Stucco does not necessarily require paint. In many cases, a colorant is mixed into the finish coat of the stucco itself. However, that does not eliminate stucco as a paintable material; there are just some considerations that must be addressed.
For new stucco, it is vital that the stucco be allowed to cure for several months before any paint is applied. Stucco is very similar to concrete; therefore it is porous and is very wet when first applied. Stucco -- made from cement, sand, and limestone -- is designed to release water vapor.
When the surface is cured it should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water, primed, then painted. Be careful about using standard exterior paint. The thickness of many paints, or uncured stucco, will (a) not allow the paint to properly adhere to the stucco, and (b) prevent water vapor that passes through the walls to escape, collecting moisture that pushes on the paint layer and causing bubbling and peeling.
In most cases an acrylic latex or elastomeric paint will suffice. Yet even better than these are masonry stains or penetrating finishes. These products are designed to fill the pores of the stucco, enough to prevent rainwater from getting in and still allow water vapor to find its way out. This is beneficial because moisture may be battling hard to penetrate your walls from the inside. Preventing this transfer can cause buildup behind the stucco and eventual water damage.
Another common issue that arises from painting stucco is water runoff, or surface water that actually wicks up the walls from below, getting behind the stucco and staying there because paint traps it. A good solution to this problem is to leave a few inches of the stucco that is just above grade unpainted, which you can then hide with decorative gravel from the local home supply store. This will allow standing water to evaporate, preventing bubbling, cracking, and adding years to the life of your stucco siding.
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