Plastering isn't the oldest profession, but it may be close to it. Coatings have been applied to the outside of structures for almost as long as people have been building shelter. Originally, plaster consisted of mud alone. As technology advanced, lime-based compounds were used. Modern-day Portland cement was invented in England in the early 1800s. It gradually gained popularity in the United States and was widely available by the 1890s. Traditional three-coat stucco is nothing more than a Portland cement-based exterior plaster, which is a mixture of cement, sand, and water. Cement-based stucco has a long history of proven performance in a variety of climates here in the U.S., from the hot, dry Southwestern deserts to cold Northern winters and the humid Southeast. Any problems with stucco are more related to a lack of uniformity and skill in stucco application than to the products themselves. In the past 15 years, in response to this, manufacturers have introduced many new stucco products, including fiber-reinforced "one-coat" stuccos with acrylic polymers. These products have the perceived advantage of faster installation time and fewer shrinkage cracks as the coating cures. Despite the apparently "enhanced" performance of these products, I believe that the original recipe for stucco still best withstands the test of time. Properly installed three-coat Portland cement stucco provides the building with a dense, monolithic, protective shell. It requires very little maintenance and can easily last over 100 years. Three-coat stucco is easy to repair or patch and resists weather, impact, fire, insects, and rot. It is also vapor-permeable, as well as watertight in its entire depth. These are clear advantages over new synthetic exterior-finish systems.

Stucco can be applied to just about any wall system, including wood frame, metal frame, masonry, ICF block, Rastra (a particular type of ICF with a textured surface made of 85% recycled foam plastics and Portland cement), pumicecrete, poured concrete, straw bales, or adobe. Regardless of the wall system you use, quality stucco starts with a...

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