What is EIFS?EIFS stands for Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems. The product is also called synthetic stucco, and refers to a multi-layered exterior finish that's been used in European construction since shortly after World War II, when contractors found it to be a good repair choice for buildings damaged during the war. The majority of repairs to European buildings were to structures constructed of stone, concrete, brick, or other similar, durable materials.
EIFS in North America
North American builders began using EIFS in the 1980's, first in commercial buildings, then applying it as an exterior finish to residences--mostly wood frame houses--using the same techniques that had been successful in Europe.
There are three layers to EIFS
Inner Layer Foam insulation board that's secured to the exterior wall surface, often with adhesive.
Middle Layer A polymer and cement base coat that's applied to the top of the insulation, then reinforced with glass fiber mesh.
Exterior Layer A textured finish coat.
EIFS layers bond to form a covering that doesn't breathe. That's fine when no moisture is present behind the covering, but if moisture seeps in it can become trapped behind the layers. With no place to go, constant exposure to moisture can lead to rot in wood and other vulnerable materials within the home.
What had worked well as an exterior shell for concrete and stone became a problem when used on wood. Moisture related problems lead to individual and class action lawsuits by consumers.
Synthetic Stucco vs. Traditional Stucco
- Synthetic stucco is soft and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Traditional stucco is hard and brittle, and sounds solid when tapped.
- Any opening, such as door and window frames and the areas around flashings, must be sealed to prevent water from seeping behind the EIFS.
- Gutters should be kept clean and positioned to drain away from the house.
- Foam should not extend below grade.
- Items that penetrate the stucco must be sealed.
In other words, no moisture should be able to seep behind the EIFS.
Signs of EIFS Problems
- Mold or mildew on the interior or exterior of the home.
- Swollen wood around door and window frames.
- Blistered or peeling paint.
- Cracked EIFS or cracked sealant.
Newer EIFS systems include a drainage arrangement to help keep moisture from being trapped behind the covering. Ask a trusted home builder for details about contemporary EIFS.