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What is Faux Stucco?

By Melanie Smeltzer
Updated May 16, 2024
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Faux stucco is a building material, usually decorative in nature, used to help achieve the look of traditional stucco. Like traditional stucco, faux stucco is intended to look grainy and slightly uneven. Unlike its counterpart — a plaster made of Portland cement, sand, water and, sometimes, lime — faux stucco is generally made of manmade or synthetic materials. For instance, sand-textured paint, wallpaper, foam and drywall compound may all be used to create a stucco-like appearance.

One of the simplest ways to get a stucco look is to use paint with a grainy texture. There are many pre-mixed types of sand-textured paint that may be used for faux stucco walls, but some may wish to mix varying sizes of sand particles with common house paint to achieve the desired consistency. An alternative to this is to mix powdered or pre-mixed drywall compound with a preferred tint, and spread a thin layer of the mixture in a circular motion directly on to the wall.

Foam faux stucco is generally used decoratively, and mostly outdoors. These pieces are usually made to order and consist of specially formed, expanded polystyrene foam that is reinforced by a fiberglass mesh and then covered a few times with a rubber-based acrylic coating. Many such stucco pieces are used to accentuate the appearance of existing external walls; however, they may also be shaped into columns, cornices, pot shelves and windowsill decorations.

Wallpaper is another easy alternative to traditional stucco. Many of these wallpapers are made of a sturdy vinyl material, but they may also come in paper and cotton blends or non-woven fabric. Faux stucco wallpaper comes in a variety of styles and colors. Most have a realistic appearance that is grainy and well textured, and they generally come in shades of off-white, beige or brown; others may have a smoother texture and incorporate images such as roses, ivy, roosters or hens. The latter style may also come in more unusual hues of blue, orange or red, and may bear striking geometric patterns.

Although many prefer faux stucco to the traditional variety, it is not without its problems. Sand-textured paints and wallpapers are considered generally harmless, though certain types of paint or glue may give off strong fumes. When improperly installed, drywall and foam materials are more prone to retaining moisture that can cause structural damage and mold. If moisture becomes trapped behind drywall, it can lead to mold, and mold can grow within or behind the foam material if it is not allowed to breathe properly. In either instance, this growth can cause problems within the home and for the people living in it.

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