Perhaps its was all the wall talk from a certain orange-faced politician that was responsible for even getting “the wall” on my radar. But once it was, it was all I could look at! The backyard wasn’t a yard at all anymore…just an ugly cinder block wall! How had I never noticed this before?
I thought about painting it for a (relatively) quick solution. But our home is a little 1923 Spanish-style stucco house, and I ultimately decided that stucco-ing the wall would fit nicely with the overall aesthetic of the house. I had stucco’d patches on our house before, using a quick-dry, Stucco product; it was easy to use, but would have costed a small fortune to cover the wall.
After a failed attempt at buying the right type of stucco/mortar, I was lucky enough to run into a gentleman at Home Depot with some experience with this type of thing. He recommended this product (below), which worked quite well, and was inexpensive too. All you have to do is add water and stir until you get it to the desired thickness (milkshake consistency seemed to be about right for me. A GOOD milkshake, though…the kind that’s just the right thickness. I’m reminiscing right now about the ones I enjoyed as a kid at King’s in Lincoln, NE. THAT was a good milkshake).
I had discovered my hero on YouTube as I searched for further inspiration and guidance on this project:
Unfortunately, I didn’t find things to be nearly as smooth (literally and figuratively) as Kirk in his videos. I followed his basic example, though.
I also didn’t want to buy a slew of new tools that I would only use for this project, so I got a little creative with what I had: held a piece of wood with mortar on it my left hand, and a good ol’ fashioned trowel in my right.
You will also want to have a spray bottle of water close by, and a “float” (a common tool used when stuccoing).
Once I got going, it was quite easy, although somewhat tedious: smear some mortar on the wall, spray it with the water bottle, and texture/smooth it with the float. And repeat.
Unfortunately, you can’t make up batches of mortar that are too big (because it would start to dry, obviously) so there was a lot of starting and stopping throughout the day(s). It’s also fairly messy, or at least it was for me! So I would recommend spending time carefully laying down some drop cloths of some type.
It took me a few weekends, pulling some fairly long days, but I eventually got ‘er done.
I inserted some Spanish tiles too, to add a little flare and frankly, to break up the monotony of the stuccoing. It was a little tricky to get ’em right, but they stuck to the wall quite easily with a little mortar surrounding them. And don’t worry about getting mortar on the tiles; it washes off easily with a wet paper towel.
I sprayed the mortar with a light mist of water periodically once it was up but still not completely dry; it seemed like that was a pretty consistent theme in most of the videos I saw online, to keep it from drying too quickly. I also wasn’t sure how to get a real smooth finish with the mortar I had purchased, and with my limited tool selection (YouTube Kirk made it look so easy!). But I eventually convinced myself that I liked the slightly more rustic look of the rough stucco better anyway.
I let the mortar dry for a week or so, and bought a Behr paint intended for stucco and masonry. It was a good call for the project, and looks great still nearly 10 months after it was applied.
I also painted the flat, thin bricks on the top of the wall a brick red color, which made them “pop” nicely, I think.
And there you have it! I was really happy that I decided to tackle this after it was all said and done. It was fairly time intensive and messy, but I didn’t mind listening to a baseball game or some music and getting lost in a mindless, sunny afternoon of mortaring. And I rid the backyard of my cinder block-nemesis in the process!
Here’s to weekends,