Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems

What is EIFS (Synthetic Stucco)?

E.I.F.S. is an acronym for "Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems", and is also known as synthetic stucco. It was developed in Europe after World War II to retrofit masonry walls. During the mid-1970, E.I.F.S. became very popular due to the demand for insulation wall systems that conserved energy, heating, and cooling.

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems aren't perfect. If done incorrectly or if a drainage system isn't installed, water will get in-between the frame and the finishing, which will result in mold or worse, but keep in mind that E.I.F.S. isn't more prone to water penetration than other sidings. Still, rather poor workmanship or bad architectural of the E.I.F.S. material can lead to problems.
E.I.F.S. is used all over North America because the majority of homeowner insurance policies cover Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems and EIFS-like systems. As of 2019, E.I.F.S. accounted for 4% of the residential siding market and 12% of the commercial siding market.

There are six layers to installing E.I.F.S.

A water-resistive barrier is generally fluid that's applied to cover the substrate to avoid water damage to the frame of the home/building.
The Adhesive attaches the insulation board to the supporting structure.
A foam insulation board is secured to the exterior wall surface substrate, most often with adhesive.
A base coat, either acrylic or polymer-based cement material, is applied to the top of the insulation then reinforced with glass fiber reinforcement mesh.
The reinforcement mesh is embedded in the base coat material.
The finish is a textured coat that's decorative and protective. The texture can be thick or thin. (prices varies due to the surface).

E.I.F.S. Maintenance

EI.F.S is designed to last for the life of a building. Still, the actual longevity of any building depends mainly on the maintenance program implemented by the owner/maintenance company or quality of the installer. It's highly relevant to conduct a visual inspection every 6-8 months or after any significant temperature change, mainly if the home or building is near a highway or in a damp climate location. High levels of dirt, mildew, and algae can affect the frequency of the maintenance procedure(s).

During the visual inspection, you should always look for the following:
  • Direct damage to the E.I.F.S. (e.g., cracks/holes)
  • Worn, damaged, or cracked sealant around openings or expansion joints, windows, and doors.
  • Damaged or deteriorated flashing. Either on top or the bottom where the E.I.F.S. ends.
  • Damage to other exterior wall components (e.g., windows or cast stone)
It's recommended to hire the company that installed the E.I.F.S. to do the maintenance. Keep in mind that most insurance companies don't offer any protection/liability for repairs. Unless the whole E.I.F.S. is removed and all damages are repaired. The best way to clean E.I.F.S. is to use a combination of high pressured water coupled with low water pressure and non-abrasive cleaners. Do not hold the nozzle too close to the surface because the high pressure may erode some finish.
E.I.F.S. Stucco will increase the value of your home or building. The increased value depends on the size of the home or building, amenities, location, and the housing market. If done correctly, E.I.F.S. will save you money on heating and air conditioning. Keep in mind that, depending on the home or building location, there might be an increased level of humidity.
  • Use an extract fan in the room(s) and try to use externally vented gas heaters.
  • Opening the front/back door and windows wide for just 10–15 minutes each day can lower moisture levels inside.
  • Raise the temperature inside the home/building above 64 degrees.
  • Buy a dehumidifier(s) and place it in the room you're using. Don't forget to empty the dehumidifier after each use.

EIFS Restoration (reStore)

It's always recommended to hire the company that installed the E.I.F.S. to do any maintenance. Keep in mind that most business insurance companies don't offer any protection or liability for repairs or restorations since the company doing the repairs or renovation isn't the original company that installed the E.I.F.S. 
  • The best way to restore E.I.F.S. to life is to wash it using a combination of high pressured water along with low pressured water and non-abrasive cleaners. Don't hold the nozzle of the pressure washer to close to the surface because the high pressure may damage the finish.
  • You can also repaint the old E.I.F.S. with a unique stucco paint that won't prevent the E.I.F.S. from breathing, which might reduce the possibility of humidity being caught between the frame of the home/building and the E.I.F.S. Regular paint is a sealing agent.
  • Keep in mind that color(s) can't be 100% matched; it'll either be slightly lighter or darker. You can choose a new color or new texture for the finish. 

E.I.F.S. Repair

Repairing is the cheapest method, but it can diminish the overall value of the home or building and overall appearance. When repairing E.I.F.S., you'll only go over the crack(s) or altogether remove the section(s) that needs to be repaired.  Then, re-installing the E.I.F.S., This option will leave a thicker coat of finish that will stand out like a sore thumb because it won't be leveled with the rest of the wall.

E.I.F.S. Refacing (recommended)

Refacing is more expensive than repairing since you're covering the whole E.I.F.S. wall with a thin coat of cement and wire mesh on top of all of the old E.I.F.S. Once dried you can apply the finish. Keep in mind that color(s) can't be 100% matched, either it'll slightly be a lighter or darker shade than the original color, or you can choose a new color or new texture for the finish.

Tired of E.I.F.S.?

You can remove all of the E.I.F.S. from the house or building and install a whole new siding. (Depending on the square footage of the home or building and number of windows/doors and other variables, this can be costly.)
Since 1970 E.I.F.S. technology has advanced dramatically, and therefore now you're able to install a textured or acrylic finish that provides the appearance of brick, limestone, granite, and metal over the existing E.I.F.S. 
This option is only recommended if there's no indication of water damage on the frame of the home or building due to poor workmanship or defaulted E.I.F.S. materials. 
If you own a home or building that has E.I.F.S. and believe that you might have water damage, call the company that installed the E.I.F.S. and have them do a thorough inspection. 
Depending on the water damage, it's highly recommended to remove all E.I.F.S. to inspect the frame of the home/building. If mold is found, you must replace all the damaged wood otherwise mold will return. Exposure to mold can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, and red or itchy eyes, or skin. Symptoms can be worse if anyone has asthma or problem breathing due to other health problem(s).
It's critical to inspect your home/building for evidence of water damage and visible mold. Repairing the problem(s) immediately (e.g., water leaks, condensation, infiltration, or flooding) it will prevent future mold regrowth.
Inside your home, you can control mold growth by:
  • Controlling humidity levels;
  • Promptly fixing leaky roofs, windows, and pipes;
  • Thoroughly cleaning and drying affected area after flooding;
  • Open all windows and doors to allow fresh air circulation.

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