If you’ve ever seen the last part of a building construction, when the builders apply a finishing layer of stucco to the exterior, you may have wondered what stucco siding is made from. Stucco is one of the oldest building materials in the world. It’s been around since ancient times, when it was used as an indoor and outdoor coating for walls in Greece and Rome. At that time, stucco was made from sand, water and lime, and it had much the same consistency as it has throughout the centuries between then and now. Modern stucco is made from sand, water and Portland cement, and sometimes other materials are added to it for structural integrity and visual appeal.
The materials used to make stucco are naturally very hard and brittle, and it’s possible to break stucco siding by hand. However, stucco is also self-healing, to an extent, because it’s water-soluble, and as a result, it can be used to fill in cracks in a wall or the holes between bricks or stones. In modern times, materials such as pebbles or glass have been spread over the top layer of stucco siding after it has been applied to an exterior wall. This technique is called rock dash, and it was popular in the mid-twentieth century. It adds a reflective, gravelly texture to the outside of a wall.
Traditional Uses of Stucco
Stucco was widely used in the ancient world as a coating for interior and exterior walls as well as a medium for wall decorations, according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sculptures made from stucco have been found in the ruins of ancient Greek architecture, and intricate stucco artwork has been preserved in ancient Middle Eastern buildings, such as the House of Borujerdi-ha in Iran. The materials used to make stucco siding haven’t changed all that much since ancient times, except that instead of limestone, modern stucco uses Portland cement, the most common type of cement used in construction.
Ancient Romans used stucco in a large portion of their architecture as a way to add ornate decoration to the ceilings of large vaulted rooms and halls. While Romans and Greeks mainly used marble as a sculpted building material, Romans turned to stucco to add details to vaulted ceilings, because it is a much more malleable substance than marble. Ancient Romans could easily create quite elaborate and minute detail work on the ceilings of large meeting halls. Later, in the late Middle Ages, Italian architects rediscovered stucco as a material for adding these impressive interior flourishes to vaulted ceilings. They began using this technique in Baroque and Rococo architecture throughout the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Stucco Coating on Exterior Walls
For less grand applications, stucco makes an attractive coating for brick or stone walls and hardens to a permanent, textured surface as it cures. In its original form, stucco was added as a thin layer to a finished wall, because building construction techniques weren’t evolved enough to create the distinctive stucco siding effects seen today. As builders experimented with adding supportive structures beneath the stucco, they were gradually able to achieve the thick, heavy stucco siding look.
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Perhaps, because stucco is one of the easiest building materials to create, it has been used for thousands of years and is one of the most well-known forms of exterior siding. If you have a bag of sand and one of cement, you have most of what stucco siding is made from.