How To Paint Stucco

Updated: May 10, 2024

Stucco home in need of a refresh? Paint it! We've got the step-by-step, and all the pro tips, right here.

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If you have a stucco house, you know it's one of the most durable building materials on the market. With good maintenance and a little luck, stucco can last more than 50 years. You might find yourself wanting to paint stucco, though, and who better to talk you through it than Kelly Mardis, owner of Marcel Painting in Tempe, Arizona, where stucco reigns?

What Paint Is Best for Painting Stucco?

"You want to use acrylic latex paint for stucco due to its durability and flexibility, so it gets in all of the little nooks in the stucco," Mardis says. Another perk: "Acrylic paints are resistant to peeling and cracking, which is perfect for stucco."

Remember to allow for adequate drying time. For best results, pick a nice sunny stretch of mild weather. Below, Mardis gives Family Handyman readers his time-tested pro tips and techniques for painting stucco.

Tools Required

  • Extension ladder
  • Paint brushes - various sizes
  • Paint roller covers - 3/4-in. to 1-in.
  • Paint roller frame
  • Paint tray or bucket with bucket grid
  • Trowel

Materials Required

  • Acrylic masonry primer (optional)
  • Exterior acrylic latex paint
  • Painter's tape
  • Stucco patching compound

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Inspect the stucco

“The first thing you want to do is inspect the stucco for any damage, or cracks,” Mardis says.

  • Walk around your house and assess the stucco.
  • Look for cracks, chips and flaking paint.
  • Note any cracks you can fit a credit card into (about 1/8 inch or larger). You’ll fix these before painting.

Orange Stucco WallAdél Békefi/Getty Images

Step 2

Test for alkalinity

“This is for new stucco,” Mardis says. “If the stucco isn’t fully cured, it will leach out compounds that are too alkaline, and will burn through the paint.”

  • Use a pH test kit, which can be a pencil, paper strips or liquid, to check the pH. These are available at paint, pool and home improvement stores.
  • Apply the strips, pencil or liquid (called phenolphthalein) to the stucco according to the instructions that came with the kit.
  • Rinse with distilled water (if indicated), and watch for a color change. Usually, this will be bright pink. No color change means the stucco is fully cured.
  • Stop your project if the pH is too alkaline (high). Stucco may take 30 to 60 days to cure.

Test Strips To Measure Ph On A White Background In A Womans HandAnastasiia Zabolotna/Getty Images

Step 3

Pressure wash the stucco

  • Rent a pressure washer from a home improvement center, if you don’t own one.
  • Add a cleaning solution that’s safe for stucco.
  • Stand about 3 feet away from your house. “The distance is by feel to a degree,” Mardis says. “3 feet away is good. You can damage a substrate by being too close.”
  • Pressure wash the stucco to remove dirt and impurities. “3400 psi is adequate,” he adds. “Start at the top and work your way down.”
  • “Allow the stucco to dry thoroughly before painting,” Mardis says. “This may take up to a full day.”

Pressure WasherPatryk_Kosmider/Getty Images

Step 4

Scrape and repair

  • Use a trowel to scrape away flaking paint and loose stucco that needs repair.
  • Apply textured stucco patching compound to hairline cracks. “The same goes for larger chunks that may be missing,” Mardis says. “Follow the instructions on the patching kit.”
  • Wipe excess patching compound off the stucco. Use a damp paintbrush to dab and feather the edges if needed, so they won’t be visible after painting.
  • Allow the compound to cure according to the instructions before moving forward.

Patched Stucco WallShailong/Getty Images

Step 5

Apply primer, if needed

  • Prime new stucco before painting. Fresh stucco soaks up a lot of paint.
  • Choose an acrylic primer that is appropriate for masonry applications.
  • Use a heavy nap roller, 3/4 inch to 1 inch.
  • Work from top to bottom, then side to side, to get full coverage.
  • Allow to dry according to primer instructions before painting.
Step 6

Apply paint

  • Cut in around windows and doors with a small roller or paintbrush.
    • Use painter’s tape to get a clean line, if helpful.
  • Apply acrylic latex paint. “Use a heavy nap roller, 3/4 inch to 1 inch, to paint stucco, so you get inside all the nooks and crannies,” Mardis says.
  • Start by painting top to bottom, then go from side to side. “Apply the paint in multiple directions to get in all the areas of the stucco,” Mardis says.
  • Work in small sections so you maintain a wet edge.
  • Apply a second coat on rougher stucco, if needed, or use a paint sprayer.

man painting the stucco exterior of a homelisafx/Getty Images

Step 7

Maintain the stucco

  • Inspect your stucco once a year to check for cracks.
  • Direct sprinklers away from stucco to avoid water staining or intrusion.
  • Clean stucco once a year, or as needed, with a garden hose or low-pressure washing.

About the Expert

Kelly Mardis is the owner of Marcel Painting in Tempe, Arizona. Mardis first started painting in the Navy, and after his service, continued the trade as a professional painter. Marcel Painting specializes in residential and commercial interior and exterior painting throughout the greater Phoenix area.