Updated on July 19th, 2021
The #1 siding material versus the #2 siding material in America. Think you know which is #1 already? Don’t be so quick with that guess.
Comparing Stucco and Vinyl – Top Factors
While both siding materials offer great variation of styles and profiles, each has two primary applications. For vinyl that includes hollow-back (non-insulated) and foam-back (insulated) siding.
Likewise, for stucco, it is usually applied in a single coat (less insulation) or in three coats (greater insulation).
Cost is generally a determining factor for most homeowners. Insulated vinyl siding is more expensive (at $7.50 to $12.50 per sq. ft. installed) than non-insulated (at $6.50 to $7.50 per sq. ft. installed).
Yet, the high-end insulated vinyl costs about the same as the low end of Stucco (at $7.50 to $12.50 per sq. ft. installed).
Stucco, on average, goes as high as $14.50 per sq. ft. installed. Being more budget-friendly is a significant reason why vinyl is such a popular siding option.
Durability is the measure of how tough the siding material is and how well it will hold up over time. Both materials score well. With vinyl, the thickness of the siding matters significantly. — This doesn’t include foam-back, but rather it is about the thickness of material itself.
The mid-range options are .042 to .046 inches, while top of the line is .055 or higher. Compare this to a single coat of stucco which hovers around a half inch, or about 10 times the thickness of vinyl. 😉
Both materials are fairly tough. Vinyl can withstand wind speeds up to 110 mph, while Stucco can handle wind gusts up to 130 mph. Vinyl gets mixed results on resistance to hail damage.
Obviously, thicker siding means more resistance, but even top of the line is susceptible to some damage. Stucco offers better impact resistance, though large enough pieces of hail or other materials could lead to cracks.
Assuming proper installation and avoidance of disasters, both materials will last more than 50 years. With care, vinyl last between 40 and 75 years before needing replacement.
Stucco can last 60 to 100 years before it needs replacing, thus making if the more durable option.
Comparing the less insulated versions of either is not all that fair, though surprisingly vinyl would win.
Stucco gets .20 per inch R-value, or the standard for measuring insulation. The single coat, half inch is going to be fairly low, while hollow-back vinyl comes in around .60.
The triple coat of stucco raises the R-value to, at most .75. While that is decent, it is not even in the same ballpark as the 1.75 R-value that foam-back vinyl achieves. 😉
Comparing Stucco and Vinyl – Secondary Factors
These next set of factors are the additional considerations that routinely come up for any siding option. While the top factors may receive extra weight, it is entirely unfair to ignore secondary factors when making the comparison between these two or any other siding materials.
Vinyl, on average achieves a 77% return on investment (ROI), while Stucco averages 70%. Though, it must be noted that this varies significantly by region.
Colors and Design Options
This factor can get subjective very quickly. Having a wide array of options and ability for significant color ranges matters.
Both materials can essentially handle any color. And both are best utilized by mixing the color in the material, rather than applying it only to the surface.
After color, the design considerations are almost like comparing apples to oranges.
Vinyl can take many shapes, resembling essentially anything that wood may appear as. Lap board profiles are most common, but vertical panels, shake and shingle (tiles) are available as well as split-wood variation.
Stucco isn’t produced to mimic another existing material and instead covers an entire wall with no visible seams or variation in texture.
And texture is where stucco surpasses vinyl in a noticeable fashion. Since professional stucco installation, with an eye for design is all about dashing, the design options are nearly impossible to compare.
Suffice it to say that both stucco and present far more variation than they are often given credit for.
Durability Factor – Revisited
As there are more elements outside than wind and hail, let’s revisit the durability factor. Both materials hold up remarkably well to insects or animals.
In wetter climates, the edge would go to vinyl while in sunnier / dryer climates the edge goes to stucco.
And while both materials are billed as fire resistant, the reality is that vinyl is well known to warp or buckle if exposed to intense heat, such as from a grill or reflecting UV rays from a neighbors’ window.
Then again, the well-known drawback of stucco is that it can crack. While cracks can be repaired, it is generally easier to repair vinyl siding than it is stucco.
Ease of Installation
Labor charges are a huge factor for costs, and much of it has to do with finding the right pros to do a quality installation.
Vinyl is rather easy to install and doesn’t require a whole lot of expertise in basic handling of the material.
Stucco installation benefits greatly from experienced, professional installation. — It is very labor intensive and takes about twice as long to install as vinyl. More coats mean even more time, while foam-back vinyl takes only slightly more time than hollow-back.
For some homeowners, this may be a significant factor. Fortunately, both materials provide very low maintenance.
Because stucco will last longer, it benefits from additional painting whereas vinyl would likely benefit from new installation after say 40 to 60 years.
Both materials benefit from annual cleaning, though that process is generally considered fairly easy.
The one caveat with stucco is the cracking. That is actually a rare occurrence when installation is done by qualified professionals.
If a crack arises, even a minor one, it is always best to repair it immediately.
Still think you know which material is #1 in America? If you guessed vinyl, you would be incorrect!
According to the 2015 Census Data for new single-family homes sold, Stucco gets 27% of the market to Vinyl’s 26%. This relates to the suitability factor which accounts for which material is better in which region(s).
In the western portion of the U.S., stucco reigns supreme, commanding a 55% market share. In that same region, vinyl lags way behind at 3% share. In that region, ROI for stucco and ability to find quality installers are likely greater than all other areas of the U.S.
In the Northeast and Midwest, vinyl clearly dominates at around 65% share, while stucco barely obtains 1%.