Time to Say Goodbye: When Stucco Outlives Its Welcome

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Stucco Removal | 0 comments

Time to Say Goodbye: When Stucco Outlives Its Welcome

Stucco, a type of plaster employed as an exterior finish, is one of the most widely-used building materials in existence. This versatile and long-lasting substance has been utilized since ancient times to reinforce and enhance both exterior and interior walls; when properly applied, it can yield extremely attractive results. With the architectural revival movement in North America in the early 1900’s, stucco became wildly popular and was used in a large variety of styles, including Prairie, Art Deco, Spanish Colonial, Mission, Pueblo, Mediterranean and Tudor Revival.


If your home has a stucco finish, you probably appreciate it for its sturdiness and beauty. However, situations can develop in which removal of the stucco is desirable and even necessary. Unfortunately, the very durability ofstucco can make this task difficult.

Stucco Facts

Although early versions of stucco were made from lime and straw, most stucco applied in the 20th century has been made with Portland cement, the same material used in superhighways and bridges. Stucco made with Portland cement is called traditional, or “hard,” stucco. Synthetic stucco — an alternate form which is also called EIFS, or exterior insulation and finish system — is softer and more flexible. Some experts feel that synthetic stucco is more vulnerable to moisture damage than hard stucco.

Stucco is usually applied over a wire mesh lath system, with a water-resistant paper attached to the wall sheathing first. Controlling the finish consistency to obtain specific textural effects is somewhat of an art — in the hands of a skilled contractor, stucco can be made to mimic the look of bricks, timber or masonry.

Stucco Enemy Number One: Moisture

Most stucco damage is the result of water infiltrating the building’s structure by way of leaking gutters and downspouts, interior humidity, poor drainage or cracks in the walls. The trapped moisture causes wood framing to rot and metal lathing to rust and pull away, thus loosening the bond with the wall.

Crumbling, cracked,or bulging sections are visual clues to distressed stucco. A hollow sound when stucco is struck with a wooden mallet means that the bond with the wall has been lost.

Stucco Enemy

Stucco Repair

If your stucco is damaged, you will need to remove and replace the affected area.

At first glance, removing a small section of stucco in order to repair the area may not seem like a daunting task. However, in order to avoid inadvertently damaging surrounding material, it is best to use the services of an experienced stucco contractor. Matching the texture and consistency of existing stucco can be a challenge, particularly if your stucco is of a softer, older, lime-based variety, applied before standardization of stucco with Portland cement and gypsum. A contractor experienced with stucco will know how to test it to determine what type of materials have been used, and how best to ensure a consistent repair.

Complete Stucco Removal: Not For the Faint of Heart

At times, removal of all stucco is the desired goal. Usually this scenario arises when the homeowner discovers a highly desirable substrate —such as valuable wood siding or well-preserved original brick — under the stucco.

Stucco removal is a time-consuming, physically arduous process that only the most enthusiastic and physically powerful of DIYers will probably want to attempt. Most contractors recommend using two different hammers — one with a vertical blade and one with a horizontal blade — to cut a U-shape in the existing stucco, then cutting the lath with metal snips and prying the section out with a short crowbar. A wire brush is used to scrub away stucco residue.

Stucco Removal

Of course, safety goggles, heavy-duty masks, sturdy leather gloves and work boots are a must for this project. You will also need a wheelbarrow to cart the stucco away, as well as the use of a dumpster for stucco disposal.

No matter how carefully it is performed, the stucco removal process often causes loosening and cracking of the underlying siding. When the removal is complete, all siding must be nailed back,and the cracks carefully filled with wood epoxy – yet another reason to leave this one to the professionals.

Stucco is a durable and useful finish, but removing it can be problematic. Fortunately, there are experienced contractors who will be happy to help you.

About the Author

Molly Hilton is the owner of Renaissance Painters in Toronto and has devoted more than 30 years to home renovation, painting, and custom home building. Her unique design concepts bring homes to life with colours and unique pieces that are artfully placed to draw attention to the most powerful and distinctive features of a home.

Award Winning Painters

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