To Paint Stucco or No?

Category: Exteriors

(This photo was taken BEFORE the paint was removed from the front steps...they are no longer blue!)

Our house is looking a little dingy. It definitely needs to be scrubbed a bit.

And after it HAS been, what then? We have a stucco home...not the usual candidate for regular house paint (except for the trim).

I've been researching lime washes lately...Porter's offers a lime wash as does U.S. Heritage. (And many other European companies.)

Lime washes have the advantage of being a good match for a stucco is absorbed by the stucco instead of being a layer over it (which may peel and trap water later). It tends to fade pleasantly over time instead, like a nice watercolor.

We'd like to strip and prime some of the exterior trim before the storms of winter set in to protect it. We keep hestitating because we don't have complete agreement over the final exterior color scheme. But that was when we wanted to leave the stucco alone. Perhaps the lime wash will open us up to more possibilities and, thus...(oh magic words to renovation couples :)...agreement!

The Detroit Historic District Commission has a VERY strong opinion about color combinations related to a house's architectural style and period. We live in a 1914 Craftsman-inspired bungalow (there seem to be some Prairie elements).

That would take us to this page of ideas.

Originally, we were inspired by some of colors in the tile entryway of the house (which use blue-based AND yellow-based colors--see below): here are the Detroit Historic District suggested colors.

Here are the U.S. Heritage lime washes. (Click the online color chart.)

Here are some of Porter's Colors.

We want to choose either blue-based or yellow-based colors...and group them together without mixing. (This distinction is why a rainbow of shades of green or brown exist...some are yellow-based and some are blue-based. For example, blue-based greens may be blue green, forest, carribean, asparagus or true greens. Yellow-based greens may include: olive, granny smith apple, or shadow green, and perhaps lime or yellow-green.)

Pantone also has some very fun color interactivity on their site.

What do YOU think?

(I should try some of this paint color software from to get an idea of what this would look like. If I'm successful, I'll post something in a few days...)

Looking for More?

House in Progress Search for more on 'Old house colors' on this site. Search for 'Old house colors' on on other houseblogs like this one.
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This URL is a bungalow that inspires me, saw it at the AB forum

I don't think he'd mind if you copied him!
I like the contrast on the rafter tails, I would do it if I was starting from scratch.

There are a ton of stucco houses here in Minneapolis, and from what my stucco-owning friends tell me the lime wash is the only way to go. Once you paint it, you're doomed to repainting every few years for eternity...

How are you ever going to decide on colour? So many possibilities! Are you guys thinking of doing the lime wash soon? Not that I'm impatient for after photos, really.

Hi Lisa!

We'll probably only prime the exposed wood trim before winter sets in and plan for "limewashing" and painting trim next Spring and Summer. Right now there is a big PUSH on for the second floor to be completed so that we can have a (oh please, oh please!) sanctuary away from the construction. Right now, we're living in it, sleeping in it, making dinner around it...and that is super insane.

But we hope to look at colors and perhaps "mock-up" what it will look like :) It gives us something to look forward to when looking at an open wall gets too depressing.

HI! Just this week I recieved a mailing from Farrow & Ball paint (, the line is from England. They have created a new masonry paint for cement, bricks and STUCCO! I love their colors.

They are pre-releasing the paint in CA, I guess to test the market demand on all the Spanish style stucco houses here. Eventually, if the line does well, I think they plan to roll it out in the US market place.

I've always found this rule of thumb to be helpful when picking paint colors to match wood trim or brick---if you can identify the two strongest primary colors in your wood or brick, pick your paint color based on the third primary color.

on my monitor, your brick looks pretty dark, with blue-red (some call it purple) undertones. therefore, i'd go with the yellow based greens. if your brick was orangey, i'd go with the blue based greens. if your brick is just plain red, then you could go either way.

as far as limewash vs. paint, definitely limewash!


I think it would be really cool to use such an old school product on an old school house.

We also have a dingy 1921 stucco house, with some discoloration under the eves. Does limewash cover up these discolorations?


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Started years ago as a scrapbook, this collection of photos serves as inspiration as we restore our own bungalow. We hope you find it either useful or entertaining as well.

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