Acrylic Stucco VS Traditional Stucco | An In-depth Comparison!

Acrylic vs Traditional Stucco

Comparing acrylic stucco and traditional stucco is a good thing to talk about because there is a lot of confusion about the topic, due to a number of different things like multiple names for both types, different materials that are used, the price of the material and the labor involved… You get the picture.

There are a few key differences to each material and laying them out side-by-side will make it much easier to see the differences. Let’s go over some of the basics and by the end of the article you will have a much better understanding of what each type of material is capable of and what you would like to put on your own home.

What Other Names Do They Have?

Acrylic Stucco Finish: 

Acrylic stucco can also be referred to as synthetic stucco, elastomeric stucco finish and can also be described by their product name instead. Stucco manufacturers have special names for their synthetic stucco products and will be referred to by that specific name sometimes, but all the products have similar properties and fall into this general category of finish material.

Traditional Stucco Finish:

Traditional stucco finishes are called by many names like: classic stucco, hard coat stucco, cement stucco finish, hard coat finish, etc.  Like synthetic/acrylic stucco, manufacturer’s have special products that will have specific names associated with that product, but it is a cement based finish and has the same basic ingredients that all of the finish materials share.

What Are They Made From? (Ingredients)

Differences In Ingredients

Acrylic Stucco Finish: 

Polymers: Acrylic stucco is known for its flexibility and variety of color options and is a synthetic material that combines acrylic polymers with other ingredients, that creates a durable and versatile product. These acrylic polymers are essentially plastic resins that provide the material with its characteristic flexibility, allowing it to withstand minor structural shifts and temperature changes without cracking. 

Aggregates: In addition to acrylic polymers, this type of stucco often includes aggregates, which are usually made of some sort of crushed stone like quartz or marble, and pigments are mixed in to provide the endless color options. The inclusion of fungicides and other additives enhances the material's resistance to issues that can come up like cracking, mold and mildew growth, etc.

Traditional Stucco Finish:

Ingredients: Traditional cement-based stucco is a blend of natural ingredients, like Portland cement, sand, lime, and water. This mixture, which has been used for decades, creates a hard, durable coating that breathes well and adheres well to other cement based surfaces. 

The Portland cement provides the strength, while the lime adds flexibility and workability to the mix, helping to prevent cracking. Sand is used as an aggregate, contributing to the stucco's texture and structural integrity. 

Color Options for Ingredients: Since these are cement-based materials, the color options (that comes in a powder form) are generally more limited and tend to be closer to more natural earthy tones than with acrylic stucco. The vividness of the colors themselves are also not as exciting.

Comparison: The fundamental difference in the ingredients used in acrylic and cement-based stucco finishes lies in their base: one is synthetic, and the other one is a natural material.

Acrylic stucco, with its synthetic base, offers more flexibility, a broader color palette, and increased resistance to moisture and mold. With that said, cement-based stucco, a blend of all natural ingredients, is valued for its traditional depth and appearance, breathability, and the natural way it ages over time.

How Are They Packaged?

Differences In Packaging

Acrylic Stucco Finish: 

5 Gallon Buckets: Acrylic stucco comes in pre-mixed buckets, meaning that the acrylic and aggregates are already combined in a pre-made form that only requires the color to be added to it. These buckets are pretty heavy and can weigh between 50 and 70 pounds.

Storing: The primary considerations for storing acrylic stucco are ensuring the containers are stored properly to prevent freezing and avoiding direct sunlight, which could negatively affect the material.

Traditional Stucco Finish: 

Bags: Cement-based stucco is packaged in a dry powder form, consisting of Portland cement, lime and sand, which requires you to add the color and water on-site, before applying the material to the walls. This material is often sold in a multi-layer paper bag to protect it from small amounts of moisture, until you are ready to use it, and can weigh between 80 and 94 pounds. 

Storing: Heat and freezing temperatures don't affect the material as much as its synthetic counterpart, but you must keep the material dry to prevent the material from clumping or activating prematurely. 

Comparison: The differences in packaging between the two finishes really reflects their inherent properties and the preparation required before application. Acrylic stucco's ready-to-use, pre-mixed packaging offers convenience and consistency, ideal for projects where time or uniformity is a priority.

On the other hand, the dry powder form of cement-based finishes offer more flexibility in the mix, but requires more labor to prepare and more careful storage considerations, to ensure the material remains viable.

How About The Cost?

Differences In Cost

Acrylic Stucco Finish:

Acrylic stucco tends to be more expensive upfront, when compared to its counterpart, for a couple of reasons. The material itself costs more due to the synthetic polymers it contains, which has always been more expensive as a raw material. Additionally, the installation process for acrylic stucco is a little bit more involved, require a primer layer to be applied before the finish coat, in most cases.

Material Pricing: The cost for synthetic stucco is higher than traditional stucco and averages out around $40-$70 per 5 gallon bucket. A bucket will cover about 100–250 sq. feet, depending on what texture you choose to go with. This averages out to be about $.16-$.70 a square foot, (rough estimate).

Traditional Stucco Finish:

Cement-based stucco, on the other hand, is generally less expensive, mainly due to the materials that are more affordable and widely available. While the application of cement-based stucco also requires a specific skill-set, it can be controlled more by the amount of water that is added to it and how saturated the walls are before it is applied. This gives you a lot more control over the material.

Material Pricing: On average, traditional stucco costs around $10-$25 for an 80-90 lb. bag, depending on the manufacturer. A 90 lb. bag can cover approximately 100-180 square feet, depending on the aggregate size, type of finish and application techniques used, which breaks down to about $.06-$.25 a square foot (rough estimate).

Comparison: The choice between the cost of the two finishes really just boils down to weighing out the benefits of each material's properties against their initial costs.

Acrylic stucco, with its higher upfront cost, offers advantages in durability and aesthetic versatility, while traditional finishes, being less expensive initially, may require a bit more maintenance down the road for a specific issue like crack repair. 

Ultimately, the decision should be based on the project requirements, aesthetic preferences, and total budget allocation, ensuring a balance between quality, appeal and cost efficiency.

How About The Textures/Finishes?

Differences In Textures and Finishes

Acrylic Stucco Finishes:

Acrylic stucco is capable of mimicking many traditional stucco textures, but has a couple of limitations that are due to its synthetic nature and tends to lack in depth and customization.

Aggregate Appearance: In acrylic stucco, aggregates are embedded in a resin type of base material, giving them a more "glued in" appearance, meaning that the aggregates and synthetic polymers appear to bond together. This results in a surface where the texture is consistent but lacks the depth that you get with traditional stucco finishes.

Customization Limitations: The aggregate content in acrylic stucco is predetermined by the manufacturer, limiting the ability to adjust the texture or make any adjustments to the finish. This can restrict any customization options you might want to make to the material, making it challenging to achieve certain finishes or matching an existing texture perfectly.

Consistent Color and Texture: While these features make acrylic finishes less customizable, they also ensure uniform color and texture across a wall or walls, offering a predictable, yet long-lasting appearance.

Traditional Cement-Based Stucco Finishes

Traditional cement-based stucco is valued for its depth, character, and customizable nature, stemming from its natural components and the skill involved in its application:

Aggregates Used: The sand (aggregate) in traditional stucco can be moved and manipulated during application, allowing those who apply it to create a variety of textures, ranging from smooth to heavily textured finishes. 

This freedom results in finishes with more depth and character, as the aggregates add a natural variability to the surface and the material itself has about an 1/8" thickness to it. This finish can be built up more or troweled down even tighter, depending on the sand used.

Highly Customizable: The ability to adjust the amount of sand in the mix offers complete control over the final texture and uniformity of the finish. This flexibility means that traditional stucco can be customized to meet more specific aesthetic goals or to match existing textures on a building.

Color and Texture: Color consistency is not as good for traditional finishes, especially when compared to synthetic ones, and tends to have a slight mottled look, when completed. This can be prevented by applying a fog coat, which will even out the color immensely but is an extra step in the process. If the finish is going to be painted, then a more uniform color can be achieved.

Conclusion: When comparing acrylic and traditional cement-based stucco finishes, it's clear that both materials have their advantages. Acrylic stucco offers a degree of customization, color retention, and a uniform appearance, making it a practical choice for many projects. It falls short when it comes to depth, texture variability, and customization options provided by traditional cement-based stucco though. 

Traditional stucco's ability to manipulate aggregate freely during application allows for a highly customized and character-rich finish that can evolve beautifully over time.

Choosing between the two depends on the project's specific aesthetic goals, for the most part with other considerations like maintenance expectations, customization needed and natural character.

How About The Color Differences?

Differences In Colors

The choice between acrylic and traditional cement-based stucco not only impacts texture and application but significantly affects color options, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. Here’s how each material differs, in terms of color and color options:

Acrylic Stucco Finishes

Vibrant Colors: Acrylic stucco is available in a wide range of vibrant colors, thanks to the synthetic pigments that can be added to the mix. These colors come in a liquid form and saturate the base material more, providing those deep and vibrant colors that paint can achieve. 

Color Longevity: Due to the inherent properties of acrylic polymers, these finishes tend to retain their original color longer, resisting fading from UV exposure and other environmental factors. The color also holds up to staining fairly well due to it being less porous.

Consistency: The color in acrylic stucco is consistent throughout the mix, when properly mixed, which allows for more uniformity from wall to wall. These qualities are great when color matching or when specific color requirements are needed with other design elements.

Traditional Cement-Based Stucco Finishes

Natural Hues: The color palette for traditional stucco tends to lean towards natural, earthy tones, reflecting the natural materials used in its composition, with the color being powdered in the form of iron oxides. While there is some flexibility in color through the powdered pigments, the range is more muted, with fewer color options available, compared to acrylic stucco.

Color Variation and Aging: Traditional stucco may exhibit slight color variations when it applied to walls, due to the natural variation that are common in cement based products, along with differences in mixing and application techniques. Over time, it can develop a patina or change in hue, maintaining a form or the original color itself but with more of a lightness in the shade.

Customization with Painting: While the initial color options might be more limited, traditional stucco can be painted, offering flexibility to change or refresh the color over time, but this adds an additional step and more frequent maintenance to the color after that.

Conclusion: Choosing between acrylic and traditional cement-based stucco finishes is also going to extend into the realm of color choices. Acrylic stucco offers a broader, more vibrant color selection with longer-lasting hues, which is ideal for designs that call for specific or bold colors. 

Traditional stucco, on the other hand, provides a more authentic, natural look with the potential for color changes over time, appealing to those seeking an organic aesthetic. The decision for color should be based on the project’s overall design and color requirements, and what look you are going for, overall.

How To Apply Each Finish...

The method of applying stucco to a building's exterior varies significantly between acrylic and traditional cement-based stucco, due to the very opposite materials that make them up and the prep work involved.

Applying Acrylic Stucco

Primer Application: The first step involves applying a primer to the walls. This primer acts as a sealer, creating a uniform surface that not only enhances the adhesion of the acrylic stucco but also extends the working time of the material by reducing absorption from the base coat.

Finish Application: After the primer has dried, the acrylic stucco finish is applied by hand or sprayed on and worked to an even layer across the wall. It is then worked more using different methods to achieve a specific finish.

Applying Traditional Cement-Based Stucco

Wall Preparation: Before applying the finish, the walls are thoroughly watered. This critical step minimizes the wall's suction effect, effectively increasing the working time of the stucco and ensures better adhesion of the finish to the wall by keeping the substrate moist.

Finish Application: The traditional stucco finish is then applied to the pre-wet walls. The application process is the same as it is for acrylic stucco and further worked to achieve the desired texture or finish.

Other Characteristics of Acrylic and Traditional Stucco Finishes:

Acrylic stucco finishes are known for their more water-repellent properties, making them more resistant to moisture penetration, but are still able to breathe. Acrylic stucco is also versatile, being suitable for one coat, three coat, and EIFS (select products only) stucco applications.

In contrast, traditional stucco finishes do not repel water; instead, they absorb moisture which then gradually dissipates as the material dries out. This absorption and evaporation process can contribute to the material's breathability, making it a good option for regulating indoor air quality by managing moisture levels within the walls.

Traditional stucco is typically suited for one coat and three coat stucco applications, offering a more durable and timeless finish that has been used in construction for decades.

Pros & Cons of Acrylic Stucco


  • Crack Resistance: The elasticity in acrylic stucco allows it to accommodate minor cracks that may form, minimizing or bridging any hairline cracks that might pop up. It is important to note that this will help to prevent cracks, but is still prone to cracking.

  • Color Consistency: Acrylic stucco color choices include bright and vibrant colors with minimal to no variation between batches, when mixed properly. This consistency ensures that the color remains uniform, on every wall.

  • Ease of Mixing: Acrylic stucco offers a convenient alternative to traditional stucco. Instead of needing a cement mixer, all you need is a mixing drill with a paddle attachment. This saves time and energy when mixing the material, with no need for any other specialty equipment.

  • Future Paintability: Since the material is acrylic based, it can easily be painted later on, using an acrylic paint, which tends to bond to the material really well.


  • Higher Cost: Acrylic stucco finishes are more expensive than traditional cement-based finishes, for the material cost itself and the application process. The increased cost is largely attributed to the synthetic polymers used in acrylic stucco, which are pricier than the natural materials used in traditional stucco.

  • Application Difficulty: Due to its tendency to dry faster than traditional stucco, acrylic stucco requires a higher level of skill when applying it to walls, especially when it is warmer outside. This quick drying time can make it challenging to finish, especially for those less experienced with the material.

  • Availability Issues: Depending on geographic location, acrylic stucco may not be readily available at local suppliers and could require special ordering for specialty products or custom colors. This limitation can lead to delays in project timelines and higher costs due to additional charges that come with these materials.

Pros & Cons of Traditional Stucco Finish


  • Cost-Effectiveness: Traditional stucco materials are more affordable than synthetic ones, making them an economical choice, especially for larger projects that will require a lot of material.

  • Texture Versatility: The potential for achieving depth and texture with traditional stucco is virtually limitless. Creating a smooth finish or a heavier, textured finish are all possible with the ability to build the material up significantly through layers.

  • Wide Availability: Traditional stucco materials are readily available at most major home improvement stores and specialty suppliers, making them easier to obtain, regardless of your project's location. This availability simplifies the process, making it easier to source materials.

  • Paintable Finish: Traditional stucco finishes can also be painted to change the color of the material. This option provides versatility in design choices, allowing for more color options, with minimal effort. Painting can typically be applied 30 days after the application of the material, once the stucco has adequately cured.


  • Mixing Requirements: For traditional stucco, achieving a consistent color across a large surface area often necessitates mixing enough material for an entire wall in one batch. This process typically requires a mixer, adding to the equipment needed for the job and potentially increasing labor costs and prep time.

  • Color Variability: The color of traditional stucco can be affected by various factors, including the amount of water used in the mix, application techniques, and other conditions that are present during the application process. This sensitivity can lead to slight color inconsistencies and may require additional steps to correct or even out the color.

  • Additional Equipment Needed: Applying traditional stucco by hand will require the use of mud stands and mud boards to hold the material, which adds a few extra tools and setup time to the overall process.
About the author

The Stucco Guy

My name is Ryan and I have been a licensed stucco contractor for many years and I feel that there is a huge "knowledge gap" when it comes to stucco, in particular. I hope you find the information here useful, and if you have a question for me fill out this Q & A form, so I can answer those questions better. Thanks for stopping by!

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