Any stucco masters out there?
March 19, 2011 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I am planning on replacing one exterior wall of my garage, now covered in vinyl siding, with stucco.

I am fairly handy but this would be an all new project. I have bought a book that is fairly vague. I am pretty sure I would use the one coat fiber stucco. Any pro tips out there? While this is the back wall of a garage it is being done to complement an incredible patio space that will be finished this spring. I don't want the wall to look bad.
posted by InkaLomax to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I really hate to rain on your parade, but stucco isn't really one of those things you can just do yourself.

If you mess up not only will it look bad but you can have problems with moisture getting in and causing rot and mold issues. Stucco is really, really best left to professionals.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:16 AM on March 19, 2011

What is the garage made of? What's under the siding? If it's cinder block sand paint can give you the same effect and it's much easier and cheaper. If it's wood sheathing then it's chicken wire mesh and probably a scratch coat then a finish coat. It doesn't seem insanely complicated, it's more like bull work but I have seen plenty of stucco walls where it's just cracking and coming off in huge chunks.
posted by fixedgear at 8:08 AM on March 19, 2011

I've got a few 5 gallon buckets of the "industrial adhesive" that is used as the base coat. It's also used to patch cement floors. It's a mixture of something like wood glue, with glass sand, and metal shavings. The sand and shavings settle way out, and you need a drill with a stirrer to homogenize it, and it separates quickly, so you need to work quick.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:13 AM on March 19, 2011

A lot depends on where you live and what direction the wall faces. If you live in an area where the highest high temperature and the lowest low temperature are forty or fifty degrees apart, the garage wall is a constantly moving organism. If it faces south, this movement is increased. This means that the stucco is very likely to crack within a year. Almost immediately, it will crack around the corners of any doors or windows as these are weak spots.

If you intend to do it no matter what, you should do a couple of things. First, go to your local big box home improvement store and see if they have a class in stucco prep and application. If not, check if there is a night school class in your community. There are all sorts of little tips and techniques that will help you turn absolute failure into success.

Buy two sheets of 3/4 inch plywood. Cut one in half and leave the other full-size. Practice applying the stucco material to the small pieces until you understand how the material works. Once you are satisfied with your technique, cover the entire full sheet of plywood so you can see what it takes to work on a large area.

Next, remove the vinyl and add a new layer of Tyvek or similar moisture barrier to the wall.

I absolutely would not try to do a singles coat job. Scratch coat is for adherence to the base. It can and probably will crack and craze. After it has cured for at least a week, a finish coat can then be applied to fill and cover the cracks and to create the finish texture that you want.

Stuccoing is like surgery; you need to know what you are doing, practice doing it until you are good and then be able to live with the inevitable scars afterward.
posted by Old Geezer at 10:22 AM on March 19, 2011

You don't say how big this wall is, and I think that's critical to figure out if you could do it yourself. I have done a good-sized stucco job on my house (about 200 sq ft with lots of complicated corners and control joints) and I would never, ever consider doing an area much larger than that - and I say this as a very hardcore perfectionist do-it-yourselfer with a lot of construction experience. The results were good, and it is still holding up five years later, but...

It is extremely physically demanding work. The big "drumstick" muscle connected to my right thumb almost doubled in size over the course of a month of stucco work. Mixing stucco (at least portland cement stucco) is backbreaking work, even if you rent a mixer. It takes experience to mix any cement product correctly. If you get it wrong, it wont stick. You'll need good tools (trowel, raker comb, a dashing brush, etc.) Cheap tools will fall apart. The expanded metal lath used to hold the scratch coat will cut you. You'll need a grinder or hella good metal snips to cut it. Leather gloves.

All that being said, Old Geezer's advice is very sound. The advice to practice is great, I can't agree enough. I too would avoid any kind of single-coat "system," fiber or not. Traditional stucco is the best: asphalt paper, then expanded metal lath, then a scratch coat that you rake lines into to create a key, then a smooth coat, then an optional decorative layer that you dash on with a brush. Everything geezer says about cracks is dead on. It WILL crack, like any concrete work the idea is to make it crack where you want it to by using control joints.

You don't want a book that is "fairly vague." You want a thick tome on portland cement stucco written by professionals for a trade school.
posted by werkzeuger at 1:20 PM on March 19, 2011

I know that this doesn't answer your question about stucco, but I wanted to throw another option at you.

Board and batten siding would make for a simple installation - I did my house in rough board and batten and the look is quite nice. I think it would go nicely with your stonework.

Here are some pics (one, two, three)
posted by davey_darling at 1:26 PM on March 19, 2011

werkzeuger, the side is about 30' X 9' with three windows and a door, so limited surface area but a lot of edges. Under the current vinyl siding is tyvek over plywood. Thanks for the advice about single coat, I will can that idea. I will also keep searching for a book that offers more than a few pages on the subject. Also, Old Geezer, great advice about practicing.
posted by InkaLomax at 1:32 PM on March 19, 2011

davey_darling, board and batten was actually the plan before I got the bee in my bonnet for stucco. I have a fair amount of pine boards at my disposal and maybe I should just go ahead and do that.
posted by InkaLomax at 1:37 PM on March 19, 2011

I think that the board and batten would offer a nice contrast against all of the hard stone surfaces - I find larger expanses of stucco to be a bit bland at times.
posted by davey_darling at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2011

I'd really consider that board and batten. It's a classy look - rustic but also very clean.

That said, the doors and windows would actually help you. You could place vertical control joints (there's a metal strip made for this purpose, a bit like drywall corner bead but flat) at the sides of each door and window, and that would break up your work into manageable chunks. And that tyvek over plywood is actually an ideal base (the tyvek takes the place of the asphalt paper in my above example). Still, 180 sq ft is pushing it. It doesn't sound like a lot, but if you're planning on hand mixing in one of those black plastic trays, each tray will cover about 3-4 sq ft in my experience. So, plan on mixing 90 times or so, trying to get each batch the same and applied before it starts to set and you get cold joints. On the other hand, you could rent a mixer and mix enough for 15 sq ft at a time, but will you be fast enough to trowel it on before it sets?

Not trying to be discouraging , just points to ponder.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:27 PM on March 19, 2011

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