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Many Arizona residents wonder why most houses in the state are covered with stucco. Sometimes it looks like an unending sea of stucco.

That’s because stucco does a great job of protecting our homes. According to Doug Dedrick, owner of Stucco Renovations in Tempe, stucco is a strong coating that will stand the test of time and the Arizona sun, if it’s put on properly in the first place, painted regularly, and repaired whenever there are cracks or other damage to its surface.

Another reason for stretches of stucco as far as the eye can see is because that finish is traditional to the Southwest and adds to the romantic and beautiful style of desert architecture. You’ll also find lots of stucco homes in Nevada, California and New Mexico. And remember houses aren’t made of stucco, they’re “covered” in stucco.

Today’s stucco is a mixture of sand, Portland cement, lime and water, but can also include fiber and acrylic additives.

First, the lumber framing of a house goes up and then the frame is covered with wood sheeting and a vapor barrier. Next a layer of expanded styrene foam is applied; then a layer of wire mesh is stretched over the exterior walls and two coats of stucco are troweled on.

If you want variety, different patterns of troweling can be used on stucco walls. Most common is “Spanish lace” that can be spread on in any one of a variety of patterns. Stucco can also have a rougher, heavier texture — in large “pancakes” or “cat’s faces” with little patches of raised areas here and there. A smooth “sand finish” is the most popular, according to Dedrick. Very rough finishes can be hard to keep clean and need frequent washing to get rid of the dust. “You see the sand finish a lot in places like Santa Barbara and Santa Fe,” Dedrick said.

Things can go wrong, he also said, if the mixture is done imprecisely and doesn’t dry properly. While drying, the stucco must also be “cured” by hosing it down with water in the mornings for three or four days.

After about three weeks, stucco can finally be painted. “If you paint too soon, the stucco doesn’t cure properly,” Dedrick said. Putting coloring into stucco as a way of avoiding any painting generally is not a good idea.

Dedrick often does repair jobs on stucco that wasn’t put on properly. Sometimes, he completely recoats a house with new stucco when homeowners decide to change the texture of the home’s exterior or if there is a major remodel going on.

So how else can you change the look of your stucco house? Here are four more ways:

  1. You can install panels of manufactured stone or real stone as accents on walls.
  2. You can add on “pop-out” accents to give the structure a different look. You can add new details and framing around doors and windows. You can actually do a pop-out to add extra space in the house.
  3. You can repaint using more than one color on different parts of the house. A pop-out can be an accent color, for example.
  4. You can put panels of siding on different sections of the house.


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