Stucco siding is a durable choice for a home's exterior that has been widely used for many years. While traditional stucco siding made from cement, water, sand, and lime dates back to the time of ancient Greeks and Romans, synthetic stucco siding is a much newer development. Synthetic stucco, sometimes known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS), was introduced in the 1950s; this product was developed in Europe following World War II as an efficient way to repair damaged walls.
Choosing between traditional and synthetic stucco siding comes down to an evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Traditional stucco is an excellent choice in wet climates, as while the material is porous, it dries quickly and prevents structural damage from moisture. Synthetic stucco is more likely to absorb greater amounts of water which could than negatively impact the structural integrity of the home. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders has issued a warning that synthetic stucco siding is highly susceptible to developing leaks that lead to moisture problems, including rot and mildew.
Another advantage to traditional stucco siding over synthetic stucco is that traditional stucco is more resistant to physical damage from bumps and dents from hail, woodpeckers, hard objects, and the like. Synthetic stucco is lightweight, which makes it easier to install, but also results in the finished product being less durable than traditional stucco siding.
Synthetic stucco is more energy-efficient than traditional stucco, although both materials are fairly high on the scale of energy efficient home exterior materials. The flexibility of synthetic stucco makes it a great choice for home exteriors that have ornate architectural details like keystones and cornerstones; traditional stucco performs poorly in these circumstances.
For homeowners who dislike painting their house's exterior siding, synthetic stucco may be the better choice, as it holds color better than traditional stucco siding does. Homeowners with traditional stucco find that they need to paint the home's exterior on a fairly regular basis to counteract yellowing and fading, both of which are common occurrences with traditional stucco.
There's no simple answer when it comes to choosing between traditional and synthetic stucco, but it seems that the advantages are greater with traditional stucco. If you purchase a home with synthetic stucco siding, be sure to have your home's exterior check at least yearly by a professional who is experienced in dealing with EIFS water damage and to fix any repairs as soon as problems are detected.