Stucco Reveals: Design with Distinction

One of the more attractive features of stucco (for the sake of convention, we will refer to EIFS [What is EIFS] as”stucco) is the nearly limitless capability to shape and design the product to achieve the result you have in mind. Whether you are trying to imitate brick, precast or just trying to modernize the look of your home, you can achieve the look you are going for with stucco.

Moldings and trim are certainly the the most popular way to decorate and style a home, adding decorative items such as these to the surface of the stucco is simple and effective. But what about the stucco wall itself? What can be done to the wall to differentiate it from others?

Stucco Reveals

Many people mistake this for being bands with 2″ spacing as opposed to it just being 2″ reveals. Reveals are cut (usually around 1/2″-1″ deep) into the styrofoam using a tool called a hot-knife – a blade that is heated by electricity, causing the styrofoam to melt as it passes through. The purpose of reveals is purely aesthetic – to create something unique. And unique unfortunately, is what it is.

Reveals are in interesting way to add depth and repetition to a home’s design. The tiny cuts into the styrofoam (which are coated the same as the rest of the stucco) create shadows, which makes the reveals look slightly different in colour. Depending on the time of the day, the shadows’ angles can actually make the house look subtly different. You get an interesting contrast of a bright wall on a dark(er) background. Repetition plays into effect, reinforcing that the reveals are there – bold and a major feature. So why aren’t reveals seen more often? Cost.

Reveals do require extra work from the contractor’s perspective, because they have to take the time to carefully mesh the edges and the recess. They need to carefully apply and straighten the base coat so that the edges don’t end of wavy and look unprofessionally done. They need to stop floating (troweling) the finish coat and refine it with a smaller trowel, whereas they would have countinued right over it with a flat wall. Because of this, contractors will typically charge a little more for the work, depending on just how many reveals are required. The cost of adding reveals can sometimes be as little as $200.

The frequency of reveals is not set in stone, but most of the time are 12″ in height. A neat effect is achieved when the reveals line up with beveled quoins on the corner of homes, creating lines that run across the wall and seem to cut into the quoins themselves. That being said, reveals don’t always have to be placed horizontally. Rarely, they are placed vertically, but more often than that (in the author’s experience) – they can be done diagonally, in a criss-crossing fashion. This has the same sort of effect as those wood lattice “walls” often seen in gardens.

Control joints are similar to reveals but actually penetrate partially (if not fully) through the styrofoam. They should be placed between every floor, and at a certain distance (depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations) to allow for building movement without the stucco cracking.

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    "Stucco" is typically what people in the Toronto area use when they're looking for EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish Systems, or "synthetic stucco"). We use the two terms interchangeably.

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