Ask the Carpenter: Why aren’t there more stucco houses in N.E.?

Ask the Expert
With curved red roof shingles and a tan stucco exterior, the Spanish Mission influence on this West Roxbury home is obvious from the street, and it only gets more intense inside. This home has 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms and 2 half bathrooms, and 2,350 square feet of living space. It is listed for $949,000.— John R. Ellement, Globe StaffView the listingStory: Spanish-influenced home in West Roxbury
This Spanish-influenced home in West Roxbury has a stucco exterior. Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe/file 2014

Q. Ten years ago, I bought a home in southern Maine that was built in 1997 with a stucco exterior and aluminum trim. All of the windows have metal trim. The stucco wall consists of ½-inch flakeboard with 1-inch-thick foam board applied to the 2-by-4 wood frame, then ⅛-inch of concrete or gunite, followed by 1/16 of an inch of stucco later spray-painted.

I am very satisfied with it. I have not had to do any maintenance to the exterior of my home. I live on a cul-de-sac with nine neighboring houses of typical construction — wood. All of the neighbors have had to replace their trim and siding because of rot and repaint.

I have not seen any other stucco houses in the area. Why? Is it because a stucco house costs so much more to build? Is it an insulation issue?



A. A stucco finish is typically found in warmer climates like Florida and Arizona; it’s usually too brittle for places with brutal winters.

Stucco never really took off in this area, and using it is a skill set many carpenters don’t have. A traditional stucco finish is applied in three layers, and both extreme heat and cold can cause it to crack, delaminate, and crumble. Repairs can be costly and time-consuming and are often visible regardless of the amount of care taken with the work.

Carpenters and builders around here work mostly with wood, so if they’re in the decision seat, they usually go with a product with which they are comfortable.

Since your house was built 10 years ago, I’m guessing they used an Exterior Insulation and Finish System, or EIFS. This synthetic is how the look and feel of stucco is possible in climates like ours. It has been used in both residential and commercial construction for more than 50 years.

EIFS is built in layers, with the initial one acting as insulation. Today, these stucco systems are some of the most tested and well-researched claddings in the construction industry, so consider yourself lucky, sir.


Q. My soon-to-be retirement home is 27 years old and has double-pane windows in generally good shape. I’m looking to improve the home’s heat retention in winter, and I’m guessing that adding storm windows is a better economic trade-off than replacing the windows themselves. I would appreciate your views on this.


A. If your house has double-insulated glass, you do not need storm windows. Just make sure your current windows lock and seal well. I do, however, suggest that you add a storm door at all exterior doorways. I would also focus my attention on sealing air leaks in your attic and adding insulation.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to [email protected] or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our newsletter at