> What Is EIFS?
> EIFS Inspection
What is EIFS?
Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) are multi-component exterior wall systems which generally consist of: 1) an insulation board; 2) an adhesive and/or mechanical attachment of the insulation board to the substrate or existing wall surface; 3) a base coat reinforced with glass fiber mesh on the face of the insulation board; and 4) a finish coat which protects the entire system and can be applied in a wide variety of colors and textures.
Sometimes called synthetic stucco, EIFS originally started out as a cladding system for commercial buildings some 30 years ago. Due to it’s infinite design flexibility and insulating characteristics, it soon became a popular choice for high-end residential builders in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s and is still widely used today. Properly installed, it can be a highly energy efficient and water-resistant system. Deviations from manufacturer’s specifications or poor workmanship can create serious problems however, as EIFS can hide leakage and water damage for a long time, causing rot, mold and sometimes, structural damage.
There are two types of EIFS systems, barrier and drainable. Barrier, the earlier type, typically applied the insulating polystyrene board directly to the exterior sheathing with adhesive, followed by base coat, mesh and finish coat. There is no provision to deal with moisture that can be trapped if the system leaks.
Drainable, on the other hand, provides a drainage plane behind mechanically fastened insulation board to deal with this issue, should it occur. Most local building codes require drainage type systems today.
In the early 1990’s, significant moisture problems began to arise with many barrier EIFS clad homes, particularly in the southeastern states due to high humidity and exposure to spray from the ocean. Although most problems were due to poor workmanship and defective components like leaky windows and doors, class action lawsuits soon followed against the manufacturers of EIFS systems. The industry has been struggling to regain it’s reputation ever since.
What do I do if the home I’m buying or selling has EIFS?
The presence of EIFS does not mean there will be a problem! Unfortunately, due to the history of failure associated with the product and its ability to hide damage from the untrained eye, it should be evaluated a qualified inspector. Most homebuyers and sellers and even home inspectors are not equipped to evaluate this type of cladding.
This home is a good example of EIFS design possibilities
The best way to get an unbiased, accurate evaluation of the EIFS cladding on your home is to have a qualified third party inspector test for moisture in the substrate behind the cladding. Phillip Wells has been certified by the Exterior Design Institute and Moisture Warranty Corporation to perform EIFS inspections according to protocol they developed to evaluate the condition and performance of the cladding.
Mapping wall for moisture with scanning meter
A proper EIFS inspection will involve a detailed assessment of the cladding both visually and through the use of moisture meters. Moisture “mapping” is conducted through the use of scanning type meters that can read moisture levels behind the EIFS finish coat (called the lamina). Invasive testing is also implemented by piercing small holes in the cladding below common failure areas and inserting probes to read moisture levels in the sheathing behind the cladding. All penetrations are carefully sealed with color-matched caulk to prevent water intrusion and conceal any signs of testing. All readings are carefully recorded as to location and photos are taken of each elevation to document the testing procedure.
Probe testing under window trim
After the on-site work is completed, a detailed report is generated and sent to the client with an explanation of findings, pertinent photos, contractor lists and maintenance and repair recommendations, if necessary.
High moisture reading at window