How To Stucco Basement Walls

How To Stucco Basement Walls 2

In this post, you will learn how to stucco basement walls, from start to finish, leaving no steps out. We will also discuss some of the typical issues associated with basements, such as structural damage to the walls, moisture, etc. Let's get going!

​Tools Needed For This Project:​​​​

The Basics: You will need basic things for either type of finish you choose to go with like a water hose and nozzle, a trowel, a hawk, a couple of green floats​, a hard rubber float (if applying a base coat first)​​​, covering material, a mixing drill, paddle and buckets or a mixer for mixing up the materials and a power cord.

​​​​For An Acrylic Finish: For an acrylic finish you will need a paint roller frame, a roller pad, (with at least a 3/4" nap) a paint tray or paint screen and any specialty trowels for applying a special kind of finish. A trowel and green float is recommended in the basic section above and can achieve a few different stucco finishes like a sand finish, smooth finish, semi smooth, catface and others.

Traditional Finish: ​You won't need anything additional (other than the items listed in "the basics" section above) for applying a traditional type of finish other than a large bin to mix the materials in (if using a mixing drill). Mixing a full bag at a time is recommended for a better color consistency. You could also benefit from having a measuring instrument for adding the correct amount of water.

For The Base Coat: ​You will not really need anything else but if you want to straighten out the walls a bit before you float the walls, then a darby would come in handy or a featheredge. These are basically tools that are much longer than a trowel and will help get some of the highs and lows out of the wall and make for a more even, plumb wall in the end. Note: These tools are a bit difficult for a beginner to use.

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​Interior VS Exterior Basement Walls:

This is a relatively easy process and can be done by virtually anyone, who has the determination to do so. There are a couple of different ways to go about this and I am going to go into detail about all of them and what the benefits of each method is.

There is no difference whether you are stuccoing the inside or outside of a basement, but I would recommend a skim coat on the outside, so you cover up any grout lines, rough spots, etc. A standard cement can be used for both applications, but hydraulic cement another good choice and is less likely to be affected by water issues, as it has water repelling additives and seems to help quite a bit.

​Painted Vs Unpainted Walls:

Coming Soon!

​Cinder Blocks Or Concrete Walls?

Coming Soon!

​The Prep Work Before Plastering Anything:

​The prep work will have to be done before any of the specified methods listed. Prep Walls Before Plastering Them below can even start. It is very important to take these measures and it will pay off in the end… I promise.

  • Make sure that the wall is as flat as possible, meaning that there are no high spots, ridges, etc. in the wall itself. When you start to apply the base coat, you want to only put on enough “mud” to make a nice base for your finish coat, the more imperfections there are, the more cement you will have to put on, so keep this in mind.

  • Clean the walls by pressure washing them, if possible or by spraying them down using a standard garden hose. This will eliminate any dust and debris there is on the wall that may prevent proper adhesion of the base coat. Pressure washing is the way to go with this type of prep work!

  • Patch any holes, cracks or defects that are visible prior to applying any base or finish coat to the walls themselves. Of course, you will want to clean the areas first by pressure washing them.
  • If there is any covering to do, be sure you get the necessary materials ahead of time like plastering tape, plastic, any drop cloths you might need, etc.

The Easiest And (Cost Effective) Way To ​Stucco Basement Walls:

Basically, the easiest way to stucco the interior of a basement wall would be to “skim coat” it by applying a​ coat of a stucco finish material, whether this is a traditional type of stucco finish or an acrylic finish. This method is best suited for walls that are in very good condition and DO NOT need to be patched or repaired extensively.

You will only be applying a thin coat of finish material so any major imperfections will show through, when choosing to use this method and skipping the base coat process. If you don't need your walls to look perfect and just simply want to clean them up a little bit, then this is probably going to work for you.

​The advantages to using this method:

  • This is the fastest, easiest and most inexpensive way to stucco basement walls on the inside or outside of your home.

  • It will look nice and will cover up most walls pretty well, providing that they were in decent shape to begin with.

​Now on to the disadvantages:

  • There is no base coat, so small imperfections could show through like cinder block grout lines, rough areas, dips and high spots.

  • The finished product will look very nice, but will not be as nice as it would be if you applied a base coat before the color coat.

​Step 1: Water The Walls/Prime The Walls: You will have to either prime the wall or water the wall down (after you have thoroughly pressure washed the wall) depending on which type of finish you choose to go with.

Traditional Types (Cement Based) Of Finishes: You will want to make sure that you water down the walls in the beginning and give them a little bit of time to soak it up, especially if it is going to be a hot day.

​Water helps increase the time that the material can be worked and ensures that the stucco coat will bond to the wall.

Water the walls every so often to keep them moist as your making your way down larger walls.

​Too little water will dry the finish too fast and too much will make the material slide off the wall. I usually soak the walls twice before I start (wait a few minutes) and then lightly mist them as I need to after that.

Water Down The Wall First

Acrylic Finishes: For an acrylic type of finish, I would start by priming the surface of the wall with the appropriate primer that is designed for the acrylic stucco (usually a stucco paint product sold by the manufacturer).

This can be rolled on or sprayed on just be sure to take extra precautions in basement, due to the usually lower levels of air flow in the room. The primer is applied the same way paint is applied and applying a generous coat is a good thing!

Roll On The Primer

​The primer will need to sit for the recommended amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. This is not usually that long and is typically 24 - 36 hours.

Step 1: Water The Walls, It Will Help!Water The Walls

You will want to make sure that you water down the walls in the beginning and give them a little bit of time to soak it up, especially if it is going to be a hot day. Water helps increase the time that the material can be worked and ensures that the stucco coat will bond to the wall.

Water the walls every so often to keep them moist.

​Step 2: Mix The Stucco
The next step is to mix the stucco, adding color to the mix, that you picked out beforehand.

You can do this in a bucket, using a drill, a wheelbarrow, or a mixer, it is really up to you what you use and what tools you have to work with. I have a more in depth page showing how to mix up stucco that is ​focused on base coats but is very similar for stucco finishes too. For smaller projects a bucket and drill will work fine, for larger ones, you may want a mixer.

Drill With Mixer Attachment For Stucco

​To see some samples of various color schemes, click here. I would recommend adding color to your stucco because it will last a whole lot longer, is easy enough to do and will result in a much better end result.

​Step 3: Apply The Finish Coat To The Walls: You will now apply the finish coat to the walls using a hawk and trowel. You will have to mist the walls as you go to keep them moist (as needed) if you are applying a traditional (cement based) finish. For an acrylic finish, no water is needed, the primer coat will handle all of that for you! The application process is the same for both materials though, so easy to remember...

Step 2: Mix The Stucco…

The next step is to mix the stucco, adding color to the mix, that you picked out beforehand. You can do this in a bucket, using a drill, a wheelbarrow, or a mixer, it is really up to you and what tools you have to work with.

To see some samples of various color schemes, click here.

Apply the stucco mixture to the wall using a hawk and trowel or by spraying it on, covering the entire wall. Try to maintain a 1/16″ to 1/8″ depth when spreading the stucco on the wall.

This will cover the voids and reduce the chances of the material sagging. ​Work from the top and make your way down. I like to work from left to right, spreading the top sections first and then the bottom.

Spread Base Coat Of Finish Material

​Spreading Sequence: There is a "sequence" to spreading a wall in order to eliminate joint lines as much as possible and keep the material alive. The below picture illustrates how you would apply the finish coat to a larger wall. You would work your way from left to right (in this example) and work on the tops and then the bottoms.

For a smaller wall, you would spread the entire top half and then the entire bottom half. As a rule of thumb, just try to break up the sections of a wall into 10 - 20 minute increments (depending on the temperature), to know how many sections you should divide it into. The below example would take 10 - 20 min to spread each section (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) and a grand total of about 80 - 160 minutes to completely spread it.

Spreading Sequence For Wall


Texturing The Wall: Be sure to finish the stucco as you go to. After spreading the stucco on the wall, you will need to add the texture to it as you go. For this example, we will use a sand finish as an example. After the material is on the wall, I will use a green float to swipe the wall, bringing out the sand in it, making a very uniform look to the entire surface.

Float The Finish


​The Better Way To Do ​Stucco Your Basement Walls

Step 3: Apply The Finish Coat To The Walls…

Apply the stucco mixture to the wall using a hawk and trowel or by spraying it on, covering the entire wall. Try to maintain an 1/8″ to 1/4″ depth when spreading the stucco on the wall.

This will cover the voids and reduce the chances of the material sagging. Be sure to mist the walls ahead of you, just a light spritz will do, do not soak the walls, as the stucco will just slide off.

​This method is similar to the one mentioned above, but uses a base coat underneath the color coat instead. It is one more step, but the results are far better than just slapping a color coat on. The base is made up of a cement and sand mixture that evenly coats the walls, making a suitable canvas for the color coat.

​The Advantages Of This Method:

  • This is the best way to coat a basement wall and really shows when the project is all complete

  • You are able to hide cracks, voids, ugly spots, low areas, etc. with the base coat

  • You are able to use acrylics as a finishing coat, which offer a wider variety of textures and finishes

​Of Course, The Disadvantages:

  • This will take more time to complete, about twice as long, which may be a problem for some

  • It will obviously cost more money, but the base material is relatively inexpensive

  • It is a bit more challenging to apply the base coat, it takes a little expertise to get it just right

​Step 1: Water The Walls Down:
I recommend giving the walls a good initial soaking before you start the project, even before you get your tools ready or anything.

This will let them soak up that initial moisture and will make it easier to mist them ahead of you while you are applying the stucco. It is basically the same process as I described above (earlier in the post) and will need to be done no matter what finish you are using.

Water Down The Wall First
Step 1: Water The Walls Down:

I recommend giving the walls a good initial soaking before you start the project, even before you get your tools ready or anything. This will let them soak up that initial moisture and will make it easier to mist them ahead of you while you are applying the stucco.

​Step 2: Mix And Apply The Base Coat:
The base coat can be any suitable material that you would like to use, whether that is a pre-mixed bag that only requires water or a more custom mix of cement, sand and water, it really doesn’t matter.

Take into account the area that you are working with though and purchase the correct type of base coat for you particular application.

Apply The Base Coat To The Wall

​Hydraulic cement is recommended for areas that have moisture problems and common cement can be used in dryer climates. After you have applied the base coat on the entire wall, you will need it to set up a little bit before you float it.

​After the base coat is applied, you will have to “float” it using a hard rubber float (this simply compacts the cement and makes the surface nice for the next coat. Use circular motions with a moderate amount of pressure. 

Step 2: Mix And Apply The Base Coat:

The base coat can be any suitable material that you would like to use, whether that is a pre-mixed bag that only requires water or a more custom mix of cement, sand and water, it really doesn’t matter. Take into account the area that you are working with though and purchase the correct type of base coat for you particular application. Hydraulic cement is recommended for areas that have moisture problems and common cement can be used in dryer climates.

After the base coat is applied, you will have to “float” it using a hard rubber float (this simply compacts the cement and makes the surface nice for the next coat

​Step 3: Let The Base Coat Cure For A Couple Of Weeks
After you finish applying the base coat, you will want to let it harden for at least 2-3 weeks. This will ensure that the material is properly cured and will minimize the chance of cracking, maximize strength and a lot of other good characteristics. If you are in a real big hurry, try to give the cement at LEAST 7 days to cure, this is when it will gain the majority of it's strength.

Step 3: Let The Base Coat Cure For A Couple Of Weeks

After you finish applying the base coat, you will want to let it harden for at least 2-3 weeks. This will ensure that the material is properly cured and will minimize the chance of cracking, maximize strength and a lot of other good characteristics.

​Step 4: Apply The Finish Coat
Apply the finishing coat of stucco at about an 1/8 of an inch thick, in an even manner throughout the wall. Decide on which texture you would like to replicate beforehand, so you know which finishing technique to apply.

The same rules apply when spreading the finish coat, that I already laid out above. Just follow these same rules and tips for a successful finish coat.

Step 4: Apply The Finish Coat

Apply the finishing coat of stucco at about an 1/8 of an inch thick, in an even manner throughout the wall. Decide on which texture you would like to replicate beforehand, so you know which finishing technique to apply.

Some Common Issues With Basement Walls:

Moisture: This is a real common issue, especially in more humid climates and can be misinterpreted if not looked at in close detail.

For example, if you leave your window open, Basement Moisture on a warm summer day and the outside moisture collects on a cooler wall inside your basement, then it will form droplets of water that can be mistaken for a leaky basement wall.

Basement Wall Moisture Problems

​The above picture illustrates a more serious water intrusion problem and something would have to be done on the outside before anything would be done on the inside. Drains would have to be installed along the wall (at the base of the wall), a waterproofing coat applied or something else all together (or in combination).

Here is a helpful article that I recommend reading…(http://www.extension.umn.edu/environment/housing-technology/moisture-management/moisture-in-basements-causes-and-solutions/)

Mold: Mold usually forms when water problems have been occurring for a good amount of time and never has the chance to dry out. So view the paragraph above this to solve the water problem first, then start removing the mold, if possible or replace sheet rock, trim, etc.

Here is a great, short post on mold…(http://answers.angieslist.com/What-rid-mold-basement-prevent-returning-q25784.aspx)

Deterioration/Damage: Deterioration can have many different forms and just as many solutions. Age is usually a huge factor when it comes to deterioration and erosion of a footing wall. The best thing to do would be to assess the damage and patch the deteriorated areas using an appropriate material.

Smaller patches can be patched with a structural type cement or mortar, while larger holes may need to be filled with structural concrete and even some metal in the wall itself.

Leaks: Leaks usually form when water comes in from outside somewhere, whether it is caused by downspouts, improper drainage around your home, or something else. You will want to look at the exterior of your home for possible problems and correct them as soon as possible.

Bowed Walls: These are usually a sign of something more serious and will need to be mended before plastering over the walls. If you were to plaster around the bulge, you would essentially be putting a “band-aid” on a situation that would require major surgery.

http://www.seepage.com/learning-center/how-to-repair-a-bowed-concrete-block-basement-wall

About the author

The Stucco Guy

My name is Ryan and I have been in the construction trades for many years now and I feel that there is a huge "knowledge gap" when it comes to particular trades.... like stucco. I hope you find the information here useful. Thanks for stopping by!

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