Synthetic stucco has been widely used as an alternative to traditional stucco, and if you’re planning to apply one, you might be wondering what Synthetic stucco is?

Synthetic stucco, commonly known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS),  is a non-load bearing wall cladding system that can be installed on the exterior wall of both commercial establishments and residential constructions.

When deciding whether synthetic stucco is the right cladding system for your house, it’s important to consider the various factors, such as pros and cons, costs, types, alternatives, and styles.

Read our ultimate guide to synthetic stucco to know whether or not it’s suitable for your preference and needs.

What Is Synthetic Stucco?

Synthetic Stucco, also known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS), is an exterior, non-load bearing wall cladding system consisting of three-layered major components.

Synthetic stucco is made up of a foam plastic insulation board attached adhesively or mechanically to an exterior wall surface or substrate, such as plywood, polysterene, a water-resistant base coat comprised of polymer-based or an acrylic cement material reinformed with fiberglass mesh, and a top coat finish to give an authentic stucco-like appearance.

Synthetic Stucco or EIFS (pronounced EEFS) was first developed after World War II in Europe to retrofit buildings with damaged masonry walls. In the late 1960s, synthetic Stucco became widespread, primarily used on commercial buildings because of its insulating properties, versatility in architectural styles, and cost-effectiveness.

The exterior barrier type system was mostly installed over brick, concrete, stone, and other durable materials in commercial applications.

Synthetic Stucco also became well-known in the residential applications market in the early 1980s, commonly installed over wood frame construction. 

Synthetic Stucco is typically used as a barrier system and often used as an alternative to traditional stucco in exterior commercial construction or residential building walls. It provides great external insulation, weather protection, and thermal and moisture control.

It’s also often used to provide attractive, low-maintenance siding that enhances the energy efficiency of the building’s exterior walls, saving energy costs. In addition, synthetic stucco is.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

The most common method to check if you have synthetic stucco or EFIS is to touch the exterior wall and feel the material is plastic. You may also do the knock test, and if it sounds hollow and thin, it’s most likely synthetic stucco. 

Another way to check if the exterior is synthetic stucco is to push the wall area gently. If it feels soft, then it’s probably synthetic stucco. If you also notice a slight give or indentation on the area, then it’s synthetic stucco.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Synthetic Stucco

Great Insulation Properties. Due to its multiple layers, synthetic stucco provides good insulation to the exterior part of the building or house. As a result, it helps keep the commercial or residential building cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter. Good insulation properties, in turn, increases home energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.
Durability and Elasticity. Thanks to its multiple layers and fiberglass, synthetic stucco is more durable and flexible, withstanding harsh weather conditions and other elements. It’s also highly resistant to crumbling, fading, thermal expansion, chalking, shifting foundations, and cracking due to thaw/freeze cycles.
Design Flexibity. Synthetic Stucco offers a wide selection of textures, colors, shapes, and finish choices, allowing the homeowners to have the design flexibility to choose a siding that suits their preferences and needs. It also enhances the building’s curb appeal by providing a good backdrop to add accents and other exterior ornaments.
Low-Maintenance. Synthetic Stucco provides ease of maintenance as it can be easily cleaned using regular general cleaning products and by hosing the dirt down. It also rarely needs repainting as scratches won’t damage the color because it’s not applied to the surface. Also, the final color coat protects the surface. Synthetic Stucco can also last up to 50 years when properly maintained.
Difficulty of Installation. Synthetic stucco is more complex to install and requires professional skills to get the proper installation techniques. Each manufacturer also uses a different system to install the synthetic stucco, hence its difficulty in installation if you’re planning to do it yourself or ask any installer near your location.
And if improperly installed, it can lead to destructive problems that can damage your house or commercial building.
Water Damage and Moisture Intrusion. Since most synthetic stucco is non-breathable, it traps water and collects moisture once the water sneaks beneath the surface, leading to severe problems that can damage the building structure. It can cause destructive damages, such as rotting of trim and wood beams, cracking of drywall, mold and mildew growth, an infestation of termites and other pests, peeling or paint and racking, and delamination or the synthetic stucco detaching from your building’s exterior.
Expensive Repair Costs. Once damaged with water and moisture intrusion, it would result in expensive repair costs due to the materials and labor fees.

How Long Does Synthetic Stucco Last? 

Synthetic stucco can easily last up from 20 to 50 years when properly cared for and maintained before being replaced due to its durability, elastic properties, and high resistance to cracking. However, it’s recommended to paint your synthetic stucco every five to seven years to maintain its aesthetic appeal, but let professional commercial paint contractors do it.

Repairing Synthetic stucco or EIFS are only short-term solutions, so it’s better to consider full replacement instead. 

You can maintain your Synthetic Stucco by regularly checking it for water damage and other moisture-related problems. This will prevent further damage to the building structure if there are any indications of water retention and moisture intrusion.

Another way to maintain your Synthetic Stucco is to clean it properly from time to time using the soft wash method to keep the siding’s durability and excellent finish look. Remember that a traditional high-pressure wash system can damage and blast away the synthetic stucco’s exterior, so ensure you’re cleaning your synthetic stucco with proper techniques. 

Instructions to Synthetic Stucco Cleaning

The best way to clean Synthetic stucco is to make a gentle homemade solution that will safely remove the debris and dirt on the surface. 

Before cleaning, wear safety gear like rubber gloves,  goggles, and a mask, especially when handling chemical solutions.

The first thing to mix one cup of trisodium phosphate and one qt. chlorine bleach per one gallon of warm water. Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves as you stir the cleaning solution using a wooden stirring stick or long-handled wooden spoon.

After mixing, put the homemade solution in a pump sprayer, following the manufacturer’s instructions. If there are plants near the area, spray them with clean water using a garden hose to protect the plants from the cleaning solution. You may also cover extra sensitive plants with a tarp or a plastic sheet.

After taking precautionary measures for nearby plants, you can now spray the synthetic stucco surface using the pump sprayer filled with the homemade solution.

Spray the synthetic stucco surface, covering it evenly and thoroughly. You may use a ladder to reach high places if needed. Once done with the spraying, brush the surface using a  long-handled scrub brush, starting from the top and working your way down. Make sure to brush it gently to prevent the surface from wearing off.

After brushing, rinse the surface of synthetic stucco using a garden hose with high pressure to cleanse it. Ensure you’re rinsing it from the top and creating downward movements to remove all traces of the homemade cleaning solution.

Also, don’t forget to rinse the plants around the house with clean water or remove the plastic sheet and tarps.

Types of Synthetic Stucco

Synthetic stucco or EIFS is available in two basic types: Barrier Wall System and Wall Drainage System.

Barrier EIFS Wall System is a synthetic stucco that relies on the base coat and significant sealants or flashings to resist water and moisture penetration. Its other exterior wall components are commonly flashed and properly sealed to prevent water from moving behind the EIFS and into the interiors and walls.

EIFS Drainage System has a water-resistive barrier similar to cavity walls that are installed over a substrate or weather barrier behind the insulation, which acts as a drainage plane.

It provides a pathway for the water or moisture that may accumulate in the wall cavity to move out, preventing damage to the underlying walls and interior.

Synthetic Stucco comes in various color coat finishes and textures, and the available finishes may differ depending on the manufacturers’ custom and specialty finishes and textures.

In general, the examples of the most popular finishes include Santa Barbara Finish, Sand Finish, Smooth Finish, Lace Finish, and Cat Face Finish.

Is Synthetic Stucco Expensive?

A 5-gallon bucket of synthetic stucco costs around $40 to $50, and it can cover about 100 to 250 square feet, depending on the stucco texture you choose to do. 

In general, installing a synthetic stucco costs around $3.95 – $7.20 per square foot.

For the material prices for a 1000 square feet house, the price range for low-range brands ranges from $900 to $1440, mid-range is $1260 to $1890, and high-range brands around $1260 to $1890. 

For the installation cost (1000 square feet), the low range ranges around $1890 to $2880, the mid-range is about $2700 to $3870, and the high range is around $3780 to $4860. 

The total costs of synthetic stucco range from $2790 to $7380, depending on the size and location of the house, the materials used, and the architectural complexity of the house. Siding contractors also typically charge $40 to $60 per hour to install synthetic stucco. 

The average cost ranges from $0.25 to $0.50 per square foot for synthetic stucco repairs. For a 1,000 square feet of synthetic stucco installation, the price range is around $900 to $5000, depending on the extent of damage, location, and materials used for repairs.

Synthetic Stucco Alternatives

Here are three common alternatives to synthetic stucco:

Traditional Stucco

Traditional stucco is a durable, time-tested exterior finish made up of Portland cement, sand, finely ground limestone, and water. It’s applied straight to the exterior, and interior walls of buildings over a base mesh without additional sheating or panels. 

Traditional stucco is fire-resistant, affordable, and more long-lasting than synthetic stucco, commonly lasting up to 50 years with regular maintenance. It also offers a broader selection of colors, finishes, and texture options than synthetic stucco, making it aesthetically diverse.

In addition, it’s highly resistant to moisture, mold, rot, and termite infestations. It also doesn’t crack, expand, or shrink easily with temperature fluctuations, making it a good choice for locations with humid conditions.

However, traditional stucco is less energy efficient and more prone to cracking than synthetic stucco. It also needs regular cleaning, painting, inspection, and maintenance to prevent long-term maintenance issues that could cause expensive repair costs. In addition, once severely damaged, traditional stucco requires entire wall remediation, which could be costly.

Luxury Vinyl Siding

Luxury Vinyl siding is an excellently engineered exterior cladding product made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin that is typically designed to look like an authentic wood siding. It’s often used as an alternative to synthetic stucco for enhancing the house’s exterior appearance and for weatherproofing.

Luxury vinyl siding offers a wider range of colors, textures, and edge selection. It’s also highly resistant to decay, rust, termite damage, and weathers harsh elements. In addition, luxury vinyl siding is more affordable and is easier to install than synthetic stucco. 

However, synthetic stucco is more resistant to harsh weather elements due to its multiple layers than luxury vinyl siding.

Traditional Wooden Siding

Traditional Wooden Siding is an exterior cladding made of various natural wood species that commonly come in horizontal and vertical settings. It’s a good exterior cladding choice as it enhances the house’s aesthetic appeal, it’s easy to install, and provides ease of replacement. In addition, traditional wooden siding is more environmental-friendly, renewable, and sustainable than synthetic stucco. 

Both traditional wooden siding and synthetic stucco offer good insulation. However, traditional wood siding is highly susceptible to fire and decay. It also requires high maintenance, such as frequent staining and painting to prevent warping and rotting. In addition, it’s also more expensive than synthetic stucco.

Synthetic Stucco Suppliers

Examples of the leading manufacturers of Synthetic stucco products are Dryvit Systems, Sto Corp, Omega Products, LaHabra Stucco Solutions, Total Wall, Simplex (Finestone), Western Blended, and Synergy.

Their synthetic stucco products are available in the regions of United States and also worldwide. Other examples of available countries include Asia/Pacific, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Canada.

Editorial Contributors
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Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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