Stucco is a classic building material for a reason. It’s beautiful, durable and contributes a great deal to a building’s overall aesthetic.

Like other exterior building materials, though, stucco is only as good as its maintenance. A well-maintained stucco wall is both beautiful and impervious to the elements. But if you let the maintenance slip, you may wind up dealing with both cosmetic and structural damage.

There are a few basics you need to know about maintaining your exterior stucco.

Clean regularly (but carefully)

Over time, dirt and debris will build up on your stucco exterior just like it would on siding, concrete, or brick. This can contribute to wear and tear as it’s driven into the surface or creates areas for water to leach through.

Clean the outdoor surfaces regularly with a pressure sprayer to keep it clear of trouble spots. That pressure can’t be too high, though, or it can cause leaks in the stucco surface and allow water in. The surface isn’t too fragile but it does require caution to ensure no damage occurs in the cleaning process.

The same applies to chemicals. Staining can be removed, but not all chemicals are usable on stucco. Be cautious and don’t be overzealous with chemical cleaning products. If you have questions, contact a professional.

Inspect frequently

An inspection of your building stucco should be on the same maintenance rotation as the rest of your building. Walk the outside of the building and look at the surface carefully. Search for chips, cracks or other damage that can allow water in, or staining that could be an indication of a deeper problem. Untrimmed bushes and other vegetation can cause damage if they’re not taken care of, so keep an eye out for branches brushing against the stucco.

Watch for drainage issues, too. Standing water can be an issue not just for stucco but for other aspects of your building’s waterproofing.

If you see issues, don’t sit on them. Take action immediately. Any damage that allows the elements to get through your stucco surface will compound over time. Maintenance is always cheapest and easiest when you catch the problem before it starts—stucco is no different. Deal with drainage, damage, or landscaping issues as soon as you can when you find them.

Your exterior stucco is crucial to the overall health of your building. With these tips you can find problems before they become serious.