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Painting Stucco

Updated: Sep 21, 2021


If you have a house that is made out of stucco and its color is fading, or you just want a fresh the look, then painting it is something that you might want to look into. Here are some things to consider before choosing the right contractor to do the job, and some tips and tricks that can make the job easier and look more professional if you choose to do it yourself.


​Some Things To Consider In The Beginning:

  • Stucco Issues: Take a look at the existing stucco and check to see what kind of shape it is in. Are there any patches or cracks that need to be fixed before painting begins? In most cases a good acrylic caulk will work, but there are also caulks that have texture added for a more professional looking finish that blends better.

  • More Stucco Issues: Is the stucco peeling off in any places, or are there any areas that need a little TLC? These kind of issues need to be taken care of prior to painting the structure and will make the end result much better. Smaller patches can be fixed using a premixed stucco repair patch material like this that comes in handy for making quick work of SMALL repairs. Larger repairs will require more structural work, and professional stucco materials.

  • ​How Clean Is The Surface: Is the existing stucco painted or not? Is there a lot of mold or moss growing out of it. Regardless, it will require a good pressure washer (2,700 – 3,100 psi) to clean all surfaces prior to painting.

  • When Was The Stucco Applied: If the stucco is new, then you will want to wait at least 60 days before painting it to allow it to fully cure before you seal the stucco with any kind of paint.

  • What ​Kind Of Stucco Texture Do You Have: Is it a rough or a smoother type? Different types of textures require different methods and tools to properly apply the paint.

  • How Will The Paint Be Applied: Do you plan to use brush and roller only, or a sprayer? Sprayers are the optimal way to paint most exterior stucco. It is much faster, uses less material, and provides a professional looking results.

  • What is the Weather Like: Be sure that you will have a period of good weather when you paint or plan on painting. Water that is sealed inside stucco will results in bubbles or other issues. If you are in the rainy season and can’t wait before you paint, then covering the walls is one option. You want to be sure that the stucco has no moisture content prior to applying paint, and a moisture meter can be helpful if there is any question.

  • How Will You Reach All Surfaces: If you have a single story house or building you are painting, then a simple step ladder and/or extension ladder will probably be more than enough to reach the highest walls. However, if you ​are working on a two or three story building, you may want to use scaffolding or rent a boom lift. You will just need to plan ahead to make sure you have access to every nook and cranny that will need to be painted.

  • How Much Paint Do You Need: In order to buy the correct amount of paint, you will need to measure your walls, so you can buy the correct amount of paint. Most paints cover anywhere from 250-350 square feet per gallon. However, you need to be aware of the fact stucco tends to suck up paint, and you need to add about 25% to your calculations because you almost always end up using more than you anticipated.


The Prep Work Involved:

  • Cover Everything Not Painted: You will want to make sure that all windows, doors, trim, vents, walkways, plants and anything else that is not going to be painted is covered very well. This will save time in the end and will ensure that professional results are achieved.

  • Caulk All Cracks: Caulk cracks and small gaps (1/8″ or smaller) using a paint-able exterior grade caulk. When caulking, only fill the cracks and use a wet rag to wipe the excess caulk off of the wall, or it will stand out like a sore thumb. Try to add a little texture to the caulk to match the stucco. If it is a rougher texture, then a textured caulk, specifically designed for stucco repairs may be a better choice. You can also dab the caulk lightly with a paintbrush to match the texture a little better. Anywhere wood meets stucco, you will want to apply a bead of caulking, because it will crack or a gap will form, this is natural and is a normal occurrence.

  • Clean The Surface: Pressure washing the stucco is required prior to painting to get rid of all of the dirt, mold, loose paint and oils that may ​prevent the paint from applying correctly to the stucco. If you do not pressure wash the stucco, you can use a garden hose and scrub brush instead, but really, pressure washing is the way to go and is recommended. Using only a garden hose may result in the paint flaking off over time because the surface was not cleaned and prepped properly.

  • Fix any Holes And Larger Imperfections: Make any necessary repairs to the stucco that need attention, including any voids or damaged areas. To achieve this, remove the existing stucco, keeping the paper and wire underneath intact and fill with a stucco patch material, using two to three applications. Try to avoid filling in the spots with a single application. It will likely crack and make even more work for you in the long run. It’s also more difficult to properly match textures and it will stick out like a sore thumb when you are all finished.

Painting Different Stucco Textures:

​Smooth ​to ​Semi-Smooth Stucco Finishes: ​The smooth stucco finishes are probably the easiest types of finishes to paint. Repair work is a little tougher to do to make them appear seamless, but if you take your time and use the right tools, it should come out good.

​Scraping the walls with a large floor scraper will help eliminate any larger items that may be stuck to the surface. A roller or sprayer will work on these types of finishes, but a sprayer will be much quicker and probably have a little bit better results because you can spray a more even amount of paint on the surface. Back rolling is recommended and will help soften the overall appearance. A roller with a 1/2″ nap will work perform best. Using a roller cover with a thicker nap would be much harder to use, especially for a novice painter, and will waste paint. Medium-Types Stucco Finishes: ​ A medium or “sand” finish, a worm-type finish, etc. will require a little more effort than a smooth or semi-smooth finish because of the added texture.

​These will usually require back rolling with a 3/4″ – 1″ nap roller, and will need at least two coats of paint to thoroughly cover the surface and provide uniform paint coverage. If you use a good paint with an equally good technique, it should turn out great. It is not recommended to use a sprayer only, or only apply one coat, since this will usually result in uneven coverage and lap marks or spray lines. ​Rougher Types Of Finishes: ​Rougher stucco finishes require a little more paint, and a little more expertise with a sprayer. It also not recommended that heavy textures be rolled on because it is very difficult to get paint applied evenly into all the crevices. This almost always results in heavy variations between the amounts of paint applied in different places, which become extremely noticeable as “blotches” once the paint dries.

In my experience, painting these types of finishes will require at least two coats of paint and possibly a third and final “touch up” coat. Make sure that every nook-and-cranny is covered with paint. Be sure to check each wall after you paint for any small spots you may have missed, and look from all angles.

Using A Sprayer:

When using a sprayer, certain techniques and tricks can be used to achieve professional results. It can also cut the time the project takes in half! This is the best way to paint a stucco surface and will yield the best results.

  • Prep And Cover: Spraying requires everything not being painted to be covered. Be sure that everything is masked with the right tape that provides adequate adhesion to the surface it is applied, as sprayers have a tremendous amount of pressure and a tendency to blow your masking right off. A masking machine is a handy tool to have on hand and make the job easier!

  • Use A Shield: When spraying, use a shield to avoid excessive over-spray. Cardboard works well for a shield, so you can just toss it once it gets too saturated with paint. A good size for these is 12-15″ wide by 3-4′ long. Cardboard holders can also be purchased so you don’t have to hold the cardboard with your hands.

  • Technique: Try to avoid making lines with the sprayer by having an even spray pattern and using quick, short bursts, as opposed to longer ones. Pull the nozzle away from the wall in order to blend the starting and stopping points of your spray pattern and to avoid any hard lines. And for best results, it is recommended to use a cross-hatch method (spraying one way, then the other instead of all in the same direction) to ensure that the paint is applied at early angle.

  • Back-rolling: Even though the sprayer will help you apply more paint in less time, in most cases you will need to back-roll to better blend the paint and minimize the appearance of lines. For ​the best results, have a helper use a roller and immediately go over what you have just sprayed. This will help cover the surface and get the paint into any crevices and low spots that the texture may have, and help to evenly spread the paint around making a more uniform appearance.

FAQ’s About Painting Stucco:

  • Is Painting Stucco Even Recommended? – ​Whether to paint stucco or not can often be a hot topic of discussion. There are two main arguments: the maintenance-free aspect of stucco is gone after you paint it (because you have to continually re-paint after that) and the added cost that painting incurs. But, most people agree that they like the option to be able to change the color of their home if they want, and there is no good reason besides budget that should stop you from being able to paint your stucco.

  • How Often Should My Stucco Be Re-painted? – This is a matter of your climate, the quality and application of the paint itself, and color preferences. There is less of a concern that stucco itself is protected from the elements (compared to wood), but a good paint job should last between 8 and 12 years before it will need to be re-painted, unless you decide you want another color before that.

  • How Long Should I Wait To Paint My New Stucco? – ​The recommended wait time is somewhere between 30 and 60 days, which accounts for a full cure of the plaster materials used in the stucco process (base coat(s) and/or finish coat). They do make primers that can be used in a fraction of the time (usually 7 – 14 days) but you will be rushing the curing process. There is no substitute for a slow, moist-cured base and finish coat (cement based) though these products will work in a time crunch.

  • What Kind Of Paint Should I Use? – ​There are many different brands paints out there that are excellent, so I don’t want to name any specific brand. But, I will say that I would not go with the cheapest exterior paint when it comes to stucco. Always use a paint that is in the higher end of the price spectrum so you eliminate a lot of the potential “issues” that typically come up when using a cheaper paint on stucco like spray lines, inconsistent color, and premature color fading, etc.

  • What About Elastomeric Paint? – ​Elastomeric paint is a type of paint that seals any surface it is applied to, has a higher degree of elasticity to it, and is usually significantly thicker when compared to traditional paint. In my experience, these paints are usually troublesome for synthetic stucco because it seals the surface, not allowing it to breathe anymore (like it is designed to do). ​Stucco contractors usually don’t recommend using elastomeric paint on stucco, and will try to recommend a stucco re-coat instead. Otherwise, a latex acrylic finish is usually going to be the best choice. The one case where an elastomeric paint may be a better is for traditional (cement-based) stucco, where there are a lot of spider web-like cracks that need to be filled. It’s a good product because of its ability to bridge small cracks. The main downside is that it requires about double the material to apply, and is therefore significantly more expensive.

  • Should I Use A Primer? – ​A concrete or masonry primer is not necessary if the stucco is sufficiently weathered or has been painted previously. However, a primer coat (using a tinted exterior latex primer or the same paint as the topcoat) is an absolute must for unpainted stucco. You ​must seal the stucco properly before applying the topcoat to even out the different saturation levels of paint, which results in uniform hues and sheen, etc. After a good primer coat, the surface will now be a lot more consistent, resulting in a better paint job in every aspect.

  • How Much Paint Do I Need? – ​Stucco, especially unpainted stucco, tends to suck up more material than any other siding. So, you will need to calculate the amount of paint as normal and then add about 30% on the primer coat and about 15% more on the top coat. This is not a hard and fast rule but it will usually result in less trips back to the paint store because you ran out of paint.

  • ​What If The PH Is Too High? – ​​This tends to be a loaded topic; but, ​sometimes there is a concern regarding the PH level of traditional stucco being too high to paint. There are a couple of different measures you could take to help, like watering the wall multiple times a day for 3-4 days straight. Another resolution to the problem would be to use a specialty primer that is designed to handle these higher levels of PH like Sherwin-William’s LOXON Concrete and Masonry Primer. This is rarely an issue on newer homes which typically use synthetic stucco materials. The only areas you might run into this is with actual concrete walls, etc.

  • What Sheen Should I Use? – 99% of the time you will use a dead flat paint on stucco, especially on the exterior walls of your home. The reason is because of the texture of most stuccos will cause any sheen to look very uneven when viewed from different angles. The exception would be a smooth stucco, or if you are matching an existing paint on the building.

FINAL COMMENT: Always take your time and remember to properly prepare the surface for before painting. This will always be a determining factor for how good the project looks in the end. In order to get the best results, it’s recommended that you hire a professional. Schedule an estimate with us if you would like one of Arclight Painting’s professional painting teams to help you get your stucco done right.

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