Stucco is a type of weatherproof coating made of cement, sand, and plaster mixed with water. Stucco panels are sheets or boards of stucco that can be attached to the outside of a building. It is primarily used to cover up unsightly concrete or brick. Stucco can come in many different colors, patterns and textures and has been used as a building design element since the Middle Ages.
Plaster and sand, in addition to some kind of strengthening material such as wire mesh, make up stucco. Stucco artisans sometimes add different-sized pebbles for texture. Sometimes, stucco panels aren't made out of traditional stucco materials, but are instead created from Styrofoam™ layered over fiberglass and foam board.
Stucco panels are often chosen for their durability. The material is termite-resistant and can withstand moisture easily. Its thickness also makes it an excellent insulator. In hotter climates, stucco is often chosen because it helps keep cool air inside the house.
Though earth tones are popular, stucco can be tinted any color of the rainbow. Many different kinds of textures can also be achieved by adding different kinds of materials to the wet stucco. Different ways of hand-texturing the final layer of stucco before it dries can also achieve this effect.
The durability of stucco depends on how many layers it has. Usually, three-layer stucco is thought of as the most durable. Stucco panels, consisting of a metal lath, are overlaid with two coats of stucco. The third and final coat is usually of colored stucco and textured to provide a pleasing finish.
Stucco panels are relatively easy to maintain. They may develop small cracks over time, which can be filled with cement. Stucco panels can also be cleaned by the use of pressure-washing systems.
Originally, stucco was only used inside buildings to provide a transition between walls and ceilings of two different materials. It was easily carved, and artisans would often use it to create arabesques on ceilings in churches. Often, hair or rough cloth would be laid under the stucco to strengthen it as it dried. Around World War II, people began adding wire mesh in place of hair to support stucco, and it became a material used on the outside of houses. In the United States, stucco became a popular material to use in Florida and California, where it helped keep houses insulated and cool in the hot, dry climate.