While stucco siding can last for decades with little underlying damage, that’s only true when the plaster is installed properly the first time. Poorly-installed stucco, as we’ve seen across Pennsylvania, can develop worrying signs of water damage within a matter of years. Repair costs can quickly run into the thousands of dollars, with a conservative estimate for full remediation falling in the $20,000 range.

Repairing Minor Cracks In Stucco

We should make a distinction from the outset between minor repairs and full remediation. Stucco isn’t particularly flexible, which means that small shifts in a home or uneven foundations can eventually lead to cracks and warping. Although these defects are unlikely to be signs of structural damage, they can be unsightly.

Stucco House

As a DIY project, stucco repair can be surprisingly complicated. It’s not enough to match the existing stucco’s color, according to Fixr. More importantly, homeowners will also want to match the existing stucco’s aggregate. Sand, gravel, crushed stone – these are all aggregates, mixed in alongside cement and water to create stucco. Aggregates aren’t just cosmetic. They add structural strength to a plaster, so finding the right type (sand is most common in modern stuccos) and amount is more than a matter of appearance.

If you don’t have any experience in masonry, it may be best to contact a professional.

How Much Does Stucco Cost?

In any event, whether or not you choose to hire a contractor, you’ll have to pay for materials. That means buying stucco, which is one of the more expensive siding options on the market.

Traditional stucco is sold as a dry mix, although a few brands have begun selling pre-mixed options. Synthetic varieties come wet. For traditional stucco, you can expect to pay about $9 per bag. You’ll probably need more bags than you’d think. Expect to use at least one bag for each medium-sized crack that you intend to fix. Also consider that, if you plan on removing any of the stucco yourself, you’ll need to apply a new moisture-resistant barrier, along with metal lath to prevent stress cracks, underneath. These materials aren’t particularly expensive, but they do add up.

Of course, hiring a contractor will be more expensive than doing the job on your own. For minor stucco repairs, contractors will charge between $40 and $50 per hour – just for labor. The project shouldn’t take too long, around 8 hours at the max, so you should expect to pay upwards of $360 in labor for the average stucco repair. Note, though, that our calculations haven’t taken geographic variations into account yet.

How Much Is Full Stucco Remediation In Pennsylvania?

Full remediation often goes well beyond ripping down the existing stucco and replacing it with new coats of plaster. In many cases, windows will have to be replaced, too, with proper flashing. There may also be water damage threatening the home’s sheathing and framing that needs to be addressed. These projects easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars, although some homes will require up to $250,000 of work.

For a conservative estimate, look in the $10,000 to $40,000 range, with lower total costs attached to jobs that don’t require a full tear-down. Of course, you also have to consider the cost of hiring a stucco inspector to determine the extent of damage, which MainStreet says can cost between $600 and $1,200.

Estimates Vary

The remodeling experts at REMPROS.com estimate that installing stucco will cost, on average, around $30 per square foot, including materials and labor. That number, however, doesn’t take into consideration the cost of removing improperly-installed stucco. Having stucco replaced, rather than just installed, can increase your total bill by up to 60%.

Materials can get pricey. Stucco is applied in three coats: a base (or “scratch”) coat, a brown coat and a finish coat. Finish coat is a specific product and you shouldn’t just use a third coat of your regular stucco. Assuming that a small two-story house has 1,500 square feet of exterior to cover, you would have to buy around 118 80-lb bags of Quikrete to apply both scratch and brown coats properly. Add in 21 80-lb bags of finish coat and you’re looking at $1,044 worth of stucco. That’s if you did the job yourself. Material costs for a contractor will likely come in lower, since they’re usually buying the ingredients of stucco in bulk and making the plaster up themselves.

With a contractor, you’re really paying for expert labor. Using the cost calculator at Homwyse, and assuming a conservative exterior size of 1,500 square foot, we estimate that simply installing stucco over an entire home would cost between $10,700 and $19,800. That’s only $13 per square foot, much lower than the estimates from REMPROS, but note that our Homwyse estimate takes labor costs for Philadelphia into account, alongside the cost of stucco and additional supplies needed to do the job. CostHelper cites an even lower number, around $6 to $9 per square foot, but that would still bring the total to cover a 2,000 square foot exterior to between $12,000 and $18,000.

That’s a pretty wide range of estimated costs, from $6 to $30 per square foot. Obviously, you should do some shopping around before you decide on a contractor. It should also be obvious that fixing a stucco problem doesn’t end at the stucco. Flashing and drainage problems need to be addressed, along with replacing any rotting wood underneath.

Is Construction Labor More Expensive In Pennsylvania?

That depends on where in Pennsylvania you are, but generally, the cost of construction around Philadelphia will be higher than the national average. Here’s how labor costs in Bucks, Delaware, Chester and Philadelphia counties stack up to the nation as a whole:

  • Philadelphia County – 40% higher than national average
  • Delaware County – 26% – 44% higher than national average
  • Bucks County – 7% – 29% higher than national average
  • Chester County – 9% – 38% higher

There are, of course, notable exceptions to the numbers we’ve cited. On the western edge of Delaware county, in Concordville, construction labor costs are actually about 7% lower than the national average. Likewise for Durham Township, on the northern tip of Bucks County. Generally, the further you stray from the Main Line, the lower your labor costs should be. Get far enough away from Philadelphia and your costs should come in much lower than the average. In Wilkes Barre, for example, construction labor is around 13% lower than the national average.