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painting old stucco: remove old paint or just patch? how to prep?

I'm painting the stucco portion of my 1920's house, and the exterior finish is not in great shape - lots of years of paint, and it has cracked in many places (the paint, not the stucco) and in many places has large chips (size of thumbnail to size of a fist). Is it best to fill in the cracks and patch over the chips, or remove all of the layers of old paint down to the layer that is still holding together? If I should remove it, what's the best method? Any idea of how to prep stucco for repainting anyways, with so much paint on it already? Pressure wash? Scrape? Help!!!

Thanks for any advice!

Re: painting old stucco: remove old paint or just patch? how to prep?

Your house sounds like the old part of mine. I am NOT an expert, so I may have totally screwed this up, but I rented a 2000 PSI powerwasher to blow the crappy old paint off. I was warned to be very careful not to blast the stucco off along with the paint.

In some places, I did in fact blast off off hard, thick chips of stuff that might have been repairs or resurfacing over the original stucco, or maybe the original stucco was supposed to be two layers. That was probably a mistake, but I whatever I took off, there was very definitely more stucco beneath it, and I never got down to the cinderblock substate anywhere. Nor did I expose any cracks in the remaining stucco, which argues that whatever came off was not old repairs. Considering that my stucco has very obvious repairs in a number of places, where little or more likely no effort at all was made to match the original texture, I don't think I made the surface look any worse than it already was. I hate stucco.

I was also advised I could use a wire brush.

Before starting, get a lead paint test kit from your local paint store and follow their instructions to see if you have to take lead-paint precautions. I couldn't get a test kit at the big-box home improvement chain store, so I had the job half done before I found a test kit at the little paint store. Yep, lead! My dad had power-washed the house 25 years ago, before *he* painted, so I figure my yard is already contaminated, but there are precautions you can take if you know what you're dealing with before you start. The only precaution I remember is to never dry-sand lead paint, but you can Google lead-paint removal for further info.

As far as painting the stuff, I talked to people at at least half-a-dozen paint and big-box home improvement stores, and the people who made the most sense said to prime with a latex masonry waterproofer/sealer/primer, and then the usual 2 coats of any good-quality latex house paint. Some masonry waterproofer/sealer products are NOT intended for use as primers and would not give good adhesion to another coat of paint, so make sure that you get something that is explicitly a sealer/waterproofer/PRIMER.

There are also "elastomeric" paints for masonry, which create a very thick and waterproof paint film, but I decided against them because of the cost and limited color range, and because in my situation, that level of waterproofing seemed like overkill.

Oh, and Consumer Reports notes that flat paint hides surface imperfections better than higher gloss levels like satin.

Good luck to us both.


Re: painting old stucco: remove old paint or just patch? how to prep?

I would generally concurr with Aiken, however, I would have been even more aggressive in power washing the house, using a washer with closer to 3000 pounds of pressure. My feeling is that any stucco which is knock off with a power washer would probably have eventually fallen off anyway. The worst that happens is that you get down to the "scratch" coat of stucco. To patch stucco, you need to get down to the scratch coat and bond new stucco to it.

I have a German wife and I often am taken back when visiting Germany at how century old stucco homes can be made to look so good! Ideally, stucco should not be painted, but merely given a new wash coat of stucco. The wash coat is not stucco per se, but a very thin coat of stucco cement, often colored.
However, in later years, many people have painted their stucco. Once it is painted, you have little choice but to continue with painting. Latex/acrylic paints are definitely the product of choice over stucco as it breaths better. Indeed, one of the reasons it is now peeling is that someone along the line probably used oil paint .

There are latex paints made especially for stucco/masonry, but barring other problems, normal latex house paint is sufficient.
Elastomeric masonry paints are sometimes used in an effort to bridge all the hairline cracks.

Any good exterior latex primer is sufficient for priming. Be careful not to be putting on a "waterproofer" intended for sealing bare mosonry or brick. These often are loaded with silicon to repel water and will also cause paint to be repelled.

Re: painting old stucco: remove old paint or just patch? how to prep?

I have painted over 2000 stucco homes in the last 5 years. Here's what you need to do:

1. Powerwash with a minimum 2800 PSI pressure washer with the 15 degree tip. Dont get too close with the spray or you will blast off the actual stucco.
2. Wirebrush off the loose paint.
2.5 May need to repowerwash to remove loose paint again.
3. Fill cracks with elastomeric stucco patching compound. This can be purchased in either a textured or smooth finish but for stucco use the textured one. You will brush into the cracks and then blend the edges to best blend with the stucco. Do NOT caulk the cracks.
4. Prime bare stucco areas with a masonry primer.
5. Repaint with 2 coats.

With regards to reply #2 and the elastomeric paint. NOTE: Elastomeric paint is great stuff if done correctly so read the directions and follow them specifically or it can make your whole paint job go bad. Make sure to apply 2 full coats at around 10 mils thick total. Also do not apply elastomeric paint on any stucco walls that go directly into the ground (no foundation)

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Re: painting old stucco: remove old paint or just patch? how to prep?

The best paint for 1920s stucco is the paint that would have been used in 1920: Lime paint.

Lime paint becomes one with the stucco (chemically speaking) and develops a beautiful, subtle luminosity. Because it binds with the underlying stucco instead of just lying flat on top of the stucco, it does not flake or peel.

Lime paint also breaths, as does stucco, so moisture does not get trapped inside your house causing mildew, mold, etc.

The person who wrote earlier about stucco on cinderblock must be dealing with a much younger house. Your 1920 stucco is probably on metal lathe attached directly to tongue and groove siding, on studs, with no insulation or vapor barrier between that an the interior wood lathe/plaster. This is what I found when I opened one of the walls in my 1920's stucco house. The ability for this type of construction to breathe is important. Besides mold and mildew, moisture trapped with the wood siding, studs and lathe creates an open-all-night, all-you-can-eat buffet for termites.

Both latex and elastomeric will seal your house, trapping moisture inside.

I used elastomeric on part of my house and I really regret it. I was sold a bill of goods and after much research, would NEVER use it again on an historic property. I am h*ll bent on getting it off of my historic house where it looks absolutely ridiculous. I'm sure it has some good uses otherwise.

If you can get the latex paint off of your house, you are ahead of the game. Otherwise, lime paint CAN be used on top of latex.

The company that supplied the paint for the restoration of Vizcaya in Miami is Calcem and their website is LimePaint dot com. Lime paint is lime and water but after research, I decided to just buy it instead of making it. It's a lot of work.

This is absolutely the way to go if you love your historic house. If you don't care about historic character (a lot of people don't) just use latex. I would not use elastomeric under any circumstances. 1. Because of the 1920s contruction, your house really does need to breath and 2. It's a sheet of thin rubbery plastic coating your house. If there is ever a breach in the surface (scratched by a branch, etc.) it can't be sanded because it will just roll up or pull off as the giant sheet of rubbery plastic that it is. It reminds me of kindergarten when we put Elmer's liquid glue on our hands, let it dry, then pulled it off as a rubbery sheet--exact same thing with elastomeric. Lime paint never flakes or peels.

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