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By: Adrianna Noton
Although a stucco finish is typically associated with a Mediterranean style home, it is not the only area in the world where this type of construction material is popular. In fact, you can find the finish on homes in Europe, Mexico, South America and other parts around the world. The mixture is also known as render. It is a mixture of aggregate, water and a binder.

The traditional form of the mixture used in building exteriors is made of sand, water and lime. The mixture is applied wet and was used both as interior and exterior coatings. Originally the coating was applied directly over masonry, stone or brick. Usually there are two coats, thin layers are the rule. The top coat was often textured and might include a color.

There are similarities between plaster, stucco and mortar. However, the differences were originally more in the utilization rather than in the composition. Until the end of the 1800s, plaster and stucco were both made of lime, sand and water. However, plaster tended to be used indoors while render was more commonly found on the exterior.

In the latter part of the 1800s, a divergence between the composition of interior and exterior materials began. More Portland cement was added to the traditional exterior mix, along with plant and animal fibers in an effort to increase the strength and durability of the product. The composition of lime plaster was gradually replaced by gypsum plaster. Render today is composed of four ingredients, Portland cement, lime, sand and water. Acrylic or glass fibers are sometimes included, particularly if the substance is applied in a single coat.

Instead of direct application of the wet mix over stone, as more housing is constructed of timber, a new method of application has been developed. Lath strips are placed horizontally on the wall. These strips help to support the wet mixture until such time as it dries. This allows the mixture to be applied in a thicker series of layers. The original coat is called the scratch coat, the next coat is the "brown" coat, and the final coat is the finish coat which may be finished smooth or textured.

Because the exterior surface is somewhat permeable, most builders today utilize a felt or paper layer that is impregnated with asphalt. This is sometimes known as "tar paper". The wet mixture is applied over the paper to prevent moisture from reaching the studs or other building materials.

In addition to utilization as a building material inside and outside, the material has long been used as a artistic medium. Baroque, rococo, Islamic and other types of architectural structures use the substance as a transitional form between artistic and architectural media. Wide use is many of the cathedrals of Europe featured extensive use of the substance.

Stucco owes its popularity to its prevalence, ease of use, durability and ability to accept coloring agents. The wet mixture is usually applied over felt or paper impregnated with asphalt. It is usually made up of a mixture of Portland cement, sand, water and lime. Additionally, the mixture may include proprietary elements such as acrylics or glass fibers.


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