All photos by Ron Martin
Close-up of stucco
Decorative stucco
Stucco scored to look like stone

1. Stucco is a plastering material
Stucco is a plastering material used to cover the external face of buildings. The object of the exercise being to produce a surface which looked like stone which of course required a lot of money, so the cheap way was was to use stucco.

2. Simulating the joints of stonework
This would be applied to the face of the wall and even a plain face would have the surface scratched with horizontal and vertical lines to simulate the joints of stonework.

3. Lower storeys were rusticated
Traditionally the lower storeys of major buildings were emphasised and this was known as rustication and it is done by recessing the joints of the stonework – or stucco – either all the joints or just the horizontal joints. This would be known as banded rustication.

4. Stucco is also used decoratively
Stucco is also used in the various decorative features that became such a feature of nineteenth century buildings, particularly door-openings. One would also sometimes emphasise the corners of walls with rustications where the rest of the faces are plain.

5. Stucco was often painted
Traditionally stucco, which became the normal method of covering wall faces from about 1830 onwards, was painted and in, for example, Brunswick Square, the colour was laid down by the Brunswick town commissioners and the result is that when you look at Brunswick Square all the colour is more or less the same.

Comments about this page

  • Nice pages and very informative. I’d like to add a note about modern stucco. Unfortunately, stucco today comprises Portland Cement with some lime in it, sand and water. Portland Cement is the substance that makes stucco brittle such that it will crack easily and fail especially in wet, humid climates like the South Coast of England. Traditional stucco was lime and sand based (with the occasional egg and amounts of horse hair for reinforcement thrown in for good measure). It is this traditional lime-based stucco WITHOUT Portland Cement that actually lasts and performs well as an exterior render for buildings. Lime has a property called micro-crystalline bridging which means that when a building moves slightly, the lime is self-repairing at microscopic scales. Also, lime breathes allowing moisture in the walls to escape outward. Portland Cement suffocates a building acting like a giant plastic bag causing any absorbed moisture through its cracks to be entrapped. The moisture’s only exit route is INTO the building. This in turn creates ideal conditions for black mould and mildew – perfect agents for rotting a building prematurely and also killing or inuring it’s inhabitants. So, if you are going to stucco – use Lime and sand (with water) only. Avoid Portland Cement in stucco as well as mortars wherever possible – even though TV do-it-yourselfers and the local hardware stores will likely tell you otherwise – as they do here in the US where stucco’s performance is truly abysmal (because it is invariably Portland Cement based).

    By Phil Allsopp (05/07/2009)
  • Thank you for these pages. I am frequently looking at them for references and advice about Regency buildings in Brighton, which I am currently studying. What is the difference in thermal conductivity between a Stucco containing portland cement (Which, from what I understand, is what we today call stucco) and the stucco used originally in the front elevations of regency buildings?

    Many thanks




    By Michela (04/06/2018)
  • Thank you very much for this article about stucco. I had never come across this before and it is wonderful how such information changes the way you look at buildings. One of the joys of this site is that in which in brings to light things about Brighton and Hove than many of us will not have come across before. 

    By Philip Burnard (04/06/2018)

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