Stucco is a popular type of siding for residential buildings because it is versatile, fire resistant and relatively maintenance free. But it suits some climates better than others. If you live on the West Coast, particularly in Vancouver or anywhere in the Lower Mainland, another siding material like vinyl siding or aluminum siding or fiber cement siding might be a better choice.
Similar to concrete in texture and composition, regular stucco is made of cement, sand, lime and water. Typically, the stucco is applied over wire mesh that has been nailed to the house. Pigment is added to the final top coat to give it its colour. Especially in climate zones that experience freeze-thaw cycles, constant expanding and contracting makes stucco vulnerable to cracks. The newer stucco systems can include a Styrofoam insulation layer or have an added coat of acrylic polymer to make it weather-resistant.
Stucco is porous, which has both a negative and positive impact on the life of your siding. While stucco has the ability to repel rain, because of its porous nature, it will eventually reach a saturation level, allowing moisture to penetrate to the sheathing or house wrap. This is what the house wrap is for; but if there is something wrong with the weatherproofing layer, moisture can let rot or mold develop that might eventually cause structural damage. The positive side of stucco being porous is that it “breathes,” letting trapped moisture evaporate.
This is the major drawback of synthetic stucco siding systems – while the polymer element of synthetic stucco protects it from the effects of moisture, it also eliminates the stucco’s ability to breathe. It can also be damaged easily. The main advantages of synthetic stucco are: it weighs less than regular stucco; can be applied faster from start to finish; and retains color pigment (paint) better.
In moisture laden climate zones such as the Lower Mainland, general consensus in the construction industry favors regular stucco instead of the synthetic kind. However, Hardie board or fiber cement siding is fast becoming a popular choice over traditional siding because it can be textured to look like stucco without having its potential issues.