One of the great things about stucco is that with its variety of interesting textures, it will add beauty to almost any home style. With seemingly endless variations of stucco textures to choose from, choosing the right one for your project can be a little overwhelming. The names of different textures vary in different parts of the country (for example, Spanish Lace may look totally different in Missouri than it does in California). Never fear, though, because this article will help you sort out your options and feel confident when you make your stucco texture decision here in the Cortez, Colorado and Four Corners Area.
First of all, when it comes to choosing a stucco texture, you can feel confident knowing there usually isn’t a right or wrong option. There might be traditional texture choices for certain styles of architecture or design themes, but you can choose the best stucco texture for your project based on your personal taste and preference.
Stucco Texture Basics
Stucco is a durable, versatile, cement-based material with a variety of uses. One question you might have is whether the same finish used for a garden wall is also the best stucco texture for a home or larger building. However, variations of the stucco are generally created from the same base of cement materials (usually a mix of sand, Portland cement, lime and water), regardless of the finished texture. For example, the Omega Products Diamond Wall Concentrate would be the base coat and then an Akroflex Finish would go over that, like I mentioned in my previous article. This means that the quality or durability of one stucco texture is unlikely to be drastically different from that of a different texture, despite differences in appearance.
Like I said, all stucco starts out the same — the base is made sand, Portland cement, lime and water. The finish coat is where you get your texture – the differences in stucco textures are typically created by manipulating a few key variables, such as adding different ingredients or aggregates to the stucco finish mixture, changing the amount of water used, or using certain methods of application. For example, you can add sand grains of various sizes to the mixture in order to change the texture of the finish. Smaller grains of sand create a slightly coarser surface, and larger grains of sand create a more pronounced, rough texture.
In order to create looser stucco that can be easily applied in thin layers, you would add a greater than normal amount of water. If you add a lesser amount of water, the resulting mixture will be thicker. The ingredients used in the stucco mixture and the thickness of the stucco mixture are just as important as the method of application when it comes to creating the finished texture.
Buying Pre-Mixed Finishes
If you’re like me and like to keep things simple, then there’s an even easier way to get the stucco texture mixture that you want – just buy it pre-mixed. Using the Omega Products Akroflex Finish as an example, there are 5 different stucco finish mixes to choose from, and several variations of texture options for each finish mix. All of these mixes are 100% acrylic based finishes using the latest Dirt Pick-up Resistance (DPR) technology, which can produce a variety of textures depending on the aggregate size and application method.
I recommend these finishes because by using acrylic as the main ingredient, they provide a flexible, durable, integrally colored finish. Acrylic stucco will bridge most hairline cracks and does not allow any water to penetrate. The water can be a huge problem in climates like ours where it will freeze and thaw, causing cracks to develop in the stucco. Acrylic exterior stucco finish also requires very little maintenance when compared to other types of finishes.
- AkroFlex Malibu: Akroflex Malibu Finishes are available in the following aggregate sizes:
- Malibu 12 (~1.5mm): Coarse sand-like finish with slight worm driven appearance.
- Malibu 16 (~1.2mm): Medium sand-like finish with slight worm driven appearance.
- Malibu 20 (~0.8mm): Fine sand-like finish with reflective quartz aggregate.
- Malibu Fine (~0.8mm): Imperfect smooth type finish with irregularities.
- Akroflex Semi-Smooth Finish: Akroflex Semi-Smooth Finish utilizes approximately 0.3mm aggregates and can be troweled to achieve an imperfect smooth Mission-style finish or Old World appearance.
- AkroFlex Delta Finish: AkroFlex Delta Finish utilizes approximately 1.5mm aggregates and can be utilized to create a medium sand-like finish or lace texture.
- Akroflex Desert Series Finish: Akroflex Desert Series Finishes utilize silica aggregates and are available in the following finishes:
- Sahara Sand (~0.8mm): Uniform fine sand-like finish.
- Pebble Beach (~1.5mm): Uniform medium sand-like finish
- Akroflex CircleTex Finish: Akroflex CircleTex Finishes can be utilized to produce a true worm driven appearance. CircleTex is available as a medium (1.5mm) or coarse (3mm) aggregate finish.
Method of Application
The method of application refers to the style of applying stucco to a surface, which can include the tools used and patterns created. Some methods of application work best with thicker, coarser stucco, and some work best with thinner, finer stucco. The resulting finishes can range from smooth to rough, or from simple looking cement to as intricate a look as faux wood or brick.
This, of course, would be up to you (not recommended) or the stucco contractor you hire (highly recommended) to apply the finish. We have a list of some local stucco contractors on this website. Click here to view the list.
Choosing the right stucco finish for you
With so many options to choose from, your attempts to select the best stucco texture should begin with a little research. Walking through a home and garden store that sells stucco is a great place to start, and you should make sure to find samples of completed looks. (Feel free to come down to the ProBuild on County Road M and Highway 145 and ask for Derek.)
When you find a few options, you might consider the overall style or theme of the structure receiving the stucco treatment. The best stucco texture will not only please you, it will complement the existing look and décor of your building.
Common Stucco Finishes
One of the great things about using stucco for your home’s exterior is that it offers good architectural design flexibility. By that I mean that it offers the ability for more complex shapes and forms on the home’s exterior. Like I said before, when it comes to choosing a stucco texture, there usually isn’t a right or wrong option, but I will cover some common stucco finishes and then I’ll point out the architectural styles that traditionally use stucco.
Most stucco contractors offer one of four types of textures:
- Float: Float texture finishes, also called “Sand texture finishes,” as the name suggests, look like grains of sand on the home.
- Dash: A dash texture finish is a rough stucco finish with small peaks of stucco sticking out.
- Lace: Lace texture finishes have more visual appeal with a look similar to an ornate lace pattern. This texture can be either “heavy” or “light”, with the latter having a finer texture on the top coat.
- Scraped: Scraped stucco finishes are the smoothest option, created by simply smoothing the stucco with a steel tool.
Decorative Stucco Finishes
Decorative finishes may also be applied to give your home a custom look and can also simulate other materials. Simulate brick with stucco by using a base coat the color of mortar, topped with a brick-colored top coat. Carve out bricks by creating grooves around the brick edges that are deep enough to expose the mortar undercoat. Simulated timber stucco features a finish with stucco bands colored and textured to resemble slats of wood. Travertine stucco, which looks like large building blocks made of the rock, features a thick travertine-colored top coat infused with grooves around the outside of each block.
Other decorative finishes include:
- Trowel sweep finish: This finish features a heavy, fan-shaped pattern on a thick top coat.
- Web finish: This finish features a textured base coat topped with a web of thick, smooth rectangular shapes.
- Combed finish: This finish features a thick top coat that is combed to leave a series of raised lines in a desired pattern.
- Briar finish: This finish features a smooth texture with random ridges or lines made by swiping the side of the trowel through the stucco.
- Cat face finish: This finish features a top coat smoothed down with a steel trowel, leaving bits of the textured base coat peeking through in either a random or a designed pattern.
Stucco Textures Named After Places
A number of exterior stucco patterns are named after different places or regions.
- Spanish: Spanish stucco features heavy, overlapping raised areas over a smooth base coat.
- Arizona: The similar Arizona style consists of heavy, overlapping areas over a rough base coat.
- California: California stucco features a thin, textured top coat with a few higher areas that are still smoothed down.
- Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara consists of a nearly completely smooth surface with underlying undulations.
- English: English style stucco uses a rounded trowel to leave a thick top coat of random, round edged strokes.
Pairing stucco textures with architectural styles
Stucco siding can be paired beautifully with the following style homes:
- Mission: The original Mission style homes were built in California, and the style has been incorporated in homes throughout the Southwestern U.S. and even as far east as Florida. The style originated somewhere around the latter part of the 19th century and many were built in the early 1900s. Mission style homes are similar in design to old Spanish mission churches. The simple Spanish-inspired structures are embellished with curved rooflines, bell towers and patterned tiles. When applying a stucco finish to this style of home, you’ll usually want to go with a smooth stucco finish.
- Spanish: Spanish style homes are generally found in the Southwestern region of the U.S. where the influence of Mexican culture is deeply ingrained in its history. Spanish styling uses design techniques that integrate everyday living into the climate conditions found in this environment. Historically, it used materials available locally and designs that facilitated heating and cooling. In this sense, Spanish styling is one of the earliest types of sustainable housing. If you’ve ever seen a Spanish style home, than you know that stucco is a perfect exterior finish for this style of home.
- Mediterranean: Mediterranean styles of architecture, such as Spanish Colonial Revival, also known as Spanish Farmhouse or Spanish Eclectic, flourished in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s following a noteworthy appearance at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915. Spanish-style homes often feature a low-pitched red tile roof, arches, grillwork, and a stucco or adobe exterior.
- Traditional Ranch: Traditional ranch-style homes usually have simple floor plans, attached garages, and efficient living spaces. The style dates back to 1932 and is still being built today. It was one of the most popular styles in the suburban home-building boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Stucco can be a great choice for the exterior siding.
- Country French: Country French-style homes in the United States date back to the 18th century, when France occupied much of eastern North America with settlements scattered along the principal waterways, such as the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes, and Mississippi valleys. Country French homes are often one story with many narrow windows and paired shutters, steeply pitched roofs (either hipped or side-gabled), stucco walls, and a half-timbered frame.
- Cottage: Medieval styles of the English countryside inspired American architects to design the charming and cozy cottage-style houses we know today. The style became especially popular in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. Common features include a warm, storybook character, steep roof pitches and cross gables, arched doors, casement windows with small panes, and brick, stone, or stucco siding.
- Craftsman: The Craftsman bungalow (also known as Arts and Crafts) was a popular house style between 1905 and the 1930s, and it’s making a comeback today. A distinguishing feature of the style is the large amount of interior woodwork, such as built-in shelving and seating. As for the exterior, Craftsman-style homes often have low-pitched roofs with wide eave overhangs, exposed roof rafters, decorative beams or braces under gables, and porches framed by tapered square columns. As people renovate these homes, stucco is a popular finish for the exterior siding.
- Contemporary: Referring specifically to architect-designed homes built from about 1950 to 1970, the term “contemporary” has come to describe a wide range of houses built in recent decades that concentrate on simple forms and geometric lines. Many contemporary homes feature lots of glass, open floor plans, and inventive designs. Void of elaborate ornamentation and unnecessary detail, drama on the flat-face exteriors of contemporary homes often comes from a dynamic mix of contrasting materials and textures, exposed roof beams, and flat or low-pitched roofs. Many contemporary homes feature stucco as an exterior siding.
There are obviously a lot of choices when it comes to stucco texture finishes. If it’s important for you to match your stucco finish to your architectural style, you can do that. If it’s important for you to blaze your own trail and choose a stucco finish based on personal preference, than that works great, too. If you have any questions about your stucco options, feel free to give me a call. You can find my phone number in the box below.
Derek Alvarez sells stucco products and building materials at ProBuild here in Cortez, Colorado. If you have any questions for Derek, you can contact him at 970-739-9911. *The views and opinions expressed are those of Derek Alvarez alone and do not necessarily represent the views of ProBuild.