Stucco vs. Fiber Cement: Life-cycle Cost
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Stucco vs. Fiber Cement: Life-cycle Cost

When architects specify cladding materials for their commercial projects, the topic of life-cycle costs isn’t always top-of-mind. After all, long after a project is completed, the cost of keeping the building’s exterior in pristine condition becomes the responsibility of the building’s owner.  

However, the true costs of cladding materials can’t be measured without examining maintenance and replacement costs over years of use. By looking at the effects of material exposure to the sun, humidity and severe weather events, we can have a better understanding of the true cost of ownership of stucco and other options, such as fiber cement panels.

Generally speaking, we do know that the total cost of ownership or life-cycle costs of stucco is higher than Nichiha’s architectural wall panels, which are made from weather-resistant fiber cement. Indeed, in the past several years, commercial buildings and homes covered in stucco have not fared well under Florida’s harsh weather conditions — spawning a deluge of lawsuits because of water-damaged structures and costly repairs.

Florida Stucco Illumination

Stucco Life-Cycle Considerations

Fact: Stucco installation is a laborious process — requiring up to three layers: scratch coat, brown coat and finish coat. But because stucco forms cracks and blisters with time, maintenance costs add up quickly. Frequent painting and touching up of stucco finishes are required throughout its life cycle. Some manufacturers recommend maintenance investments at five-year intervals beginning at 10 years of age.

Life-cycle costs can quickly mount from water seeping into cracks that form on the outside layer, which allows water to seep in between the stucco and concrete blocks. There isn’t a way for water to get out of the wall, once it’s there. The result is rot, mold and the potential formation of black mold. The grim news is you can’t see the damage from the outside as rot and mold forms, which must be removed somehow. 

Yes, stucco may last a long time, but there is a price attached to its longevity in the form of very high maintenance costs. Stucco repairs and remediation are traditionally labor-intensive and costly and require skilled craftsmen.

Florida Stucco Nichiha

Fiber Cement Life-Cycle Considerations

Fact: Since Nichiha’s architectural wall panels received its Notice of Acceptance (NOA) from Miami-Dade County, architects now have a competitive option other than stucco. Nichiha’s architectural wall panels have a 50-year life expectancy and won’t rot, even in Florida’s humid climate. Additionally, fiber cement panels don’t crack, which makes them one of the longest-lasting building cladding materials today.

Moreover, buildings covered with Nichiha’s fiber cement panels use unique rainscreen technology between the panels and concrete block to quickly dispense moisture. Indeed, Nichiha’s closed joint rainscreen design stops bulk water from entering the wall. At the same time, airflow moves easily through the panels’ top and bottom, which greatly reduces the likelihood of mold and rot.

Florida Stucco Nichiha

Modern Engineered Architectural Wall Panels

When architects go beyond the installation and upfront costs of a building’s cladding and consider the materials’ total cost of ownership over the structure’s lifetime, you may be surprised that stucco isn’t as cost-effective and dominant as it once was. Modern engineered and manufactured architectural wall panels from Nichiha offer the benefits of durability, resilience and lower total cost of ownership compared to stucco. Over time, owners may need to paint the wall panels, but when architects build with Nichiha’s panels the most onerous threat to a building’s life-cycle costs is eliminated. Moisture.


From limitless color possibilities to the weather-resistant design of our architectural wall panels, Nichiha USA is a durable alternative to stucco. To see and feel the Nichiha difference for yourself, click here to request a sample or contact your local rep to learn more.

Categories: Product Education
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