Your Place: Brushing up on stucco and how to paint it

Posted: September 09, 2011

First we wrote a piece about painting stucco, using information from the Paint Quality Institute. Then, we ran an e-mail from a contractor in Iowa saying you shouldn't paint stucco.

Today, we're going back to the Paint Quality Institute for its take on the Iowa reader's e-mail. But first, we'd like to turn over the rostrum to Al Kelly of Stevens, Pa., with his views on stucco.

Kelly's view, or that of his sainted father, is that paint is best applied to stucco with a brush. I agree. That's how I've done it, and successfully.

In 1972, Kelly bought a twin in Lansdowne. An older couple who lived there 25 years had never repainted the stucco, and it was faded and ugly.

The owner of the other half of the twin and Kelly agreed on a color, light green, and started at the same time. The neighbor used a sprayer and was finished in a week. Kelly's father worked at DuPont's Grays Ferry paint division for 44 years, painted houses as a sideline, and knew his stuff.

"He told me to brush the paint onto the stucco, no roller or spray, and told me it would take a lot of time and paint for the three-floor house," Kelly said.

It took more than a month painting weekends and after work, and 26 gallons of paint, but when he moved four years later because of a job transfer, "all remarked how nice the paint job was while my connecting neighbor's was fading and not looking too good," Kelly said.

Whenever he returned to visit friends, he found the house had not been repainted and still looked good.

"They changed the trim color 15 years after, but the stucco still held up after 25 years," Kelly said.

"My dad's advice to get a big, thick brush and push the paint into every crevice and hole in the stucco paid off," Kelly said. "Painting stucco with a good latex paint and doing it the right way does work."

"My wrists are pretty strong after that tough month in 1973," he said.

Back to the Paint Quality Institute's Deborah Zimmer, who points out at the start that "we disagree with [the Iowa contractor's] comments about painting stucco."

In some countries, cementitious materials are the primary exterior substrate, and most of these are painted by professional painters, she said.

Visit Ireland or Italy sometime for thousands of examples.

Zimmer notes that the institute does investigate the impact of paint on substrates (and the institute's 75-year-old painted stucco farmhouse is a great testing site). She adds:

100 percent acrylic paint is permeable so water can move through it freely.

Since the contractor who took issue with painting stucco has been in the business some time, "perhaps he is seeing problems with old oil paint on stucco, not today's acrylic products."

Keep in mind all stucco surfaces are not the same. "However, our testing both in Spring House, Pa., and around the world demonstrates the value of using a top-quality 100 percent acrylic on these cementitious surfaces."

I have to agree with Zimmer and Kelly on this one. Remember, the paint job is only as good as the painter, the product, and, of course, surface preparation.

New-house inspection. On another topic, from reader Don Vila of South Bend, Ind.:

"A question appeared in your column that outlined many problems with new construction of a home.

"For a few hundred dollars, the writer could hire a licensed whole-house inspector. Cataloging problems into a report with photos is the job description.

"One thing the inspector can and should do is advise the client when 'specialist-level' inspectors should be called in for further analysis, but it's pretty unusual to need these further investigations in new construction.

"The client then has a detailed report from an objective source to present the builder. Builders take these reports very seriously (assuming they are legitimate), and typically go out of their way to satisfy the client.

"Why? Because the report offers a clear path on which to negotiate."

Your Place:

This week at Al's Place: Using an old CD to make equal-size legs on a quick rustic bench.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies. He is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing).

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