Stucco vs Siding Compared – What’s the Difference?

Both stucco and vinyl siding are popular siding options on the market, and they’re often the top choice for owners of new homes. However, the differences, advantages, and disadvantages are often questioned.

Stucco is made from cement, while vinyl siding is mainly made from PVC. Vinyl siding is more energy efficient but less durable and more expensive to install (although by an acceptable margin). Stucco is more appealing, and it is easier to maintain. Installation prices vary widely.

Determining which option is superior has proven to be more difficult than I thought before writing this article.

They’re similar in many ways, especially regarding the pricing, but the functional differences (explained thoroughly in the article) will determine which option is best for you.

An image of a Luxury Home Exterior.

Which Is Best, Stucco or Siding?

Vinyl is superior in energy efficiency but not much else. Stucco is better if on a tight budget and if it is not an earthquake-prone area. It is also the better-looking siding (although this is subjective).

This question is impossible to answer definitively – how well stucco or vinyl will fit the home depends entirely on the location, climate, and budget.

The differences and intricacies are explained in great detail below.

Is Vinyl Siding Cheaper than Stucco?

Vinyl is cheaper than stucco, although many think the price difference is stark. Stucco material can cost up to $6 per square foot, but usually no more than that. On the other hand, vinyl usually does not cost more than $5 per square foot, making it cheaper than stucco.

Installing either of these materials can be costly, but more on that later.

Is Stucco More Expensive than Siding?

Stucco is only slightly more expensive than vinyl siding, and if an individual is going to install it themselves (provided that they know what they are doing and do it well), the price balances out.

Vinyl installation is more complex than stucco, and not all contractors know how to do it. Contractors that regularly work with vinyl siding usually have certificates as they had to learn how to set vinyl up.

A contractor with no experience with vinyl can set the plates too tightly or loosely. Plates that are too tight often crack during the winter as the temperatures drop and the plastic starts to shrink. On the other hand, loose plates let heat out and make utility bills bigger.

So, while stucco (the material) is more expensive than vinyl siding, it’s easier to install, and we can save money on installation costs.

That being said, I’ve tried doing some basic stucco patches. It’s a lot harder than drywall, in my experience. So if doing drywall isn’t your idea of a good time, then a DIY stucco job probably shouldn’t be on your to-do list.

I’ve also watched vinyl siding being installed. It’s one of the things that we hired out on a previous home because it looked involved enough that it wasn’t something we wanted to do. Watching the team work, we realized we’d made a good call!

Is Stucco More Energy Efficient than Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding is much more energy efficient than stucco. The R-value of stucco is about 0.02, while the R-value of vinyl siding is about 0.61 per square inch. This means that vinyl is incomparably better when it comes to energy efficiency.

However, stucco was never intended to be a thick, insulating layer. Although it does provide some insulation, stucco is supposed to be an exterior wall layer of a house.

Vinyl is more efficient, but it’s not much competition as stucco’s purpose isn’t to insulate the home.

As such, you should always add stucco over additional insulation layers rather than depending on it to be the insulation.

Is There Vinyl Siding that Looks Like Stucco?

There is, at this point, no vinyl that imitates stucco.

However, there are manufacturers of fiber cement siding that imitate stucco. This fiber cement usually comes in panels, which are usually easier to install and maintain.

An image of a Minimalist view of a yellow stucco wall with a metal fire escape ladder going up the side along with some palm fronds.

What Is Stucco?

Stucco is a form of house siding traditionally used in Europe, especially in Spain and Mediterranean countries. In the United States, some people may refer to it as ‘Portland siding’ or ‘Portland plaster.’

To clarify, this has nothing to do with the city of Portland but with the fact that Portland cement plaster is often used to make stucco. Other types of cement used to make stucco are hydraulic, blended, and masonry cement.

White cement is not uncommon, but it’s usually used as the finish coat. We can see this with white stucco and colored stucco (which starts as white stucco before color is added).

The three layers of stucco

Anyone can install Portland plaster (or stucco) easily, but not on over-painted surfaces. Usually, the base layer is applied over some form of mesh so that the stucco adheres well. This is actually applied in two or three layers. The second layer is applied 48 hours after applying the first layer.

Firstly, the plaster has to be misted twice a day for two days after installation. There has to be some moisture in each layer of stucco. Secondly, it takes time for the layer to cure before another layer can be applied (otherwise, the second layer could rip off the first layer).

The third layer is usually not used for insulation and isn’t as thick as the first and second layers. Its purpose is to provide some texture and color.

How Long Does Stucco Last?

Stucco can last up to 100 years or more if properly cared for – which is far more durable and lasting than vinyl. That being said, nothing lasts forever, and neither does stucco. If stucco is subject to regular abuse or extreme weather, it may need replacement, as often other kinds of siding.

Regarding durability, stucco is also fire resistant, which is essential to some people. Unlike vinyl, which melts if the temperatures get too high, stucco can provide a temporary firewall.

Another great thing about stucco is how little maintenance it needs. It doesn’t crack a lot, and if it does, it can be easily repaired by amateurs.

Stucco energy efficiency

R-value per square inch defines energy efficiency – R-value tells us how well a two-dimensional barrier resists heat flow. Stucco, unfortunately, completely fails on this front.

The R-value of stucco is 0.02 per square inch (source), which is low, making it a bad insulator. For comparison, plywood has an R-value of 1.25 per square inch. And plywood isn’t a great insulator, meaning that stucco isn’t a good insulator.

Of course, if three layers are applied, R-value rises, but it still can’t be as nearly as good as that of other materials. This is why stucco should be used as an exterior finishing layer, and not the only layer.

An image of a Home sweet home real estate exterior design mortgage.

What Is Vinyl Siding?

Vinyl siding is mainly made from polyvinyl chloride resin (regular PVC). In contrast, other ingredients are added – ones that color the siding, give it a glossy effect, and improve flexibility and durability.

The more expensive of the two options, vinyl, is a trendy siding option in the United States. Vinyl is essentially plastic and became a popular alternative to fiber cement and aluminum in the middle of the 20th century.

Vinyl thickness

Depending on the quality of the vinyl, it can be as thin as 0.035 inches or as thick as 0.052 inches, with the latter thickness reserved for the highest quality vinyl products.

If we’re installing vinyl, the contractor will generally advise us to get the builder’s vinyl, which is 0.04 inches thick, which is a bit on the thicker side. Thicker vinyl plates are more durable and usually last longer.

It has to be noted that there’s a debate among vinyl users about the winter flexibility of vinyl plates. Since vinyl is primarily plastic, it becomes easier to break as the temperatures drop.

Some users claim that thinner vinyl is more difficult to break during the winter and provides flexibility compared to thicker vinyl plates. However, this is based on personal experiences, and no study proves or disproves it.

Plates of vinyl interlock, while nails are also used to connect them to the outer wall fully.

How Long Does Vinyl Last?

Even with maintenance, you should not expect vinyl to last longer than 70 years, with about 30 years being more standard. The coloring will also begin to fade after a decade, especially in areas with plenty of sunlight hours.

Vinyl doesn’t have the same durability as other sidings – this is mostly due to the temperatures. Since plastic becomes stiffer during the winter and loose during the summer, these changes will affect the vinyl after a few decades.

Dark colors start to fade, and that makes the siding ugly. Just painting over it isn’t an option, as the paint will also dry, crack, and it will just peel it off. If this happens, the vinyl needs replacing, not refreshing.

Cracks are another problem with vinyl – a consequence of high and low temperatures and their effects on PVC. Vinyl cracks can be so large that water gets through them if you wash the house with a garden hose.

Regarding fire resistance, most vinyl sidings are surprisingly resistant, not igniting until temperatures reach about 730 degrees Fahrenheit.

PVC is good at stopping the spreading of flames as it doesn’t release much energy – it takes a lot of oxygen to burn vinyl, making it easier to extinguish than other siding options.

However, vinyl is more likely to ignite because of an exterior fire than other materials, as a fire can spread between two vinyl plates six feet apart in less than five minutes (source).

It’s also very easy to take care of vinyl siding – we can use a pressure washer or a garden hose to clean it. Water won’t take off the paint as it’s integrated with the vinyl.

That being said, you can paint vinyl. Once you do, you’ll need to keep repainting it every few years to keep it looking good.

Vinyl energy efficiency

With an R-value of 0.61 per square inch, it’s energetically a better investment than stucco. It’s not without its faults, though, especially regarding environmental concerns.

Greenpeace and the Environmental Building News have widely criticized the use of DEHP (a form of plasticizer).

These are all factors you’ll need to weigh when deciding which siding to pick.

An image of the Bottom view detail of a new modern house cottage corner with stucco walls, brown shingled roof, and unfinished siding installation on clear blue sky copy space background. Real estate concept.

Which should I get: siding or stucco?

Take a look at the table below for easier comparison.

Installation (PSF)LongevityEnergy
StuccoUp to $6Up to $3 (or DIY)Up to 100 years plus.R-value of 0.02 PSF, which is very inefficient.It can delay a fire up to an hour and doesn’t light up easily.
Vinyl SidingUp to $5Up to $5 (DIY not possible)From 20 to 70 years.R-value of 0.61 PSF, not excellent, but more efficient than stucco.It doesn’t ignite below 730 degrees, but fire can spread from house to house easily.
Table 1. Comparisons between siding and stucco. PSF is “per square foot.”

Something that has to be taken into account but can’t be put into a table is a region’s climate.

  • Vinyl is very vulnerable to high and low temperatures – it will get bent out of shape when it’s too hot or cold.
  • Stucco is more tolerant to temperature changes. However, it’s not flexible, and earthquakes cause cracks. It also needs to be installed during a warm period.

Stucco isn’t a great option if you live in an earthquake-prone area. Likewise, vinyl isn’t an option if you live in extremely cold or hot areas, especially if the temperature swings back and forth. Neither one of these two options is superior by default – it depends on the location.

Another thing to account for is your budget – while the cost of materials isn’t terrible, installation can be, especially with vinyl. Vinyl siding isn’t easy to install, and experts often charge a lot.

If it’s installed wrong, you’ll have to flush more money down the toilet, so to speak, to get the vinyl siding fixed.

Next Steps

Having grown up in the relatively earthquake-free regions of the American Southwest, I’m a huge fan of stucco and how it looks. However, having moved northward I’ve seen a lot more vinyl, and it also has its place. Both are fantastic options.

When we had to put new siding on a previous home, we weighed the pros and cons. In that particular instance, we ended up picking vinyl siding. Now that we’re in a new home, though, would we pick the same thing? We’d have to run the numbers again – and see how the insulation affects things!

So don’t feel bad about weighing the pros and cons and making the decision that’s right for you, your family, and your area. And always – ALWAYS – get at least 2-3 quotes from different, reputable companies before picking one. You’d be surprised at how widely the bids can vary!

Once you’ve got the siding choice made, make sure you read our article on How to Choose Gutter Color (What Colors Work Best). That way, your home’s exterior is totally ready for any weather.


Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These sources were used in this article and our research to be more informed as we DIY and decorate our homestead.

  • Exterior Wall Insulation. Accessed 17 Sept. 2022.
  • “Lab Experiments Simulate House-to-House Fire Spread.” ScienceDaily, Accessed 17 Sept. 2022.
  • “Siding With Safety.”, 2014,
  • Stucco Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed 17 Sept. 2022.
  • “Stucco Siding Panels Look With Fiber Cement Siding Panels.” Nichiha USA, Accessed 17 Sept. 2022.

Homestead Style Guide uses ads and participates in select affiliate advertising programs, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Connect with Me