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How to Drill Into Stucco

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Stucco has become a very popular exterior wall covering over the years. This hard looking shell may be intimidating for a homeowner trying to add exterior features like hanging art, a security camera, or a flag to the outside of their homes.

With the proper preparation, it is not difficult to drill mounting holes into stucco.

The original makeup of stucco was too stiff for many areas in the Northern and Eastern US, mostly due to shifting foundations and damp environments. New formulations that add a bit of flexibility to stucco remove these liabilities, so there are many new homes that use this coating.

It is important to note what kind of stucco is used on your home before attempting any drilling.

Tools Needed to Drill Into Stucco

The correct tools will make drilling into stucco much easier, and the end result will be cleaner.

Hammer drill

Drill

The best choice for drilling into stucco will be a hammer drill. The additional hammering action will help get through hard stucco.

While it may seem like an extra expense if you do not already own one, you will find that they come in handy for a lot of jobs around the house.

A standard drill can also be used, but it will take longer, and there is a stronger possibility of the edges of the hole cracking.

Drill Bit

The best drill bit to use on stucco is a masonry bit. These often come with carbide or diamond tips, making easy work of stucco.

Safety equipment

Whenever using power tools, safety equipment is not only recommended, but necessary. Safety goggles are the number one piece of safety equipment that you should wear when using a drill.

In this particular case, since hard material will be flinging around, gloves will also come in handy to prevent cuts and scrapes.

Drilling Into Stucco

A variety of drill bit

Taking your time when you are drilling into stucco will produce better results, so check every step before actually making any holes in the wall.

  1. Mark the depth on the drill bit – Using a piece of tape, mark the distance you want to drill into the stucco.
  2. Mark the drilling point – Use a marker or heavy pencil to mark the spot on the wall that you plan to drill. 
  3. Drill slowlyWith your drill bit pointed in a completely perpendicular plane to the wall, drill slowly, letting the bit do the work. A hammer drill should have no problem getting through the stucco, but a standard drill may take a little extra pressure.
  4. Stop drilling when you reach the mark on the drill bit – Trust your measurements, and do not drill any further than you have to.
  5. Reverse the drill direction – Change the drill direction to reverse, and remove the drill. Removing the bit in a rough manner can cause chipping.

Remove Dust from the Drill Hole

There will usually be some dust or debris in the hole you have just drilled. To remove it, do not stick your face next to the hole and blow! This will eject the dust straight into your face, eyes, and nose.

Use a can of compressed air if available, or just grab a turkey baster from the kitchen.

Additional Steps After Drilling Stucco

Depending on the item you are looking to mount onto your stucco wall, there may be a few different things you need to do. Acrylic caulk is usually recommended to place in the drilled hole, especially in EIFS stucco, before a screw or anchor is inserted.

Read the instruction manual for whatever you are trying to mount before any drilling occurs so you can have the correct items on hand.

Determine The Type of Stucco Before Drilling

Stucco can be used to define a few different things, but it is primarily a plaster coating with a rough finish. When talking about home exteriors, stucco generally relates to two different processes, cement stucco and EIFS.

A stucco wall

Cement stucco in the US is an older, stiffer type of plaster made with cement and binders, while EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish System) is a whole exterior wall construction that mimics, but improves upon, cement stucco.

Cement Stucco

Made out of the core ingredients of cement, water, sand, and lime, cement stucco is basically a spreadable temporary rock. What makes it so perfect for the outside of homes is that, in addition to sharing the strength of concrete, it is breathable.

In order to tell if the exterior of your home is made of concrete stucco, check the hardness of it. This type of stucco is very hard, and when rapped with your hand or a rubber mallet it will feel like a large, rough rock.

This will be the easiest stucco to drill into, but mainly because if a mistake is made, it will not affect the integrity of the wall.

EIFS Stucco

EIFS stucco construction is softer than cement, as it is applied over insulating foam. When you knock on an EIFS wall, it will usually sound hollow. Most stucco walls installed in about the last 20 years are some form of EIFS. 

The benefit of EIFS is that it is more flexible than cement stucco. This allows it to be used in areas where expansion and contraction, as well as foundation shifting, are common.

It is very important that you check the manufacturer’s instructions on drilling, or you may void your warranty. Incorrectly performed changes to EIFS stucco can create cracks that let moisture in, creating mold.

Check for Wires or Pipes Before Drilling in Stucco

To be sure that you do not damage any electrical wiring or gas/water pipes, perform your due diligence and check beforehand. Building plans are the most accurate way to find any of these obstacles, but if those are not available, there are other methods.

A hammer drill drilling into stucco
  • Take a look at the top and bottom of the wall you plan to drill into. Look for any visible pipes. Assume that the pipes will move vertically up and down the wall.
  • Look in the attic or basement for pipes or wires showing above or below the drilling area.
  • Check the other side of the wall for any electrical outlets or switches.

Troubleshooting Stucco Drill Holes

Small mistakes can occur when drilling stucco, but even if the job was performed perfectly there may be some problems stemming from the wall material, or even your tools.

  • Flakes or cracks around the drilled stucco hole can be evened out with stucco caulk.
  • If crumbling occurs, remove any loose parts, add new paper, and apply multiple coats of stucco repair.
  • If you see any water damage while examining your stucco, first find the source of water and make sure that is repaired first. Remove any loose and damaged stucco you may find, then repair in the same manner as when crumbing is seen.

Conclusion

To drill into stucco it is important to find out what kind of stucco is being used in order to avoid any potential problems. EIFS stucco will be much easier to drill into, but certain precautions should be put in place, and the correct type of flexible caulk should be ready for use.

Cement stucco, on the other hand, has a high threshold for mistakes, as long as you do not cause any major cracks by trying to force the bit into the wall.