Maintenance and Repair Best Practices for Stucco on Commercial Buildings

Stucco, a popular exterior finish for commercial buildings, combines durability with aesthetic appeal. However, regular maintenance and prompt repairs are crucial to ensure it maintains its integrity and appearance. This article will discuss the best practices for maintaining and repairing stucco on commercial buildings. From routine inspections to addressing cracks and water damage, we will explore expert tips and techniques that property managers and maintenance teams should employ to preserve their stucco exteriors’ functionality and visual appeal. 

Whether you’re dealing with aging stucco or want to stay proactive in your building’s upkeep, this guide will provide the knowledge and strategies needed to keep your property in prime condition.

Understanding Stucco

Stucco has long been favored for its practical and aesthetic qualities in building exteriors. This section outlines the basic composition of stucco and its common application methods, particularly in the context of commercial properties.

Basic Composition and Application Methods

Stucco is primarily composed of cement, sand, lime, and water. This mixture creates a durable and versatile plaster that can be applied in several layers over metal lath or directly onto a solid base, such as masonry or concrete. On commercial buildings, the application process typically involves three layers:

  1. The Scratch Coat: This first layer is applied to the lath (a mesh framework) and scratched with a tool to create a rough surface, which ensures the next layer adheres properly.
  2. The Brown Coat: Applied over the scratch coat, this layer helps to even out the surface and further reinforces the wall.
  3. The Finish Coat: The final layer, often textured and pigmented, provides the aesthetic finish and additional surface protection.

This application method allows stucco to be both durable and flexible, suitable for various architectural styles and building needs.

Benefits of Choosing Stucco for Commercial Properties

Stucco offers several advantages that make it an appealing choice for commercial buildings:

  • Energy Efficiency: Stucco provides excellent insulation from heat and cold, which can help reduce energy costs for heating and cooling the building.
  • Versatility: It can be finished in various textures and colors to meet specific design requirements, making it adaptable to any architectural style.
  • Fire Resistance: As a cement-based material, stucco is inherently fire-resistant, which enhances the overall safety of the building and may contribute to lower insurance premiums.

These benefits make stucco a compelling choice for business owners and property managers seeking a reliable, cost-effective, and attractive option for their commercial real estate investments.

Routine Maintenance Tips for Stucco Exteriors

Routine Maintenance Tips for Stucco Exteriors

Maintaining the stucco on commercial buildings is vital for preserving its aesthetic appeal and structural integrity. Here are some essential tips for routine maintenance that can help extend the lifespan of a stucco exterior.

Importance of Regular Inspections

Regular inspections are crucial for detecting potential issues that could lead to more significant damage if left unaddressed. These inspections should focus on identifying cracks, separations, and signs of moisture infiltration, which are common problems with stucco exteriors. It’s advisable to conduct these inspections at least twice a year, ideally during spring and fall, to assess any damages that may have occurred from the seasonal weather changes.

Cleaning Guidelines for Stucco Exteriors

Keeping stucco clean is not only important for aesthetic reasons but also for maintaining its durability. Here are some guidelines for cleaning your stucco exterior:

  • Gentle Cleaning: Use a soft brush or a low-pressure hose to remove dirt and debris. High-pressure washing should be avoided as it can damage the stucco surface.
  • Mild Cleaning Solutions: If water alone is insufficient, mild soap mixed with water can be used to clean the surface. Avoid using harsh chemicals that can degrade the stucco.
  • Regular Scheduling: Plan cleaning on a regular schedule to prevent the buildup of pollutants and biological growth, such as mold or mildew, which can attach to stucco.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Water Infiltration

Water infiltration can cause significant damage to stucco, leading to issues like mold growth and structural weaknesses. To prevent this, it is essential to:

  • Ensure Proper Sealing: Regularly check and maintain caulking around windows, doors, and other openings. Make sure seals are intact and free from cracks or gaps.
  • Maintain Drainage: Ensure that gutter systems and drainage paths are clear and functioning correctly to direct water away from the building.
  • Apply Waterproof Coatings: Consider using waterproof or water-resistant coatings on the stucco to enhance moisture protection, especially in areas prone to heavy rain.

Adhering to these maintenance tips will help ensure that your commercial building’s stucco exterior remains in excellent condition, reducing the need for extensive repairs and prolonging the material’s lifespan.

Identifying Common Problems with Stucco Exteriors

While durable and aesthetically pleasing, stucco is susceptible to certain issues that can compromise its appearance and structural integrity if not addressed promptly. Here, we explore some of the most common problems encountered with stucco on commercial buildings and how to identify them.


The surface of an old wall has been partially repaired

One of the most frequent issues with stucco exteriors is cracking. These can range from hairline cracks that are mostly cosmetic to deeper cracks that may indicate structural problems. Types of cracks include:

  • Hairline Cracks: Often caused by the natural curing process of stucco or slight building settling. These are typically thin and may not require immediate repair but should be monitored.
  • Patterned Cracking: Resembling a spider web, these cracks can be due to improper application techniques or incorrect mixtures.
  • Structural Cracks: These are wider and deeper, often resulting from foundational issues or severe building shifts. Structural cracks need immediate attention as they affect the building’s integrity.

Water Damage

Stucco’s porous nature makes it vulnerable to water infiltration, particularly if not properly sealed or maintained. Signs of water damage include:

  • Staining: Water spots or streaks may appear on the stucco surface, indicating moisture penetration.
  • Softening: Areas of the stucco may feel soft to the touch, a telltale sign of underlying water damage.
  • Mold and Mildew: The presence of mold or mildew on the surface or the odor of a musty odor can be symptomatic of persistent moisture issues.


Efflorescence is the white, powdery residue that can appear on the surface of stucco. It is caused by water moving through the stucco and bringing salts to the surface as it evaporates. While mainly a cosmetic issue, efflorescence can indicate moisture problems that might need further investigation.

Bulging or Delamination

Bulging refers to areas where the stucco pulls away from its underlying layers or substrate. Delamination might be caused by inadequate keying during the application or by water intrusion that separates the layers. Professionals should inspect Bulging stucco immediately to determine the cause and extent of repair needed.

Proper identification and timely intervention in addressing these common stucco issues are critical in maintaining commercial buildings’ aesthetic and structural integrity. Regular inspections and adherence to maintenance guidelines play pivotal roles in preventing these problems and extending the lifespan of stucco exteriors.

Repair Techniques for Damaged Stucco

Repairing stucco is crucial to maintaining a commercial building’s structural integrity and aesthetic quality. Understanding the correct techniques to address various types of damage can prevent further deterioration and extend the life of the stucco exterior. Here’s a guide to effective repair strategies for stucco damage.

Repairing Cracks

Cracks in stucco can vary in severity, from hairline to structural. Each type requires a different approach:

  • Hairline Cracks: These can often be sealed with a high-quality, flexible, paintable caulk or a stucco repair compound that allows for elasticity. Applying a stucco-specific sealant can also help prevent water infiltration.
  • Larger Cracks: For cracks wider than 1/8 inch, a patching compound designed for stucco repair is necessary. Clean the crack thoroughly, apply a bonding agent, and then fill the crack with the patching compound using a putty knife. Be sure to smooth the compound to match the surrounding texture.

Addressing Water Damage

Water damage requires comprehensive steps to ensure the structure is not at risk:

  • Identify the Source of Moisture: Before making any repairs, it’s critical to find and fix the source of the water intrusion, whether it’s a leaky window, roof, or compromised sealant.
  • Remove Damaged Stucco: Cut out the water-damaged stucco using a chisel and hammer, and clean the exposed area thoroughly.
  • Apply a Water-Resistant Barrier: Before reapplying new stucco, install a water-resistant barrier over the exposed substrate to prevent future moisture problems.
  • Reapply Stucco Layers: Depending on the extent of the damage and the original type of stucco used, follow the traditional three-coat process or apply a one-coat stucco system.

Fixing Efflorescence

Efflorescence is mainly a cosmetic issue, but it’s important to address to prevent underlying moisture problems:

  • Clean the Surface: Brush off the efflorescence with a stiff brush. For persistent stains, wash the area with a vinegar solution, followed by rinsing with clean water.
  • Seal the Stucco: Once the area is dry, apply a sealant appropriate for stucco to help block moisture from seeping through in the future.

Repairing Bulges and Delamination

Bulging or delaminated stucco is a sign of a more serious issue and typically requires more extensive repairs:

  • Remove the Damaged Area: Carefully remove the bulging stucco to expose the underlying lath or substrate.
  • Inspect and Repair the Substrate: Repair any structural framing or sheathing damage. Replace any corroded lath or add additional support if necessary.
  • Reapply the Stucco: If required, install a new moisture barrier and reapply the stucco layers following proper techniques to ensure good adhesion and curing.

Each repair situation may vary based on the extent of damage and the specific conditions of the building. It’s often advisable to consult with or hire a professional experienced in stucco repair to ensure the best outcome and to avoid further damage or recurring issues.

Professional Inspection and Repair for Stucco Exteriors

While routine maintenance can be managed in-house, certain situations require the expertise of professionals experienced with stucco systems. Understanding when to call in experts and how to choose the right contractor is crucial for effective stucco repair and long-term maintenance.

When to Seek Professional Inspection

Professional inspection is particularly crucial under the following circumstances:

  • Significant Structural Concerns: Large cracks or bulging sections of stucco may indicate foundational or structural issues that require professional assessment.
  • Extensive Water Damage: Signs of persistent moisture problems, such as mold, mildew, or significant staining, suggest that hidden damage may be deep within the stucco or the building envelope.
  • After Severe Weather Events: Buildings subjected to severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes should be professionally inspected to ensure the integrity of the stucco and underlying structures.

Selecting a Reputable Stucco Repair Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is key to ensuring that stucco repairs are done effectively. Here are some tips for selecting a reputable professional:

  • Specialization and Experience: Look for contractors specializing in stucco rather than general contractors. Experienced stucco professionals will better understand the specific techniques and materials required.
  • Licensing and Certification: Ensure the contractor is licensed and certified for stucco repair work in your state or region. This helps guarantee that they meet industry standards.
  • References and Reviews: Check for reviews and ask for references. Speaking to past clients or reviewing case studies of similar projects can provide insights into the contractor’s quality of work and reliability.
  • Insurance and Warranties: Verify that the contractor carries liability insurance and offers warranties on their work. This protects you against possible defects in craftsmanship or materials.

The Role of Professionals in Diagnosing Underlying Issues

Professionals play a critical role in accurately diagnosing issues that may not be apparent to untrained eyes:

  • Comprehensive Assessments: Professionals use tools and techniques such as moisture meters, thermal imaging, and structural assessments to diagnose the extent and cause of damage.
  • Expert Recommendations: They can recommend the most effective repair strategies or improvements to prevent future problems based on their findings. This might include changes in drainage, ventilation, or material upgrades.
  • Ensuring Compliance: Professionals will ensure that all repairs meet local building codes and standards, which is crucial for safety and compliance with legal requirements.

Engaging professionals for inspection and repair ensures that the work is done correctly and helps maintain the building’s value and safety over the long term.

Long-Term Care and Prevention

Builder using plastering tool for finishing old wall

Maintaining stucco exteriors’ integrity and aesthetic appeal in commercial buildings involves a proactive approach to care and prevention. Implementing strategic maintenance and addressing environmental factors is crucial for prolonging the life of stucco. Here, we delve into effective strategies that property managers and maintenance teams can adopt to ensure the durability and longevity of stucco facades.

Regular Maintenance Schedules

Setting up a regular maintenance schedule is fundamental to preserving stucco. This schedule should include:

  • Routine Inspections: Conduct biannual inspections to check for cracks, water damage, or signs of wear and tear. These inspections are best scheduled during the spring and fall to prepare the stucco for the more extreme summer and winter weather conditions.
  • Cleaning Regimens: Regular cleaning to remove dirt, debris, and biological growth prevents the accumulation of materials that can retain moisture against the stucco surface. Soft washing with mild detergents is recommended to avoid damaging the stucco.
  • Prompt Repairs: Addressing minor repairs immediately can prevent them from developing into more significant issues. Small cracks or separations should be sealed as soon as detected to prevent water ingress and further damage.

Application of Protective Coatings

Applying protective coatings is an excellent way to extend the life of stucco exteriors:

  • Sealants: Use high-quality sealants designed for stucco to create a barrier against moisture. These products can help prevent the penetration of water, which is a primary cause of deterioration in stucco.
  • Elastomeric Coatings: Consider applying elastomeric coatings that can stretch and move with the stucco, covering existing minor cracks and preventing new ones. These coatings also provide excellent waterproofing benefits.
  • UV Protection: Since UV radiation can degrade the binders in stucco over time, applying a coating that includes UV protectants can help preserve the surface’s color and integrity.

Landscaping and Irrigation Considerations

The surrounding landscape and irrigation systems play a significant role in the maintenance of stucco exteriors:

  • Proper Drainage: Ensure the landscape design directs water away from the building. Sloping the terrain slightly away from the foundation can prevent water accumulation that could seep through the stucco.
  • Irrigation Control: Irrigation systems should be designed and positioned to minimize water splash on stucco surfaces. Frequent or prolonged exposure to water can lead to deterioration and the potential for water intrusion.
  • Tree and Shrub Placement: Plant trees and shrubs safely from the building to prevent branches from rubbing against the stucco. Additionally, roots can grow to disrupt the foundation or create an uplift that might crack or damage the stucco.

Incorporating these strategies into a long-term care plan for stucco exteriors not only preserves the material’s structural and aesthetic qualities but also enhances the overall value and safety of the property. Regular and attentive maintenance, combined with strategic environmental management, can significantly mitigate the risks associated with stucco deterioration, securing the building’s facade against the elements for years to come.

Legal Compliance Considerations for Stucco Maintenance and Repair

Legal Compliance Considerations for Stucco Maintenance and Repair

Maintaining and repairing stucco on commercial buildings isn’t just about preserving appearance and functionality—there are also crucial legal and compliance aspects that property owners and managers must consider. Adherence to building codes, regulations, and insurance requirements is essential to avoid legal and financial liabilities.

Overview of Building Codes and Regulations

Building codes and regulations related to stucco maintenance and repair can vary significantly depending on the location. These regulations are designed to ensure that all construction and maintenance practices meet minimum safety and performance standards to protect public health and safety. Key considerations include:

  • Local Building Codes: Most localities have specific codes that outline the standards for building exteriors, including stucco. These codes typically cover everything from the materials that must be used to the methods of application and repair.
  • State Regulations: Some states may have additional regulations that govern the maintenance and repair of building exteriors, particularly in areas prone to specific environmental challenges like hurricanes or earthquakes.
  • Federal Standards: While more general, federal regulations may also impact how stucco maintenance and repair are conducted, particularly concerning environmental safety and using certain materials.

Understanding and complying with these varied regulations is crucial for legal adherence and the safety and longevity of the building’s structure.

Importance of Compliance for Insurance and Liability Reasons

Compliance with the relevant codes and regulations directly impacts a property’s insurance policies and liability issues:

  • Insurance Coverage: Insurance companies often require that properties comply with local building codes to qualify for coverage. In the event of damage, insurers may refuse to cover repairs or replacements if they find that the property was not compliant at the time of damage. Regular inspections and adherence to maintenance guidelines ensure that insurance coverage remains valid.
  • Reducing Liability Risks: Compliance with building codes also reduces the risk of liability in accidents or injuries that could be traced back to neglected maintenance or improper repairs. For example, if a piece of stucco falls and injures someone due to inadequate maintenance, the property owner could be liable for damages.
  • Enhancing Property Value: Properties that adhere to the latest building codes and are well-maintained generally retain or increase their market value better than those that do not. Compliance can also be a selling point, demonstrating responsible management and reducing potential hurdles during the sale or lease process.

Ensuring Compliance

To ensure compliance with all relevant codes and regulations, property managers should:

  • Stay Informed: Stay updated with local building codes and any changes in state or federal regulations that might affect stucco maintenance and repair.
  • Hire Qualified Professionals: Use contractors who are familiar with and adhere to local regulations for stucco work. Verify their professional certifications and licenses before contracting their services.
  • Document Everything: Maintain detailed records of all maintenance and repair work, including dates, what was done, who performed the job, and any inspections or permits associated with the work. This documentation can be vital for insurance claims or legal issues.

Adhering to legal and compliance requirements is not merely a bureaucratic exercise—it’s a critical component of responsible property management. By ensuring that all stucco work complies with applicable codes and regulations, property managers can protect their investments, minimize risks, and provide safe and appealing environments for occupants and visitors.


Maintaining the stucco on commercial buildings is an integral part of property management beyond mere aesthetics. Proper upkeep ensures structural integrity, enhances building safety, and upholds property value. As we’ve discussed, regular maintenance schedules, prompt repairs, the application of protective coatings, and thoughtful landscaping and environmental management are crucial for preserving stucco exteriors. 

Additionally, understanding and adhering to the legal and compliance aspects of stucco maintenance protects against liability and ensures that the property remains in line with building codes and insurance requirements.

For property managers and building owners, the commitment to ongoing stucco care involves a balanced approach of routine checks, professional assessments, and immediate rectifications of emerging issues. By embracing a proactive maintenance strategy, you can prevent minor problems from escalating into major expenses and disruptions. 

Ultimately, the longevity and durability of stucco exteriors depend on the diligence and foresight applied to their care and repair, embodying a commitment to both the property’s aesthetic appeal and its long-term structural health. This proactive approach not only secures the investment but also contributes to the building’s safety and functionality, ensuring it continues to meet the needs of its occupants and remains a valuable asset in your real estate portfolio.

If you need help repairing and painting the stucco of your building, you can contact Custom Painting, Inc. by calling 925-294-8062 or filling out our contact form. Let us help you maintain the beauty of your commercial space.