With so many siding options to choose from, it can be difficult for homeowners to make a selection between different materials. For those on a budget, stucco and vinyl siding are two of the most cost-effective ways to finish exterior walls. Each of these materials offers its own distinct benefits and drawbacks when it comes to things like appearance, installation and maintenance. By comparing these features, homeowners will be able to choose the most functional and attractive siding products for their homes.
Stucco is a building material made from sand, Portland cement, lime and water. It is very similar to plaster, but is intended primarily for outdoor use while plaster is generally used indoors. Stucco has been used for centuries to cover ceilings, walls and other structures.
Compared to stucco, vinyl siding is a relatively new product. It was introduced during the 1960s, and is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Vinyl siding is sold in long thin planks that are usually just a few inches wide. These planks are installed in overlapping rows to cover the exterior walls of homes and commercial buildings.
Stucco and vinyl are among the most economical siding options, and each offers additional benefits as well. Stucco is strong and durable. It requires little to no maintenance over time and can be installed over almost any wall surface. It can even be installed over soft or crumbling walls that may not support traditional siding products.
Vinyl siding is lightweight and easy to install. Most DIY homeowners can cover their exterior walls with vinyl over the course of a weekend. It is also highly resistant to moisture, and requires little maintenance.
Stucco can be difficult to apply correctly. Not only is it tricky to mix the stucco properly, but it is also very difficult to waterproof walls to prevent moisture penetration. The cost of hiring a professional installer often makes stucco application more costly than vinyl siding.
While vinyl can be self-installed, it is not as durable or long-lasting as stucco. It may be susceptible to damage from wind or sharp impacts, which can cause vinyl to crack or even dislodge from the wall. In very cold temperatures, vinyl siding may freeze and crack. The only way to repair these cracks is to remove and replace sections of siding.
To apply stucco, one must first prepare the walls to receive this material. Concrete or masonry walls should be painted with a concrete bonding agent, and wooden walls should be coated with wire mesh, known as a "lathe." The stucco is then mixed in precise increments and applied to the wall using a trowel. Generally, two to three coats of stucco are applied, with each coat varying from 1/4" to 1/2".
Vinyl siding can be fastened to existing masonry or wood-framed walls. The walls are generally coated with a layer of building paper to add with moisture protection, and may also be insulated with rigid foam. Installers start at the bottom of the wall and place the vinyl horizontally across the surface. It is nailed in place using an integral nailing strip, and each row is overlapped to cover the nails and seal gaps. The corners and top of each wall can be covered with specialty vinyl units designed to complement vinyl siding applications.
Stucco is versatile in terms of visual appearance. It may have a highly textured surface or can be smooth and even. Trowels and putty knives can be used to create interesting effects and patterns, and each stucco application is relatively unique. Pigments and dyes can be added to color the stucco during application, or walls can be painted after the material has dried.
Vinyl siding is equipped with integral coloring to eliminate the need for paint. It is available in a wide variety of colors, and some manufacturers will even produce custom colored units for buyers. Vinyl siding may be smooth or textured, and can even be embossed to mimic the look of shingles or wood siding.
- Photo Credit "White Stucco Wall" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: shaire productions (Sherrie Thai) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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