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There are some painting techniques that no matter how much a person butchers it, it will look good. A stucco paint job is not one of those techniques.

Done right, a skilled painter can paint stucco that is beautiful, durable and enhances just about anything it is applied to; done incorrectly, and the result can be a slow drying, never hardening, gobby mess.

If you are looking at contractors for stucco repair or painting, make sure that the company you choose are stucco professionals and follows these stucco painting tips.

What Stucco Is

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If you are looking to paint stucco walls or ceilings, you should have an idea of what it is so you know if the final product looks the way it should. Knowing the process when it is done correctly will also help you assess if the estimate you receive is on the mark.

Both might seem obvious, but a lot of people accept an estimate at face value and only look at the final product. This can lead to only discovering problems when they become a crisis.

Stucco surfaces are a mixture of cement and plaster that is applied to walls and ceilings via a layering process. Stucco can be used as an exterior home finish or internally on walls and ceilings.

It has a rough-hewn appearance that is visually attractive, but it also is extremely hard when dry and requires almost no maintenance, no matter where it is applied. If applied correctly, stucco can provide decades of aesthetic beauty and tough-as-nails durability that can survive any type of weather, including extreme hot and cold.

The Stucco Painting Process

To achieve a quality finish and long-lasting results, professional painters follow a routine process.

1. Paint, Touch Up, or Clean

The first and perhaps the most critical decision regarding a stucco paint job is whether an entire painting is needed or if a touch-up or cleaning is good enough. This depends on a few things for most people:

  • Cost – Painting is obviously more expensive than touching up, which is usually more expensive than cleaning the stucco,
  • Overall Surface Condition: If it has chips or cracks, touching up or cleaning the stucco is not really an option unless the goal is a very short-term fix.
  • Objective: If the goal is to make what exists look like new again, a touch-up or cleaning might be in order. If the color is changing or the texture is being altered, applying at least a fresh coat of stucco is the only way to make sure the new stucco lives up to its potential.

To successfully navigate step one, it is important that you work with a professional to decide what is right for your job: A full repaint, touching up the existing surface and fixing minor issues or just applying a pressure washer to the stucco to remove dirt and grime.

If you decide your job needs a new stucco painting, here is how the pros make it look great. Make sure the pro you hire does the same:

2. Thorough Surface Cleaning and Prep 

Cleaning the existing stucco, removing it or cleaning the wall base thoroughly is vital to ensuring the new stucco adheres and dries correctly. While some pros will use soap and water, it is better to use an industrial-strength cleaner if the stucco is outside. If the job is for the interior, the most effective cleaner that will not turn your home into a HAZMAT scene should be used.

If the project is a brand-new stucco job, the surface needs to be scraped to remove any grime or residue that accumulates and then cleaned.

Regardless of the type of job, the surface needs to be free of grime, dust, dirt, mildew, plant growth, etc. This can require a power washer if there are deep grooves. Once the area to be painted is clean, it should be allowed to set for 24 hours to completely dry out.

It goes without saying that the surrounding area must be prepped as well. The contractor should use drop cloths on any furniture and the floor, tape any sills or trim, etc. Inspect the final setup and make sure that no errant stucco can reach somewhere it does not belong, let alone stain or adhere to it.

3. Patch and Cover Blemishes

It should be noted that “cleaning and prep” involve more than just sloshing some soapy water on the surface, rinsing it off and letting it dry. Loose wall material needs to be scraped off. Cracks must be assessed and addressed.

Any cracks or crevices larger than 1/16 of an inch should be scraped and evened and patched. If the cracks, crevices or divots are large, more than one cycle of patching may be needed. The patch might shrink as it dries, especially in arid areas.

Once the patch has dried, the surface should be scraped with a fine grain sandpaper and any ridges should be smoothed out.

Curing time for the patch is important as well. Painting prematurely risks having a structural problem with your stucco, so make sure the painter adheres to any curing instructions to the letter. Keep in mind, a full cure may take up to 10 days. That reality needs to be discussed with your contractor upfront.

4. Prime Time

Once clean and patched, the surface may need to be primed. Brushes should be used for cut-ins and rollers to saturate. One coat may not be enough. Again, to ensure the best finish possible, the manufacturer’s guidance should be followed.

Pro Tip: Taking the time to do two or even three thin coats will provide a better surface with more complete coverage than trying to get it all on with one thick coat.

5. Account for Coverage Needs

The last thing that you want is for the painter to spread the stucco too thin. Make sure they have planned in overage when estimating materials costs. Also, remember that multiple coats might be needed to get to the finish you like best.

The paint should be applied like the primer, using the same tools. The stucco job may need up to three coats, depending on the look you are trying to achieve. Follow the manufacturer’s drying instructions to get the best result.

A new stucco job should last at least 10 years. To get the best result possible, make sure you talk to true professionals, get an estimate and go over this list with the contractor you choose.

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