hiring a guy, and buying/renting the materials and tools all that big?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2013

But for someone inexperienced, is stucco or EIFS mostly pretty straightforward to do and not risking any permanent changes to the integrity of the house? I just want to make sure it's something that could be done alone (I live alone) rather than getting a friend's help. Or, hiring someone.

I'd probably hire somebody. EIFS is notoriously bad if installed incorrectly, although the issues would mostly involve water intrusion into areas where it's not supposed to be, which wouldn't really be a problem for a non-treated block wall, but still. It's also basically just foam with a layer of color-coat on it, so you'd also have to install the mesh reinforcement stuff the manufacturers want at lower elevations to protect from damage. I wouldn't do EIFS at all. With stucco, I'd be worried about getting the mix right and installing it correctly. To get it right, you'd probably have to sandblast, maybe powerwash, the existing wall or risk it spalling off the wall eventually. I don't think stucco is all that hard to do, but getting it to look better than an exposed block wall is a decently high bar.

Is the delta between hiring a guy, and buying/renting the materials and tools all that big?
You'd probably want to at least check this. You're going to be getting at least a couple buckets and plasterer's tools, and then renting a mixer and somehow getting a sandblaster out there, none of which you really know how to use, and even if you did, you wouldn't really know what the finished product is supposed to look like after each step (sandblasting, brown coat, plaster mixing consistency, etc.). To get your screeds and beads in, you might end up needing some kind of powder/gas nail gun, but that seems like overkill - nevertheless, you'll have to attach a bunch of little pieces to concrete and I don't know how you'd do it. And this is all completely ignoring the potential water issues I mentioned in my earlier post.

I think we've got enough contractor/DIY'ers around here that someone might have done this before. I could be way off on how hard some things are.
posted by LionIndex at 2:36 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Upon re-reading your post and the comments:

"ragged looking cinderblock" from your ragged? If the mortar sticks out or the blocks are uneven, then you probably don't want to make this a DIY project. It's just too difficult to parge over a rough wall. Also, from a sixth reading of your question, you do not want or need EIFS, you just want a smooth, esthetically pleasing wall. Further, it could be done alone but a helper would make everything much faster and more pleasant.
posted by Hobgoblin at 7:49 AM on June 19, 2013

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