California and Stucco

I relocated many years ago to the Bay Area from Chicago, and then to Southern California. Especially in So Cal, the vast majority of homes are constructed with stucco siding. Anyone know why this is so and why it’s rarely used in the Midwest?

Stucco in the southwest really took off after WWII. Other building materials were expensive and scarce. Stucco was cheap and easily available. Also, the southwest US was where there was a big building boom at the time.

Stucco also works better in drier climates, like the southwestern US. In other parts of the country you can have problems with water getting into the walls, especially if the stucco is old and cracked in places.

The flip side of this is that the Midwest has abundant supplies of clay.St. Louis was pumping out millions of bricks per year even before the Civil War.

And you don’t build with brick in California if you want your house to be standing after the next earthquake.

Even more problematic in areas, like the midwest, where several months of the year the water that soaked in expands as it freezes.

Also. stucco is somewhat resistant to fire. In parts of California at times, that can be a real advantage.

Wasn’t the old stucco made from asbestos?

My grandmother lived her whole life in southern Iowa, and she lived in a stucco house for many years. It was not exactly structurally sound; I’m not sure when it was constructed, and it was demolished some years back.

They’ve used a lot of different materials in stucco over the years. But yes, asbestos was in some of them, up until the 1970s, I think.

To be fair most of the “stucco” in California isn’t stucco.

[Groucho] You can get stucco. Oh, how you can get stucco. [/Groucho]

“California and exterior insulation finishing system” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

AND territory that is prone to movement… the hills are not filled with rock, and the plains are deep with sediments - ex lake beds for example.

I’ve seen stucco houses being built. They put up the 2 x 4 structure, add some backing wire, cover that with tar paper and then shoot the stucco with a pump and nozzle. It’s ridiculously fast. I can’t imagine that there’s a siding system that’s cheaper or easier.

It is due to wood construction. The type of building material depends on what is available locally.

How is a wooden frame covered with stucco superior when it comes to earthquakes?

Wooden structures flex, like a tree. Unreinforced masonry – bricks stacked and mortared – does not flex. Instead, the mortar cracks and the structure falls apart.


Stucco is pre-colored, one never needs to paint it.

First understand what an earthquake is…

  1. Attach a large flat trailer to the back of a pick-up truck.

  2. Then place a wooden storage shed on the trailer.

  3. Move the truck/trailer forward, stop, then backwards, stop (earthquake simulation) storage shed still intact! May have slipped or skewed on trailer a bit (thus why they want you to “tie down” structures to their foundation with brackets, bolts, and straps.)

  4. Build a brick and mortar storage shed on that trailer. Move truck/trailer back and forth and see what happens!

Then throw in S-waves, which give you roll in addition to shock. Masonry doesn’t stand a chance.

Stucco flexes under stress and bending?
The foundations are usually concrete.
I would think that the advantage of a stud wall over concrete is that there will be less heavy pieces of the house falling on you.