PART 2: TOOLS AND TECNIQUES
Everything takes longer than you think it will. This seems to be a universal truth when it comes to projects, big or small. However, I've found that time spent preparing is always well worth it. "You Tube" proved to be a very useful source of information on the technique of stucco. And the Portland Cement Association provided me (for a price) a booklet called the "Portland Cement Plaster/Stucco Manual."
Another rule is that the right tools, and quality tools, will make the job a lot easier. The stucco manual provided me with a list of the tools I would need for the job: hawk, floats, scarifier, corner trowel, darby. I, of course, was unfamiliar with many of these tools and had no idea where to find them, but a short time with the yellow pages and $150.00 set me right up. The clerk at the construction materials company said he could find someone to help me if I got into trouble and wished me good luck.
I decided that another useful expenditure of time would be to do a test panel to hone my non-existent skills. In the picture above is the 2-foot by 5-foot wall section I built to practice on.
And here I am only looking like I know what I'm doing. The first thing I realized is that cement is heavy! The second bit of insight I gleaned is that applying stucco is not like brushing on paint. Not only is it hard to hold up ten pounds of stucco on a hawk for long periods, but it takes a lot of effort to force the mix into the lath hard enough to make it adhere to the wall.
While planning the project I thought of renting a cement mixer from Home Depot. You can rent it by the hour, day or week. Since I thought it would take more than a few days to complete the job I considered renting it for an entire week. Had I gone with that idea it would have been a financial disaster. As it turned out, even if someone had done all mixing for me, I physically couldn't apply more than four 80-pound bags a day — and I needed 50 bags to finish the job. Under the brown tarp above are 4000 lbs of stucco mix!
Having gathered tools and materials, practiced my technique, and screwed up my courage, I started on the tea house itself.
In this shot you may be able to see the stainless steel wire tie that I spoke of in the previous post — just below and to the left of the right side blue nail head. I also used screws along the edges (near the other nail) to hold the entire panel centered on the framing.
Here you can see the first coat of three, the "scratch coat," on the panel with the circular window. In order to make a tape mask prior to putting on the second or "brown coat" of stucco, I had to build a jig to locate the center of the window. Then, using a pencil and a rotating beam, I was able to establish a circular line around the frame of the window to stucco to.
After drawing the pencil line I cut the tape with a mat knife and peeled off the outside portion of the tape.
I could then stucco over the frame, up to the tape line, securing the window frame into the wall structure.
The stucco manual said that I should make sure the material cured slowly by keeping it moist. I did this by misting the surface periodically with a garden sprayer and also by covering it with plastic to keep the water from evaporating too quickly.
In the end it took about ten weeks to stucco the tea house, but much of that time was spent cleaning tools, hanging plastic sheeting, applying masking tape to protect the wood, and moving scaffolding necessary to reach the higher areas of the walls. I'm still a little amazed that, given my makeshift efforts to level my work platforms, I didn't fall off the narrow plank I spent so much time working on.
The sprayer I used to ensure slow curing.
In this shot you can see the exterior with its first coat complete. It was time to start thinking ahead to the third and final coat — the "finish coat" or color coat.
As I worked on the brown coat on the tea house I also started making color tests on the practice panel.This step proved to be extremely important. I only had five shades of colorant available to me and no idea how they would look when mixed with stucco. Also, the color when first applied looked nothing like the color of the coat once it was dried — which took a couple of days.