Comment of the Day: Why Is Houston Still Stuck on Stucco?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY IS HOUSTON STILL STUCK ON STUCCO? “Stucco seems to have more long term durability and maintenance problems than just about anything else, yet it seems to be the exterior of choice in nearly all high-end construction. Why?” [Skeptic, commenting on If You Like the Idea of Living Upstairs from Kay’s Lounge, Here’s the Next Best Thing] Illustration: Lulu

19 Comment

  • The Land Rover is by far one of the least reliable vehicles on the road and the most expensive to maintain. Yet, it is the vehicle of choice in high end auto sales. Why?

  • My question on stucco, is Houston just that hard on it, or are the installers just that inept. Stucco does just fine all over the world, but every single townhome near me that has stucco has had to undergo major repair within 5-10yrs of construction.

    Is overgrouted and painted white brick the new replacement? iI so, gross.

  • because it’s cheap and easy to slap on. Just because someone constructs a building in a highly sought after area with high property values, does not make that said building high end. Unfortunately, folks in Houston and other similar cities spend money for location and cut corners on design and materials. As it’s always said, design is in the details, which includes materials. Generally, stucco built homes are built on the notion of square footage > quality

  • @MH005 – Stucco does not allow the home to breath which is deadly for buildings in a wet / humid climate

  • I have a stucco house, built in 1919, east of Montrose, there are alot of them.

  • $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  • Probably because there was a huge stucco boom nationwide 20 years ago, all the contractors learned how to do it cheaply then, so they push it on you when you’re designing the house, so they don’t have to subcontract the siding to someone else.

  • New construction with real cement stucco over a monolithic masonry wall is rare here. That’s the good stuff you see in the old world.
    Houston builders do a lot of synthetic stuff going over tickytacky plywood and board substrates stuck to stick-built walls. It’s junk, but it’s all the buyer’s problem once the townhouse is sold.

  • Uh…over grouted? Sir that is a german schmear.

  • FYI, ‘synthetic’ stucco has been illegal for over a decade in residential construction, what you see is cement slathered over steel lath, over sheathing (plywood). Also, the cost is not really a major factor, stucco costs about the same as brick once you’re “all in”. It’s a market preference thing today and has beef for a while.

  • @ Old School: Bad analogy. Performance, luxury, and prestige vehicles aren’t engineered for reliability. The cost of repair is just a part of the overall cost of ownership. On a perhaps more easily relate-able level, consider the functionality of summer tires. They wear faster than all seasons and are often more expensive, but they’re straight-up better in Houston’s climate. If you care about your tires (which factor into acceleration, braking, cornering, fuel economy, ride comfort, and road noise), you will pay the price coming and going; that’s just how it is; and it’s the one aftermarket upgrade that makes good sense on most vehicles. I struggle to make this analogy fit with the choice of any siding on a house.

  • Straying off topic but summer tires are not a best fit solution for all. Most wouldn’t see the performance benefit in their day to day driving and would be better off with all seasons. The days that summer tires are a penalty are much less common here but they do happen so that’s another reason to stop to all season unless you have a specific requirement for summers.

    On topic, not all stucco, installs or maintenance are the same. People seem to tend to cheap out and usually leads to trouble with stucco — especially in this climate.

  • As an engineer who regularly performs inspections of homes/businesses, I don’t think there’s an issue with stucco itself. If properly installed and maintained, its works fine. Maintenance is just as important as installation, however most home owners do a poor job of regular maintenance on their house and just blame the builder for any issues that appear 5 years down the road. A good practice is to inspect and re-caulk any seals on the exterior of your house every year, preferably before the spring rainy season.

    However, I wouldn’t go with the impermeable barrier system in Houston, which assumes that no moisture will get behind the wall (so there are no weep holes at the bottom). I’d rather have a “breathable” building envelope, because keeping moisture out is very difficult with the soil conditions and climate we have in the area.

  • Because people are stupid, and they think those 3 story shoeboxes are neat; absolutely zero thought given to how it will look/hold up in the future.

  • If one of the reasons for stucco’s unreliability in Houston is breathability, is there is some risk in painting brick homes? That is, does painting a brick house make it any less breathable? Honest question from someone considering painting his old brick bungalow. Thanks.

  • @Tired of Brick, if your weep holes are clear (small gaps every third brick on the first row from foundation then you’re just fine painting it. Also brick sits a couple of inches away from plywood so even if there’s water penetration or condensation, it will generally just run down and not get absorbed into wood.

  • @commonsense and @TiredofBrick, next to stucco I don’t understand why people want to paint brick. The mascochistic joy of added maintenance?

  • What is the best way to clean stucco? I’ve heard high water temperature cleaning is supposedly best (no chemicals) but can’t find anyone who does that in the Houston area.