From Old to Gold: Stucco Remediation and Upcycled Exterior Design Ideas | the ReFab Diaries

Stucco walls have been around since ancient Greece, giving homes a distinct style and durability. While it does have a reputation for looking outdated, it’s still one of the most common types of siding on new buildings (27%), according to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction

Moreover, its resistance to harsh weather, fire, and strong winds still makes it a valuable design element in environment-focused 21st-century design. Not only that, but the recipe hasn’t changed that much over the centuries, meaning it’s a sustainable, natural siding option.

However, stucco does come with downsides. If it’s poorly installed, it can lead to increased moisture, mold growth, and other issues, and it may require repairs or remediation.

In the article, we’ll explain what stucco remediation is and when you need it, and we'll share some upcycled exterior design ideas that work beautifully with stucco walls.

Why Stucco Is Sustainable

Not only is traditional stucco made with natural resources, but it also has additional advantages, such as:

  • Natural cooling (it has excellent insulation properties)
  • Longevity
  • Durability and resistance to pests 
  • Non-toxic
  • Minimal upkeep
  • Minimal waste (excess material can be recycled or reused)

When You Need Stucco Remediation  

While stucco can last for over 50 years with little maintenance, extreme weather conditions, water damage, and earthquakes can damage it. With regular inspections and timely stucco remediation, you can prevent small issues from getting worse. Look for the following signs of damage:

  • Cracking
  • Water damage
  • Staining
  • Detachment

If you notice any of these on your property, your best bet is to contact professionals, as the longevity of stucco depends on how well it’s installed. The process includes:

  • Inspection
  • Removal of damaged stucco
  • Repairing structural issues (often the cause of damage)
  • Applying new siding (new stucco, vinyl, stone, fiber cement)
  • Finishing with a protective layer

Remediation is more than repair. It focuses on fixing the underlying problem, either from a leak or improper installation. Depending on the state of your exterior walls, you may only need a bit of paint to refresh your stucco, some limited repairs, or complete stucco remediation.

Stucco and Upcycled Exterior Design Looks

If you’re looking for eco-friendly exterior design ideas, stucco is one of your best choices, as it’s long-lasting and made from sand, water, lime, and Portland cement sourcing, which are all natural resources. It can also be combined with other eco-friendly elements for a more interesting look.

Sand Finish 

Also known as float stucco, the sand finish gives you a clean, simple look, with grain textures varying from fine to coarse. It’s more subtle than other stucco styles and it gives your home a timeless appeal. You can combine it with elements such as salvaged wood shutters or a salvaged wood trim.

Cat Face Finish

The cat face finish is a traditional stucco finish contrasting a smoother background with rough patches. It works wonderfully with Mediterranean styles in design, especially contrasted with dark wood or stone facades.

Lace Finish

The most popular finish, also known as Spanish Lace, is another traditional style. It hides imperfections, and it’s durable and versatile. There is a heavy and a light variant, depending on the top coat. If you want a more rustic style, especially for a second or vacation home, you can accent the lace finish with reclaimed brick or stone. 

Smooth Finish

A smooth finish is most like a painted home, with a very fine texture and all the advantages of stucco. It’s also known as fine cement-based finish and, due to its simplicity, it works well with contemporary, industrial, and minimalist architecture.

Santa Barbara Finish

The Santa Barbara Finish is a more contemporary stucco style, smooth with a very subtle texture achieved by using fine sand particles. It works just as well for more traditional and contemporary styles.

How to Complement your Stucco Style

Upcycled Metal

While upcycled metal screams industrial chic, it can really work in various styles. Upcycled metal furniture can add charm to your backyard, covering various design eras. Here are some ideas:

  • Repurposing old metal containers as planters
  • Upcycling vintage metal chairs (if not too rusty)
  • Tin can gardens
  • Upcycled metal decor (especially the sculptures)
  • Upcycled bike frames (yes, I went there)

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood adds warmth and character to your home's exterior, especially if you use salvaged wood from buildings with interesting backstories. You can combine it with stucco by using it as accent siding, trim, shutters or outdoor furniture. According to Business Insider, Wabi-Sabi design, which focuses on weathered, imperfect elements, and organic shapes is "in" in 2024, and reclaimed wood works perfectly with this philosophy.

Vintage Brick and Stone

Brick and stone will add texture to your home, and contrast your stucco walls. You can use them as parts of the facade, pathways, or garden walls for a full Mediterranean look. There are companies focusing solely on salvaged brick and stone, meaning you can create the exact historic appeal you want.

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