The Pros and Cons of Stucco Walls for Your ADU

Posted in   Uncategorized   on  June 21, 2023 by  admin0

Stucco walls are a popular choice for many Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) designs. Stucco is a versatile plaster made from a combination of cement, sand, lime, and water, which can be applied to various surfaces to create a durable and attractive exterior finish. As with any construction material, there are pros and cons to using stucco walls for your ADU. Let us take a closer look at them.

Stucco walls types

There are several types of stucco systems available, each with its unique characteristics and methods of application. Normally, homeowners tend to choose between these three types.

Three-Coat Stucco

This tri-layered system is like the triple-layer cake of the stucco world, with each layer adding a distinct character to the wall. Applied over a water-resistant barrier and metal lath, the first layer, or “scratch coat,” sets the stage with a rough surface that makes it easier for the following layers to bond. The second layer, known as the “brown coat,” bulks up the wall, flexing its muscles with added thickness and strength. Finally, the icing on the cake — the finish coat — delivers the desired texture and color. With this triple threat, this system boasts durability, strength, and flexibility, making it a fan favorite.

Two-Coat Stucco

Meet the younger sibling of the traditional three-coat stucco — the two-coat system. Streamlining the process by skipping the brown coat, this method applies the scratch coat directly onto the water-resistant barrier and metal lath, followed by the finish coat. Overall, the two-coat stucco is quicker and less expensive than its older sibling but may not have the same level of strength and durability, so choose wisely!

One-Coat Stucco

Often referred to as synthetic stucco, this single-layered system is like the “one-hit wonder” of the stucco world. It’s applied over a water-resistant barrier and foam insulation board and often uses acrylic-based products to create a smooth, even texture and a kaleidoscope of color options. While it’s faster and more cost-effective than the traditional three-coat system, it might not have the same durability and strength as its multi-layered counterparts. When it comes to one-coat stucco, it’s crucial to remember that quality matters — a proper installation and high-quality materials are key to hitting that perfect note. 

Pros of Stucco Walls

Stucco walls possess a grand number of advantages that definitely outweigh possible drawbacks. Take a look at the list below and see for yourself.

The advantages of stucco walls include:

  • Durability: Stucco is a long-lasting material that can withstand various weather conditions and resist decay, making it suitable for ADU exteriors. With proper installation and maintenance, stucco can last for decades without needing major repairs. 
  • Aesthetics: Stucco offers a clean, smooth, and seamless appearance that can be customized with various textures and colors. This versatility allows homeowners to create an exterior look that complements the primary residence or stands out on its own.
  • Insulation: Stucco walls provide natural insulation, helping to regulate interior temperatures and maintain a comfortable living environment. This insulation can help reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills.
  • Fire resistance: Stucco is a fire-resistant material, providing an added layer of protection for your ADU in case of a fire.
  • Low maintenance: Stucco walls generally require minimal maintenance, as they are resistant to rot, mold, and mildew. Regular cleaning and occasional repainting or patching are usually enough to keep stucco walls in good condition.
  • Noise reduction: The dense composition of stucco walls can help dampen noise from outside, contributing to a quieter and more peaceful living environment within the ADU.


Cons of Stucco Walls

However, there is always a fly in the ointment. In order to compensate for the disadvantages, they must be known to the owner.

The drawbacks of stucco walls are:

  • Installation cost: Stucco installation can be more expensive than some other siding options, mainly due to the labor-intensive process and the need for skilled professionals. However, the long-term durability and low maintenance requirements may offset these initial costs.
  • Installation time: Stucco application is a multi-step process that requires time for curing between layers. This extended installation time can lead to longer construction periods and potential delays.
  • Vulnerability to moisture: Stucco is porous, which means that it can absorb moisture if not properly sealed and maintained. Water intrusion can lead to cracking, staining, and potential structural damage. It is crucial to ensure proper installation and regular maintenance to prevent moisture-related issues.
  • Cracking: Stucco walls can develop cracks due to factors such as settling, temperature fluctuations, or impact damage. While minor cracks can often be repaired easily, more significant cracks may require professional intervention and can be more challenging to address. Regular inspections and prompt repairs can help mitigate potential issues related to cracking.
  • Limited suitability for certain climates: Stucco walls perform best in drier climates, as they can be more susceptible to moisture-related issues in regions with heavy rainfall, high humidity, or freeze-thaw cycles. Proper installation, sealing, and maintenance are crucial in these areas to prevent potential problems.
  • Difficulty with color matching: If repairs or modifications are needed in the future, it can be challenging to match the color and texture of the existing stucco precisely. This difficulty can result in visible patches, which may detract from the overall appearance of the ADU.


Stucco walls offer numerous advantages for ADU designs, including durability, aesthetics, insulation, and low maintenance requirements. However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as installation cost and time, vulnerability to moisture, and potential cracking. It is essential to weigh the pros and cons of stucco walls based on your specific needs, location, and climate to determine whether it is the right choice for your ADU project.

How much do stucco walls cost?

The cost of stucco walls can vary based on several factors that we will discuss further. On average, the cost for stucco installation ranges from $6 to $12 per square foot. 

The final prices is formed by:


  1. Material costs: First thing first, you will have to buy stucco materials. Normally, they cost between $0.50 to $2 per square foot. Installing three-coat systems will cost you a fortune, while newer one-coat or two-coat systems is a relatively cheap way to create the exterior finish.
  2. Labor costs: Next, you will have to hire the workers who will do all the dirty work. Their services range from $4 to $10 per square foot. Also, the complexity of the project and type of stucco system are taken into consideration.
  3. Additional costs: You may need to consider other expenses, such as the cost of scaffolding, surface preparation, or water-resistant barriers, depending on the specific requirements of your project. Additionally, if you need to remove and dispose of old siding, you may incur extra costs.

Stucco walls for your ADU 

In conclusion, stucco walls offer a versatile and attractive exterior finish option for Accessory Dwelling Units. With various types of stucco systems available, including traditional three-coat, two-coat, one-coat, EIFS, and lime-based stucco, homeowners can select the option that best suits their needs, budget, and climate.

While stucco walls provide several benefits such as durability, aesthetic appeal, insulation, and low maintenance requirements, it is essential to consider potential drawbacks such as installation cost and time, vulnerability to moisture, and climate suitability.

By carefully weighing the pros and cons of stucco walls and ensuring proper installation and maintenance, homeowners can enhance their ADU’s exterior appearance, improve its energy efficiency, and create a comfortable living environment. With the right choice of stucco system and professional guidance, stucco walls can be a long-lasting and valuable addition to any ADU project.

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