How To: Paint Stucco

When your rough-textured walls fade or get dirty, treat them to a DIY redo.
How to Paint Stucco - On a House Exterior

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Stucco is a particularly popular exterior finish for homes in the Southwest, but it can also be found texturing interior walls all over the country. Created by layering a cement-and-plaster compound with a variety of plastering tools, its rough appearance is both visually appealing and rather low-maintenance—a favorable combination for homeowners. 

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When stucco appears dingy, it needs little more than a hosing off with warm, soapy water. A new coat of paint can offer an even greater refresh, though, and it’s one project most homeowners can tackle with confidence, provided that the surface is in otherwise good condition (no chips or cracks). To achieve a finished job that looks like it was done by a pro, follow these guidelines for how to paint stucco.

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How to Paint Stucco - Gray Stucco

Step 1

Prepare the surrounding area. Put drop cloths on the floor and furniture that can’t be moved, and tape trim.

Step 2

Clean stucco surfaces of dirt and dust. For most exterior stucco, this simply requires a thorough going over with a stiff brush or push broom. Interior walls may be more easily vacuumed using a dusting attachment. If your walls have grease or grime or mildew build-up, apply an appropriate cleaner, following manufacturer’s directions. Deeply grooved exteriors can be power washed, if necessary, to get dirt out of the crevices. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, and allow to dry completely for 24 hours before you begin to caulk and repair.

Step 3

Fix any small cracks with masonry caulk. Cracks larger than 1/16-inch-wide will require a patch. Remove the loose stucco with a putty knife, and repair with stucco patching compound. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s suggested curing time on your patching compound. You may need to wait for up to 10 days before you can paint.

Step 4

Prime with a high quality acrylic primer, using a synthetic brush to cut in, and a large napped roller to roll it on. Acrylic primers and paints are preferred because their binders mean better adherence to the uneven stucco finish. A large napped roller makes for easier application into all the nooks and crannies.

You’ll probably need more than one coat for complete coverage. It is better to apply two thinner coats than one thick coat, to avoid paint pooling in crevices and causing drips. Follow the manufacturer’s guidance on drying times between coats.

Step 5

Due to its texture, a stucco finish has a much greater overall surface area than a flat wall, so you’ll need more paint than you think to achieve adequate coverage. If a gallon of paint says it gives you 400 square feet of coverage, assume you’ll cover 200 square feet of stucco. Apply paint as you did primer, with a synthetic brush for cutting in, and a large napped roller for rolling the walls. Roll on one to two coats, as necessary, and follow the manufacturer’s guidance with regard to drying time between coats.

How to Paint Stucco

It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to revitalize a tired, dirty stucco finish. A good quality exterior paint job should last 15 to 20 years; indoors, it should last as until styles change and you tire of the color. So, enjoy it while it lasts!