In this Daily: Stucco Homes in Las Catalinas. Their History, Creation, and Care
Stucco is one of the unifying features of the vast majority of homes and structures in Las Catalinas, one of a few touches that help to tie together the aesthetics of vastly different buildings and create a sense of cohesiveness to town. Though the homes and buildings of town come in vastly different shapes, sizes, and even colors, the stucco finish helps convey the feeling that each place you pass by is one piece of a larger whole.
Stucco Homes in Las Catalinas | A Practice in Traditional Materials
Stucco has been used around the world for thousands of years, and has remained in use due to its durability, its natural resistance to bugs, fungus, and fire, as well as the ease with which is can be adapted to different colors and styles. Historically, stucco has been prepared using sand, lime, and water, although in recent times alternative preparations have introduced substitutes to lime that are cheaper and tend to crack much more easily.
The sand operates as the base of the mixture, to which water and lime (sometimes precombined) are added as a natural binding agent, creating a cement-like substance that can be poured and spread, but hardens over time.
In Las Catalinas, stucco is handmade, using the traditional method with lime that is prepared on site. This results in a longer lasting, more durable material.
Stucco Homes in Las Catalinas | Color and Care
Some of the homes and buildings in town maintain the original colors of dried lime stucco, a natural white, but for the more colorful structures there’s another step. To create the soft hues that characterize many homes’ stucco, a blend of ochres (natural earth pigments) and other minerals are mixed in before pouring. This process creates what’s known as integral color, because the coloration is integrated into the chemical composition of the stucco.
From there, any new batch of color must be tested. Since stucco changes shade slightly as it dries, three separate variants of the initial mixture, each with different levels of intensity, are painted as an initial test run.
However, this is just the start of an observation process. Once the three shades of stucco have dried, they’re examined in a wide variety of conditions. Stucco can look different in the morning than it does at noon or in the evening. It can look different based on shade or exposure to sunlight, it can look different based on if it is dry or if it is wet.
Because of this, stucco at sunrise can look very different than it does in the golden sunset light, just as stucco on a rainy day looks very different than on a dry one. The resulting color changes result in the homes and buildings of town seeming to change and adapt with the seasons, which adds another layer of life to Las Catalinas, but each of these variables must be considered before the ideal mixture is selected.
As a whole, this careful preparation ensures that the homes in town have a naturally integrated shading, a unified style in which different homes feel like personal variations on a cohesive theme, and a material that is resistant to the elements, with only a minimal need for maintenance.
Maintaining stucco in a coastal town brings with it a few considerations. As mentioned above, the stucco in town is a lime based material, which helps to age with grace and naturally, and retains its integrity over time. However, the natural salinity in the air can affect the coloration and general aesthetic of the stucco over time, which is why town’s builders recommend maintenance about once every 3 years. Outside of these aesthetic tune ups, the stucco is a material for the long term, as part of homes which are built to last for generations.