There is always quite a stir over colors in stucco. The designers, architects and owners want the colors that will make the project sell more quickly, add appeal, match existing schemes and make an aesthetically beautiful project. The contractor warns that heavily pigmented colors are expensive, troublesome and susceptible to problems. What is the answer? It is of course complicated and pros and cons must be weighed. Let’s start with the most asked questions about stucco and color:
- Pigments are expensive and when you get over a pound the price goes up? This is true. Typically manufacturers allow one pound of pigment in a sack of stucco with no extra charge. Blue and Green are the exception as they are more expensive colors. Pigment is by far the highest cost raw material in stucco by weight. When custom homes want that rich earth tone with four pounds of color it can be as much as twenty dollars extra per sack. Remember though, if we are talking about a high end custom home then the homeowner should get what they want for an exterior color. A very large custom home might use 100 sacks of stucco and even at 20 dollars this is only 2000 dollars more.
- The contractor says he has a hard time making stucco even and consistent with heavily pigmented colors? This also is true. However keep in mind what texture is wanted. A lace texture or sand finish is very unsightly with mottled color. In this case the wall would certainly have to be fogged to even out the color. In smooth finish applications color mottling is typically required. With darker colors we see movement and character in the stucco. It becomes a benefit and part of the artistic beauty of the finish.
- Are some colors so dark that fog coat cannot be produced for that color? This is a common assumption and most stucco manufacturer s have specified limits to making fog coat with over 4lbs of pigment. The reason is that fog-coat comes in a 25lb bag. If there are 5 lbs of color in the bag that constitutes 20% of the bag by weight. We cannot take that much cement and other ingredients out of the bag to accommodate this much color. Similarly, we cannot produce heavily pigmented pre-mix stucco for the same reason. We never want to put so much color in the bag that it threatens the integrity of the product. We should be able to produce fogcoat that can even out color variances using dark pigments. The solution then is to make fog-coat in base and color and let the contractor mix it in the field.
- Are colors more “problematic” when they are dark? Yes, stucco is certainly not paint. It is not logical to expect stucco to react as paint does. Weather plays a huge part in how stucco looks and the more pigment involved the more the weather and other variables can affect color. Efflorescence is more noticeable in darker colors. It is not because there is a higher presence of salts, it is that salts are white by nature and show much more on darker walls.
- My contractor has asked me not to use the dark color I want for my home. What should I do? It is your home and being the owner or builder you should have what you want. But… Go in with your eyes open! He doesn’t want to do it because he has experience that there are many things that can go wrong and he knows that he will be blamed for the problems. My advice is to:
- Always do a mock-up and agree on the color before starting the job.
- Discuss mottling, efflorescence, extra cost and find the tolerances and expectations of both parties and put it in writing!
- Discuss what to do in the event of freak storms, repairs resulting from damage by other trades and who will pay for these issues.
- Weigh the pros and cons very carefully when choosing color.
Remember, stucco is by nature a natural product. All the raw materials are from the earth and it is almost always hand applied. This is the beauty of the product. We don’t have to re-do it every few years like paint. Stucco has an extremely long life cycle. So like any natural product or handmade material certain allowances must be made for the very nature of the product. Life is a give and take so go for that dark color on a smooth wall! Enjoy the beauty of the staining and mottling the same way you would admire your handmade antiques with all of their beautiful imperfections!