Painting London’s Stucco Houses: A Guide

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Houses in London feature architectural styles which span hundreds of years. From the Brutalist tower blocks of North Kensington to the Georgian mansions in Richmond-upon-Thames, London is a mishmash of architectural philosophies. The painting and decorating methods used on our city’s buildings are also rather varied. One of the more popular approaches, which you’ll see in the splendid houses of Belgravia and Kensington, is the smooth, white rendering method known as Stucco.

What is Stucco?

Stucco can be traced back to the Middle-Ages and basically involves the application of cement or coarse plaster over rough exteriors. It usually consists of Portland cement, water, lime and sand and offers a smooth finish which resembles stonework. External stucco was introduced to London in the late 18th century and was popular with Victorian architects, many of whom designed buildings with smooth, evenly-coloured facades. Painters and decorators of the time would often apply the material over rubble stone or brickwork. However, Stucco became less popular towards the end of the 1800s as the price of stone began to drop and fashions changed.

Stucco Knightsbridge Property

Invisible Painter at work on a hairdresser in Knightsbridge, London.

 

Types of Stucco Renderings

There are three basic Stucco finishes: Lime-based, Hydraulic Lime and sand and a variety of mastic finishes. Lime-based stucco is prepared by combining water with quicklime to form calcium oxide made from pure limestone or chalk. This practice is still used to this day, although it’s usually restricted to repair work. Hydraulic lime or the addition of a Pozzolanic additive like brick dust offers an easier, faster alternative.  The other main type of Stucco, Mastic, usually consists of limestone, sand, pottery and glass. Unfortunately, mastic – which repels water – does not age well and can be rather brittle.

Painting Stucco

There are numerous properties throughout London which feature Stucco finishes. Most are residential buildings so office refurbishment usually doesn’t feature in this kind of work. As any painter and decorator will tell you, Stucco requires a certain level of maintenance in order to retain its appearance. When painting stucco, remove dust and dirt before beginning – this is essential if a quality finish is sought. A stiff brush or push broom is all that’s usually required. Any cracks should be caulked with specialist masonry caulking. Putty should be used for larger cracks. If any repair work has been done, you’ll need to wait seven to 10 days to allow the product to cure.

When the Stucco is ready for painting, apply a coating of masonry primer. Begin by brushing the primer along the edges and then use a roller for the flat areas. After the recommended drying period, apply a light coat of masonry paint around the windows and doors with a brush before using a large nap roller for the larger wall expanses. Add one or more additional coats as required using the same method.

If you need to repair or redecorate a Stucco rendering, the above tips should provide you with a few basic pointers. Nevertheless, you might want to call in professionals like ourselves – our painters and decorators specialise in residential and office decoration and have a wealth of experience in this area.