Stucco is insanely hard and doing simple, everyday things like hanging an ornamental object or picture to it can be a challenge. Many people wonder if it is possible to nail through stucco and it is but there are a couple of quick things you should know before diving into it.
Can You Nail Into A Stucco Wall?
The short answer to this question is... yes you can nail through stucco using a hardened nail, like a masonry or concrete nail. Pre-drilling a hole first though, using a masonry/concrete bit will make nailing the nail a lot easier, reduce possible cracking and you can use just about any nail at that point too.
Nailing Into A Wall Without Drilling:
Now, it is possible to just grab a hammer and a nail and drive it directly through the stucco... it is possible.
If you have a 1 coat (2 coat) stucco system that has 1" thick foam and a base and finish coat of stucco that is roughly 1/2" thick then you can usually use just about any nail without pre-drilling.
If you have a 3 coat stucco system though, that overall depth is usually closer to 1" thick and driving a nail becomes much more difficult. You will need special nails that are designed for concrete and masonry applications, as they are much harder and will not bend when driving them into harder surfaces.
The picture illustrates what a typical masonry nail looks like, the shape and appearance is a thicker, stronger looking nail, compared to other nails.
This nail is a dark gray color but they can also be bright and shiny in color too. The shank can also be fluted, but they all serve the same purpose.
Nailing directly into the wall may cause cracking in the stucco if you don't pre-drill first, so just be aware of that before making that decision.
Pre-drilling Into The Wall Before Nailing:
Pre-drilling into the stucco before you nail is the best way to nail into stucco due to the minimize chances of the stucco cracking and also has the added advantage of being able to use any type of nail, not just a hardened masonry nail.
Size: You have to remember that you are basically just drilling through the stucco to get to the wood behind the stucco and nail into the wood, as the stucco will have minimal holding power.
You will want a drill bit that is roughly the same size as the diameter of the nail's shaft, not the head. Keep in mind that you only need to drill through the stucco itself, not the wood.
If you have a drill bit that is the same size as the nail's shaft, then you will get the added benefit of having the stucco hold the nail in place more snug, as opposed to having too large of a hole, where the nail just moves around.
What Size Nails Should I Use?
The length of nail or type of nail (16d, 10d, 8d, etc.) will play a role in the process and is dependent on what you are hanging. The length of the nail usually coincides with the type of nail you are using but some nails will have different lengths to choose from, like roofing nails.
Using an 8d, 10d, or 16d nail will work when hanging most items and they are common nails that are available almost anywhere. Using roofing nails is also a good choice, just be sure they are 2" or longer.
On a side note, it is always better to use a galvanized nail on exterior stucco to minimize the chances of the nail rusting and staining the wall.
General Length: It is important to note that 3 coat stucco will usually be around 1" thick (roughly) and a 1 coat/2 coat stucco system will be close to 1 1/2" thick. A 2" or 2 1/2" nail will be long enough in most cases.
A Note On Open Stud Walls:
Some people might encounter an empty space after they drill through the stucco and this will usually be due to an "open stud" type of stucco application, where the use of a plywood or OSB substrate was NOT USED.
If this is the case, you will have to find a stud to nail into or use a concrete anchor and a screw instead. Be sure to fill any unused holes you make with caulking to prevent future issues.
What Type Of Stucco System Do You Have?
I wanted to reiterate that a 3 coat stucco system uses almost 1" of cement and a 1 coat/2 coat system will have 1/2" of cement. If you find that your building has a 1/2 coat stucco system installed, then you can nail through it a lot easier than if you have a 3 coat stucco system installed.
You can usually check to see which stucco system you have installed on your house by checking a few things.