How To Paint Stucco

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When the outside of your stucco home needs a refresh, reach for the paint and follow these step-by-step directions for how to paint stucco.

An exterior stucco finish makes a home look handsome and classy, no matter what style it is. But like all finishes, it loses its good looks with normal wear and tear. You could have it redashed (adding a layer of stucco to the existing surface), but a cheaper, easier solution is to paint it.

It’s definitely in the DIY realm and similar to painting a home with wood siding. Just follow the steps detailed below for painting stucco. You can paint the trim before or after the walls, depending on your home and personal preferences.

Want to refresh your stucco without actually painting it? Consider whitewashing stucco instead.

Tools and Materials for Painting Stucco

Gather these tools and materials before starting this project.

Tools

Materials

  • Acrylic exterior caulk;
  • Block fill primer (optional);
  • Polyurethane exterior caulk;
  • Sandpaper (80- or 100-grit);
  • Stucco patch (optional);
  • Acrylic latex exterior paint, flat finish.

How To Paint Stucco

Here’s what you need to do before getting started.

Step 1: Inspect the House

Before you paint, check the condition of the stucco. Are there cracks? Hairline cracks are normal and typically will be filled with the paint you apply, says Gregg Cantor, president and CEO of Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel in San Diego. Stress cracks coming off the corners of windows and doors that run toward the ground are common, too. They happen over time with settling, and can be repaired.

But Cantor says if you see signs of other damage, such as horizontal cracks, large pieces of stucco missing or unusual discoloration, it may be a sign of more serious issues like moisture behind the stucco. Hold off painting and let a stucco contractor take a look to assess the causes.

Step 2: Pressure Wash the House

The stucco should be free of dirt and debris before painting. Pressure washing is a fast and efficient way to clean it, Cantor says.

You can rent a pressure washer if you don’t own one. Follow directions carefully and wear safety glasses. Cantor recommends setting the washer at 1,500 to 2,500 pounds per square inch (PSI). “Use the lowest pressure that gets the job done,” he says. “Test it first in an inconspicuous area before you tackle the whole house.”

If you want to use a detergent, Cantor recommends an eco-friendly, mild one. If you’re not comfortable DIYing this, hire a pro to do it for you. Once it’s washed, the house should dry completely before taking the next steps.

Step 3: Prep the Stucco

Cantor suggests repairing small cracks and holes with exterior acrylic caulk. Larger cracks or places with damage can be repaired with stucco patch. If the stucco was previously painted and the paint has chipped in places, lightly sand the edges of the chipped areas with 80- or 100-grit sandpaper to remove any loose paint.

Caulk around windows and door trim with polyurethane caulk. “It’s a little more difficult to use than acrylic, but it provides the best waterproofing,” Cantor says.

If there’s evidence of water leaking from a gutter and running down the side of the stucco (look for discoloration or deteriorated stucco), try to determine if water has gotten behind the stucco. If it hasn’t, then repair the gutter leak before you paint. If you suspect it has, call a pro to assess the damage and repair it.

Step 4: Choose your paint

For stucco, Cantor recommends an acrylic latex paint in a flat sheen. “Acrylic is a good choice because stucco is porous and needs to breathe,” he says. “So the paint you apply needs to breathe too.” Acrylic latex is easy to apply and cleans up with water.

Keep in mind you’ll need more paint for stucco walls than other siding materials. That’s because stucco is porous and has a rough texture.

Step 5: Prime the stucco, if needed

If this is the first time the stucco will be painted, you should prime the walls first with an acrylic latex block filler, says Ashley Kloehn of Hirshfield’s in Minneapolis. He recommends Benjamin Moore block fillers, like Ultra Spec Interior Exterior High Build Acrylic Masonry Primer (product no. 609).

“Stucco is really absorbent,” says Kloehn. “An acrylic latex block filler will soak into some of the pores of the stucco so that you’ll maximize the coverage you can get out of your topcoat.” Follow the manufacturer’s directions for application.

Step 6: Apply the paint

First, cut in around the windows, doors and other trim with a brush. Then roll paint on the walls with a thick-napped roller cover. Start at the top and work in small sections so you can keep a wet edge.

Alternatively, you can spray on the paint using an airless sprayer. If the stucco is highly textured, after spraying go over the paint with a roller (AKA back-rolling).

If you prime the walls, you’ll probably only need a single topcoat. Otherwise, you may need to apply two coats. Follow the paint manufacturer’s directions for best temperatures for applying the paint and when to apply a second coat.

Stucco Maintenance Tips

Cantor recommends inspecting stucco exterior walls annually, looking for areas of concern like flaking or peeling paint or excessive cracking. “These could indicate moisture or settling issues that would require a professional consultation,” he says. Touch up hairline cracks with paint, as needed.

Kathleen Childers
Kathleen Childers, a Minnesota-based writer, covers topics about home and life for a variety of clients.