Stucco - Still Popular in Modern Construction

In modern construction, the use of stucco is commonplace; especially for Southwestern design utilizing exterior stucco wall finish. The use of plaster, however, has declined significantly from its traditional widespread use for finishing interior walls. Interior plaster wall finishes have been replaced largely by gypsum board, also known as drywall or sheetrock.

Stucco - Modern Construction Technique Basics

Interestingly enough, the difference between stucco and plaster is more in the intended end use than in the composition. Traditional stucco is made from lime, sand, and water; modern stucco is made from Portland cement and water, with lime optionally added to increase water resistance.

Modern stucco is applied in 3 coats:

  • The scratch coat is applied to chicken wire or wire mesh hardware cloth. The wire is attached to a wood-framed or light gauge steel structure. A layer of tar paper is positioned underneath to protect the wood or metal from moisture intrusion between the layers. Once the stucco scratch coat has been applied, it is “scratched” horizontally with a brush so that the next coat will adhere properly.
  • The brown coat or “leveling coat” is applied next; leveled with tools like a darby, rod, or federege. It is further smoothed and floated to provide a smooth surface for the final coat; given ample cure time (7 to 10 days minimum) before final coating.
  • The final coat is the last layer of stucco to be applied, usually done in one of two recommended types; color coat or acrylic finish. It is then floated with water, resulting in a sandy textured finish, or else textured later with a trowel and additional stucco mix to achieve any of a variety of troweled textures of stucco finish.

Advantages of Innovative Strawbale Construction

A newer innovation in stucco design which has gained interest due to the advantages of green building is straw bale home construction. Walls are made with stacked straw bales, sealed in cement stucco.

Strawbale construction is nothing new. Early settlers in the Nebraska sand hills began using this type of home production over 100 years ago. Some of these structures are still in use today.

Advantages of straw bale construction include:

  • An abundant and totally renewable resource - straw bale construction utilizes walls erected from straw bales; a totally and quickly renewable resource.
  • A very energy efficient home - straw bale walls typically provide an insulation rating of R48 or more. This far exceeds the Department of Energy's minimum R-Factor guidelines for even the most frigid climates. Consequently, the extreme insulation provided by this type stucco home construction yields staggering savings in heating and cooling energy costs.
  • Ease and speed of construction - strawbale construction is achieved quickly with a very low degree of building skill required; construction can be completed in just a few days.
  • High potential for low cost housing - cost can range from slightly higher than conventional building (over $100 per square foot of floor area), or a very low cost ($10 per square foot of floor area) if homeowners undertake most of the building themselves.

Building a Straw Bale Home

The recommended method of straw bale home construction begins by pouring concrete for a raised footing to place straw bales on, with framing or upright pole beams to support a roof structure. The raised footings combined with ample drainage are crucial to keep moisture from penetrating and condensing inside the straw bale walls.

Straw bales are arranged on the footing in staggered layers, so that joints between bales in the underlying layer fall in the middle of the bales in the next layer. Bales are tied together with wooden stakes or bamboo pins which penetrate at least two bales. They are then wrapped on both sides with chicken wire or wire mesh, also pinned to the straw bales.

Once the bales are positioned in between and around the framing supports, they are sealed using cement stucco made from sand and Portland cement. When properly sealed, the walls are durable; highly fire resistant and pest-proof.

Utilities are either run inside the walls, the floor, or in the ceiling; doors and windows are set to either the inside or outside of the straw bale walls, with special care given to avoid excess moisture accumulation.

This type construction is especially attractive for Spanish style home construction; it is also viable for stucco fence building.

Locate a Contractor for Basic Tasks

Undertaking a straw bale home construction project does not require extensive knowledge on how to apply stucco. Even so, those reluctant to engage in such a do it yourself project can enlist the services of a stucco contractor.

Homeowners seeking the services of a local stucco service provider, plaster contractor, or even an Atlanta stucco repair contractor can locate a reliable contractor in their community through's online matchmaking service is fast, easy, and free!

Homeowners sign up with no cost or obligation whatsoever. They can post their project online where it is immediately visible to local service providers 24/7. Local contractor members also receive e- mail notification of project information; they can provide competitive bids in days or even hours after project posting.

At, homeowners have the opportunity to view contractor profile pages, licensing/insurance/certification credentials, references, customer feedback, and photos of recently completed projects. And then make an informed hiring decision, or hire no one at all. Remember, there is no obligation whatsoever.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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