A Brief History of Stucco and How It’s Used

Written by  //  November 6, 2020  //  Construction Materials  //  Comments Off on A Brief History of Stucco and How It’s Used


You may best recognize the architectural process in popcorn ceilings, but stucco’s popularity dates back to ancient Greek and Roman cultures. To help you understand stucco’s popularity in modern buildings, we delve into a brief history of stucco and how it’s used.

Where Did Stucco Originate?

A brief history of stucco and how it’s used would be remiss without mentioning the ancient Greeks and Romans. They first created stucco with gypsum, marble dust, and glue. The material was lightweight and easy to work with, providing the astonishing details we see on buildings’ interior and exterior to this day.

Italians eventually began creating iconic structures with this technique during the Renaissance. This led to the technique spreading throughout Europe, quickly establishing stucco as a popular building material.

Not until the 1800s was lime-based stucco substituted for the more durable Portland cement. British stonemason Joseph Aspdin invented the cement, which builders quickly came to prefer over limestone. The name came from its resemblance to a stone found on the Isle of Portland on the British Coast.

The stucco style and material reached the United States by the 19th century, establishing permanence in American architecture in the early 20th century.

How Is Stucco Made?

Stucco is traditionally created through a three-step process. If it’s being applied to a wooden structure, a preliminary step involving a lath will take place. A lath is a wire mesh that should be applied to the wall before the stucco so that the material has something to cling to. The three layers that structures undergo are:

  1. The scratch coat: The name for this layer comes from the need to “scratch” it out for greater surface area application. It typically consists of sand and cement applied over the lath, if dealing with a wooden structure.
  2. The brown or leveling coat: This layer is scraped smooth to level the stucco. It’s composed of cement, sand, and lime and needs roughly seven to 10 days to assure dryness prior to the third layer’s application.
  3. The finishing coat: The third layer is also referred to as the color coat because during this step, the color of the stucco is decided. Appliance with a trowel allows for a textured design or smooth finish. There’s also the option to apply long-lasting acrylic atop this layer for additional color and exterior design options.

How Is It Used?

The term “stucco” duels as the name of an architectural style and the material used to create the style. Its wide recognition has resulted from the many perks of stucco exteriors, including resilience to weather elements, fire-resistance, and low impact on the environment. Stucco’s proven durability and low maintenance have earned it a spot as one of the most revered elements in architecture, gaining popularity as a material and technique since its conception during ancient times.

image credit: envato.com

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