EIFS Benefits and Common Defects

EIFS Benefits and Common Defects

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems or commonly referred to as EIFS are multi-layered exterior wall systems that are used for both residential homes and commercial buildings. The systems are unique from the aspect that the wall incorporates insulation into the exterior of the building wall. This wall system was invented in Europe after World II spawned by the extensive rebuilding process. EIFS was introduced into North America in 1969 under the product name Dryvit.

EIFS usually consists of three primary component layers. The innermost layer is an insulation board, usually made of a material such as polystyrene or polyisocyanurate foam. The second layer is a durable water resistant base coat applied to a reinforcing fiberglass mesh which gives it added strength. The third layer is a finish coat or colored coat which typically consists of acrylic polymer. The top coat is normally crack resistant and color fast. EIFS can be glued or mechanically fastened to the substrate.

EIFS rise in popularity grew due to several basic factors that other wall systems could not provide, namely unlimited design flexibility and superior energy efficiency. Skilled applicators of EIFS can create various types of exterior architectural detailing that would often be very costly using traditional construction methods. Cornices, arches, columns, keystones, moldings and decorative accents can be fashioned into a wide variety of shapes and textures.

EIFS systems are very energy efficient. The insulation is on the outside of the wall. This assembly keeps the wall construction at a more uniform temperature close to the controlled interior temperature. The structure acts as a heat bank. Essentially, EIFS literally wraps the exterior in an energy efficient thermal blanket. Air infiltration is reduced which stabilizes the interior environment and reduces energy consumption. This wall system has the ability to specify and utilize lower capacity heating and cooling equipment without sacrificing interior comfort.

Traditional -between the studs- insulation, regardless of how thick it may be leaves thermal breaks or gaps where heat and cold pass more freely between the outdoors and the space within, for example at studs, wall outlets, and wall joints.

EIFS Construction Defects

There are many positive aspects of this wall cladding system. Although to some, the name EIFS conjures up negative connation’s and moisture intrusion issues that they have experienced or heard about. Typically, failures occur due to poor installation and construction practices. Poor detailing, lack of detailing, and not following manufacturers specifications are the normal culprits that cause issues and problems to occur.

EIFS Construction Defects

There are many positive aspects of this wall cladding system. Although to some, the name EIFS conjures up negative connation’s and moisture intrusion issues that they have experienced or heard about. Typically, failures occur due to poor installation and construction practices. Poor detailing, lack of detailing, and not following manufacturers specifications are the normal culprits that cause issues and problems to occur.

The most common building defects attributed to EIFS installation are:

1. Missing flashing at the roof and vertical wall joint

2. Lack of caulking at dissimilar junctions and wall penetrations

3. EIFS extending into the ground

4. Window flashing

5. Failure to properly terminate the system at the roof / wall interface

6. Failure to butt all insulation boards tightly, thus allowing basecoat between board ends

7. Failure to properly terminate the system at the base of the wall.

8. Failure to properly terminate the system at penetrations such as windows, doors, etc resulting in cracks and water intrusion entry points.

9. Sealant failures

10. Stoops, walkways, driveways installed against cladding

11. Detailing around chimneys and parapets

12. No deck flashing

13. Moisture drainage plane failures

If EIFS is installed in accordance to the manufacturer’s specifications the wall cladding system is very durable and maintenance free. In an era of sustainable, green building, energy efficiency has become the most widely publicized and used as a benchmark in successful building design and operation. Controlling energy flow and moisture control of the building envelope are critical aspects of consumer and occupant satisfaction. Extensive research by major shareholders and entities, such as the Department of Energy have demonstrated that EIFS is an excellent exterior cladding choice for achieving key building performance goals.

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