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How To Choose The Best Beach House Exterior

How To Choose The Best Beach House Exterior 1080 718 White Sands Design/Build

White renovated Spanish bungalow from the 1930s with red tile roofs

You’re designing a new home in California’s South Bay? Don’t overlook your beach house exterior.

We know it’s easy (and fun!) to let interior design take center stage, especially when you’re working with the best design team in LA’s South Bay.

But if you want your home to look great for a long time, you’ll need to think carefully about exterior building materials. And you’ll want a build team that understands the southern California elements and our coastal climate.

3 Things To Consider When Choosing Your Beach House Exterior

1. Think About Location.

If you know anything about beach living, you know that wind, sand, and salt are the worst culprits for aging the exterior— and sometimes the interior— of your home.

Your home’s exterior will have different stressors depending on your location. If you’re oceanfront in the Sand Section, your house is scrubbed with sandpaper every time the wind blows. If you’re nestled in the eucalyptus-lined Tree Section, this is not so much the case.

But no matter the neighborhood, your beach house exterior will be subjected to prolonged humidity. And if you’re lucky enough to have an ocean view, you’re also close enough to all that grit for the humidity to cause it to stick to your house.

2. Choose Exterior Materials Wisely.

Stucco

California modern stucco exterior entryway with pink art deco door and Spanish tile

One of the most common choices for a beach house exterior in Southern California is stucco. It was the material of choice in ancient Greece and is still ubiquitous in every Mediterranean city.

Stucco made its North American debut in the 19th century. Back then, it was plain and utilitarian, but by the 1920s, stucco had undergone a renaissance. As the options for color, texture, and application increased, it became a popular material on grand southern California estates. 

Whether you want to create an authentic Spanish home with a clean white exterior or mix colored stucco with metal siding for a bold modern house, this time-tested material can play a key role in your home’s overall ambiance.

Pros: 
  • It’s a chameleon. Stucco can be hand-applied to concrete masonry and wood frame homes to create almost any texture or effect. In the right hands, stucco can mimic fine stonework or traditional adobe. It can be as smooth as butter, it can be pitted (what’s known as a sand or dash finish), or it can be a combination of the two (known as cat face). Other types of finishes are described as “lace,” “swirl,” or “Santa Barbara.” 
  • It’s tolerant of heat, wind, salt, and sand. When applied with the proper sealant and technique, stucco can protect a home for 50-75 years.
  • It’s energy efficient. And, when combined with the right insulation, stucco provides an excellent sound barrier. 
Cons:
  • Stucco generally works well in the southern California climate, but you’ll need to be diligent about addressing cracks. Cracks mean water has travelled beneath the lathe and is causing the wood frame underneath to expand and contract and potentially rot.

Brick & Stone

Masonry, such as brick and stone, perform well in humid, salty conditions and bright sun.

  • Brick and natural stone are generally more expensive than stucco and wood, but for low maintenance longevity, they can’t be beat.
  • We’ve noticed that brick and stone are becoming popular beach house exterior choices these days.

Fiber Cement

Close up of fiber cement siding that mimics wood siding

Fiber cement is a newer building material.  A mix of cement and wood chips, it handles moisture and mildew much better than stucco. 

Pros: 
  • Fiber cement is tough, low-maintenance, and matches the durability of brick. 
  • It’s versatile. It can be molded and painted to resemble brick, wood, or yes, stucco

Sound too good to be true? It’s okay to be skeptical, but…you’ve probably seen many fiber cement homes, even up close, and thought they were some other material.

Wood 

Close up of natural wood siding

Wood siding is an aesthetically pleasing choice, especially if you’re going for a Cape Cod or cottage vibe. However, it’s more susceptible to the elements, and that’s not the most hands-off choice for a beach house exterior.

Pros: 

  • Wood is beautiful and familiar on a primal level. Cedar offers a rustic charm, and board and batten siding has a farmhouse feel that’s warm and inviting. 
  • Softwoods like pine, cedar, and redwood are readily available and budget friendly.
  • Hardwood, such as teak, ipe, garapa, or mahogany, last a long time and are lower maintenance.
  • Wood ages like fine wine— developing more nuance and character and becoming even more distinguished as it weathers, rather than appearing old and shabby. 
Cons:
  • Wind, salt, and rain will wear it down over time, and softwood will wear down quicker than hardwood. 
  • Soft shingles and siding will warp as they absorb moisture and that moisture evaporates. You’ll have to stay on top of upkeep if you go this route.

Go For An Exterior Material Combo

UV rays age even hardwood more quickly than other exterior materials. You may have the highest-quality paint and stains, but you’ll eventually have to deal with bubbling, bleaching, or peeling on your wooden exterior. 

To keep maintenance costs and time-commitment lower, we usually recommend starting with stucco, fiber cement, or brick, and adding other stylistic elements, such as tile and stone, wooden doors and window frames, and wood siding.

3. Think About Beach House Maintenance.

No matter which materials you choose, your beach house exterior is going to require ongoing maintenance

  • When you’re selecting exterior materials, think about how much time and money you want to spend pressure washing, sanding, or repainting exterior surfaces.
  • If your beach retreat is a seasonal home, you may want to hire a maintenance company to regularly assess the exterior. 
  • Setting a schedule for regular maintenance will prolong the life of your home’s exterior elements and protect your investment.

Our Design Build Team Will Guide You

There are many factors to consider when you’re designing your beachfront dream home. The good news is, we’re here to guide you

We live in the area, and we know the climate, bylaws, building codes, and most exceptional tradespeople. The only thing we don’t know is what you envision for your new beach house. But we’re eager to learn!

 

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Thanks for reading,

Hawlie Ohe

Hawlie headshot for home air purifiers

Hawlie Ohe heads White Sands Interiors, and she and her husband are raising two boys along the South Bay coast. Hawlie brings the curiosity that fueled her first career, as a journalist, to her interior design approach: Who are you, who do want to be, and how can this space get you there? Great design makes you feel present and engaged, and Hawlie is here for it. Because she wants you to help you be “here” (in this space, in this moment), too.

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