Creating a Wire Framework for Stucco

The versatile exterior finish can’t be beat—as long as you give it a good foundation

While we’ve been covering extensively the work happening inside Custom Design & Construction's Sheldon Street house, there’s also plenty of action outside. Today, we’re talking about stucco.

Comprised of Portland cement, sand, lime, and water, the finished product is durable, long-lasting, requires little maintenance, and is fire resistant. It’s commonly referred to as a three-coat process, thanks to the layers of material applied—the scratch coat; brown coat; and finish, or color, coat. However, there are actually a few layers that first need to be addressed beneath those coats, and that’s called the lath phase.

Jaime Topete, of Plastering by JT, takes on the stucco for this project. He and his crew first cover the structure everywhere stucco will be applied with moisture-repelling 60/30 paper, which is two plies of 60-pound and 30-pound black craft paper, attached with staples. Over that comes the next layer—stucco wiring mesh—that will serve as the framework on which to apply the stucco.

The crew is careful to not only nail on the mesh but to apply corner aids to give proper shape and structure to angles, along with mill core along the top edges and perforated weep screeds along the bottom to allow for drainage of any moisture that may accumulate beneath the stucco.

Though the final, dried finish is extremely hard and durable, it’s also susceptible to cracking due to settling of the structure and, particularly here in Southern California, the whims of earthquakes. The corners around windows are especially prone to this fracturing, so Topete and his team add additional wire mesh pieces at 45-degree angles to provide extra support against cracking.

Once the paper and mesh have been installed, the team applies caulk over the nail heads to seal against moisture. After inspectors sign off, it’ll be on to the stucco phase.

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