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What is Synthetic Stucco?

What is Synthetic Stucco?
One of the popular siding materials, synthetic stucco is fast replacing its traditional variant. Go through this information about this siding.
Sonia Nair
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2019
The history of stucco siding has been traced back to time of ancient Romans and Greeks. Earlier, it was made of lime water and sand. Even plant and animal fibers were added to stucco to reinforce it as a siding material. Stucco was used to make artworks. But, with time, the composition of stucco changed.
During the 1850s, Portland cement was invented, and people started using this cement along with lime water and sand, to prepare stucco. Today, this type of stucco is called traditional stucco, as a new entrant called synthetic stucco is also being introduced.
So traditional stucco is made of cement, sand, lime, and water. After World War II, synthetic stucco was developed by building contractors, and this material was mainly used for repair work. Due to its insulating properties, this stucco gained popularity as a siding material.
Traditional stucco is applied in three coats, over a stucco lath (a narrow thin strip of wood used as backing for plaster) base. Even mesh is used as a base for this type of stucco, which is mostly found to have an expansive acrylic-polymer finish.
On the other hand, synthetic stucco consists of multiple layers, and is referred to as a type of Exterior Insulation Finishing System (EIFS). It is easy to install, as compared to the traditional type.
Synthetic stucco consists of three layers. A foam insulation board, that is attached to the substrate, using adhesives. The next layer consists of a mixture of polymer and cement reinforced with fiberglass mesh. Over this base coat, a textured finish coat is applied. This top coat may be applied with a trowel or can also be sprayed to the base coat.
This creates a wide range of textures, that may resemble a traditional stucco, brick siding, or a granite finish. Applying synthetic stucco is best done by professionals. Ready-made synthetic stucco panels can be attached to the substrate, with adhesives. Synthetic stucco is used on substrates like brick, plywood, concrete (new or existing), cinder block.
Pros and Cons
If you look at the various aspects of synthetic vs traditional stucco, the former is more energy-efficient, as it is a good insulator. Synthetic stucco siding is easy to install, as compared to the traditional one. While the traditional stucco may not hold cornerstones and other accents, this problem is not usually experienced in case of synthetic stucco.
However, traditional stucco is stronger, when exposed to rains and hailstorms. One of the common synthetic stucco problems is retention of moisture between the foam base and the substrate, thereby causing mold and mildew on both interiors and exteriors.
If the substrate and other structures (like windows and doors) are made of wood, such moisture retention may cause damage to the wood. Other problems include blistering and peeling of paint and sealants.
In short, synthetic stucco can be beneficial, if maintained properly. However, repairs have to be done on a regular basis. It has also been noted that some people prefer traditional stucco to synthetic one, as the former is said to be more hardy and strong. You may choose between the two, as per your requirement.
Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert advice.