Correct Paint for Stucco?

LaurieJune 5, 2010

We have a 1915 Craftsman home which is in dire need of a paint touch up. In fact, our town has mandated on the TCO that certain parts of the house be re-painted (the columns) within a certain time period because the paint on them is peeling so badly.

We are not able to paint the entire house at this time because there are so many other things more urgent to bring it up to code and livable condition; rewiring, plumbing, new windows and the kitchen is being totally re-done for instance. We're not young, need to hire someone to do this however, we'd like to be able to get the columns looking nice and we can do this on our own.

The house is terracotta block with stucco over, and we're aware you can't use elastomeric paint on it. The columns seem to be made of metal with a stucco finish over. I've been told that typically stucco is not painted (or at least, not painted in some parts of the country?) but here in NJ, they certainly are. Ours is yellow, with brown trim.

Can we just use regular paint? Try and match up the color with one of the Benjamin Moore historic colors for instance or maybe go with another color for the columns - possibly white? And, what is the safest way to strip the old peeling paint? It sure is coming off rather easily at this point, that's for sure!

Thanks for any help you can give.

I'd post a photo but for the life of me can not find the darn instructions this early in the morning on the site :P

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I have a brick and stucco house built after the turn of the century. The stucco is the traditional portland cement and lime mix. We repainted ours several (5?) years ago using Benjamin Moore's exterior latex paint. We have not had any problems with it. The painters applied the paint with fuzzy rollers - the painting part went very quickly.

The stucco was in very good condition and needed little repair. If you have small cracks they can be caulked but larger cracks need to be repaired. You don't want any water to get behind the stucco. If there is any bulging chances are you have a problem and need to repair it before painting.

If you think the paint that is peeling is lead based you need to do some research to see what your local authorities require for removal. I'm not an expert but it sounds like the Fed's allow homeowners to remove paint, but some state and local municipalities have stricter rules. There has been a lot of discussion on this lately because the new laws just took effect so use the search option to do some research.

If the paint is coming off easily with just scraping or brushing then I would go with that. We had an addition and the paint came off almost like a sheet. For the original house it was crazed and crackled and even though everyone says never power wash stucco we hired a company to GENTLY powerwash the flaking paint off. It was a mess - it took them days to clean up everything but it worked and the stucco was not compromised or damaged.

Try not to rush this project, make sure you or whoever does the work knows what they're doing. I think your city will give you some slack as long as you are making an honest effort to bring the house up to standards.

As for picking out colors it's hard to know without seeing it but typically if the colums are substantial, are part of a porch and have their own trim they are often painted the color of the body of the house. If they are more like a federal colonnade then they are painted white. But I'm guessing that it is somewhat regional as far as what's accepted. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 1:34PM
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"I have a brick and stucco house built after the turn of the century. The stucco is the traditional portland cement and lime mix. We repainted ours several (5?) years ago using Benjamin Moore's exterior latex paint. We have not had any problems with it. The painters applied the paint with fuzzy rollers - the painting part went very quickly."

There usually isn't a 'problem' with the paint over stucco.....until you have to repair or replace the stucco.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 5:28PM
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Thanks for the tips!

The columns are part of the porch, have their own trim and are tapered in shape. The house has sort of a Prarie or Mission influence to it, to it so keeping it in the same color would be more appropriate from what you are saying.

The house is in decent condition, no bulging or major cracks at all, just some small ones here in there.

I guess we will have to do a bit more research about removal, I do know about the lead paint situation. I'm in NJ and we've already ran up against this when we were ordering new windows for the house. Luckily, most of the window frames in the house were not painted, just stained and those that were did not contain lead paint. Maybe we'll be equally as lucky with the exterior.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 5:33PM
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In my part of the country, almost all stucco has been painted BECAUSE it was repaired or added onto. Riverbed sand is no longer availabe and the mica used to texture cannot be found either so none of the repairs can ever match the original. And you can forget about someone doing sample boards and waiting a month to match color. You can't even find people willing to do a simple traditional three coat application. Once it gets painted as in the OP'ers situation there is usually no turning back.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 10:10PM
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Reason I mentioned it is we've been there and done that with our stucco over brick house. Not knowing any better, husband had the house painted before I married him. When we finally needed to repair or redo the stucco, had to contract with a firm 70 miles away to do it with the old fashioned stucco. Because it had been painted, they had to attach metal lath over the whole structure so that the new stucco would have something on which to adhere. It was an expensive propostion to begin with, but covering a huge, tall Federal home with 'chicken wire' added a lot of extra time and expense to the proposition. That was a d*mned expensive paint job. ;-)

Yes, and we also had a problem locating a firm to do traditional stucco work locally. That's why we had to have the whole crew trucked in long-distance. I'm glad that is a memory.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 12:33AM
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All stucco was originally colored in the mix, and/or by a masonry "wash coat" or color coat applied while the stucco was fresh. The odds that there is no lead paint on it are pretty good. If it was painted with latex from the 70's onward, it may be so loose it will come off with pressure washing, and any that doesn't may be able to be made ready for new lime paint with the application of a bonding agent. If you are interested in lime washes or lime paints see the link below. We have used their products and they work great on historic buildings.

Here is a link that might be useful: VA Lime Works

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 9:35AM
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What is peeling off of our home, does not appear to be "plasticy" in nature (for lack of a better word). I've seen latex paint peeling off and it sort of feels rubbery and is very flexible from what I recall. This almost seems like the stucco itself - and I'm only talking about on the columns right now - not the house itself. The house is in pretty good shape. We can see down to the metal of the columns at some areas where it is peeling away. It seems that maybe they may have applied the stucco onto the columns to match.

We're going to purchase a lead testing kit, to see what it comes up with. Hoping that it shows negative. The house hasn't shown up any inside yet; we have plaster walls, stained wood on nearly all of the framing/stairs, trim, etc. and the little bit which is painted was tested since we are replacing all the windows.

Crossing my fingers.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 9:56AM
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