EIFS, EEFS, IFIS, dryvit (Artificial Stucco):  EIFS evaluation is related to a concrete type material that is used on exterior walls as a cladding. It is known to have problems if installed incorrectly. The possibility of the artificial material to crack and allow water entry is very high. The wood surface beneath the EIFS is then prone to water damage and mold growth.
 EIFS or "synthetic stucco" clad structures can be subject to water intrusion and damage due to many factors. A qualified 3rd Party Inspector is critical in pinpointing any existing or potential problems with this system and in providing proper corrective solutions.
 EIFS or Stucco?

So, how do you know if you have EIFS or some other product?  EIFS looks like stucco and stucco looks like EIFS.  Here are a few tips to determine which product that you have.  This info does not apply to the newer drainage type systems which started to show up in late 1997,

1.  Ask your Builder for documentation.   This probably won't work but if you can get it, do.

2.  Inspect a penetration through the wall.   Many times penetrations aren't sealed the way they are supposed to be.  This may afford a look at a "cross section" of the system. 

The hard "stucco" layer (lamina) of EIFS is thin, usually between 1/8" and 1/16".  Traditional stucco is hard all the way through and is typically 5/8"-1" thick.

Embedded in the lamina of EIFS is a fiberglass mesh.  It looks kind of like window screen, except the openings are larger.   It's made in a number of colors.  The mesh in traditional stucco is made of heavy wire, usually in a diamond pattern.

I inspect the exterior of EIFS / Stucco / Hybrid homes for obvious repair needs however we do not inspect to manufacturer standards or for water penetration. Exterior finishing systems have had water penetration and decay problems over the past 15 years. I  can provide assistance via the phone without charge if there are matters you do not understand. We recommend you consider hiring an inspector who has considerable exterior wall and home inspection experience.

Look closely where water will run off the roof. Kick out or diverter flashing is missing. See the next photo for proper flashing.

Can you see the metal kick out flashing at the edge of the roof. This is proper. See above picture for missing flashing.

Look closely where the window meets the EIFS. This small crack will let water leak into the wall.. 

This EIFS hangs over the edge of the porch. It has damage probably caused by mowing equipment. 

Synthetic Stucco Raises Some Concerns

With Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation, preferred pronunciation for EIFS.

So now we can say it, but what is EIFS and why do we care? EIFS stands for Exterior Insulating and Finishing Systems. It is sometimes referred to as Synthetic Stucco. Its use increased sharply in the 1990s. In North America about 300, 000 homes have an EIFS exterior.

We care because EIFS has been connected to concealed rot in wall cavities.

A Little History

In 1994, moisture damage to the interior of walls was being linked to EIFS. In August 1995, 32 EIFS clad homes in North Carolina were tested and 30 were found to have moisture problems. In January 1996, the National Association of Home Builders issued a "Builders Alert" about EIFS. In May 1996, Raleigh North Carolina, imposed a moratorium on the product through January 1997. In March 1996, the North Carolina Building Code Council adopted stringent guidelines for the application of EIFS mandating that a drainage system be installed in the exterior walls of EIFS homes. By September 1996, twelve class-action law suits had been launched in the States. In September 1996, Maryland Casualty Company notified its clients, who were contractors, that work with EIFS systems would no longer be insurable. At about the same time, a major relocation company advised its clients that it would eliminate the guarantee on EIFS homes for employees seeking their services during a transfer.

The Mortgage Division of the Chevy Chase Bank decided about the same time to no longer accept mortgages on houses built with Synthetic Stucco. In January 1997, the Georgia Association of Realtors changed its property disclosure statement to disclose whether the house was built with EIFS.

What Exactly Is It?

There are many different systems offered by various manufacturers, but in general EIFS wall systems consist of a wood frame wall covered with a sheathing such as plywood, or even gypsum board. Plastic foam insulation boards are glued or fastened to the sheathing. A 1/16- to 1/4- inch-thick base coat is troweled on to the insulation. A glass fiber reinforcing mesh is imbedded in the base coat. Finally, a finished coat is sprayed, troweled or rolled on. This finish coat provides the color and texture.

Many installations have no building paper or housewrap behind the stucco to act as a backup material.

What Is Happening

Rain water appears to be getting into the wall systems through imperfections in the stucco. These include joints around windows and doors and penetrations from railings, wiring, plumbing, vents, etc. Once water gets behind the system it gets trapped, leading to mold, mildew and rot of the sheathing, studs, flooring and other framing members. EIFS houses often look good until sections of the wall are removed revealing concealed damage. The damage can take place within the first few years of the home's life.

As most of the damage has been found in houses in coastal areas, some have suggested that condensation is a problem; however, since the most severe damage seems to show up around wall penetrations, condensation does not appear to be the culprit. The worst damage is often found below and beside windows.

Solutions

There is little that can be done on existing systems short of re-siding or paying fanatical attention to keeping the water out. Caulking and flashing maintenance should be a high priority for people with synthetic stucco houses.

In the very newest installations, contractors are using building paper or house wrap behind the insulation to protect the sheathing. In addition, the newest installations are designed with a drainage system behind the insulation to allow any water which does get in, to drain out. This is not unlike the drainage system found in a brick veneer home. These improvements should work but only if they are well constructed.

Conclusions

So far we know that areas of high rain fall, and particularly areas with rain accompanied by wind, result in houses with the most damage. Homes which have no roof overhang or very small overhang or many penetrations through the wall systems are also at risk.

Unfortunately, a visual inspection cannot tell the whole story, and until invasive testing becomes standardized and sufficient data becomes available for our area, concealed damage in synthetic stucco houses will remain a question mark.

Reports have traditionally described problems but then provided economical solutions. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on some EIFS homes.

 

 

EIFS is typically applied to either white or yellow foam. These foam panels are attached to the sheathing.  Traditional stucco is applied over building (tar) paper which is applied directly to the sheathing.

The total thickness (not counting sheathing) of EIFS can be from 1"-4", depending on foam thickness.  The total thickness of traditional stucco is usually 5/8"-1" thick.

3.  When I want to know which it is, I just probe it.  Remember that thin lamina that EIFS has?  Well, this will allow you to drive an ice pick or similar tool through it relatively easily.  You may have to give it a few taps with a hammer, but when you penetrate the first 1/16" or so of lamina, the tool will glide through the foam.  Try driving anything lighter than a jackhammer through traditional stucco and you're in for a workout. Your workout will continue for about 3/4of an inch.

A Hint:  Don't just start poking holes willy-nilly.  Most of the decorative trim at windows, doors, and corners is EIFS on newer houses, even on traditional stucco houses.  These details should be applied over the stucco, instead of the stucco butting to it.  If the stucco does butt against the EIFS, you may have a problem.  Don't probe below the top of the foundation.  Sometimes the EIFS will change to stucco at this point.  Find an area in the "field" of a wall. Speaking of walls, don't check a retaining wall.   Make sure the wall contains wood framing.  Look for an out of the way spot that isn't noticeable and has some protection from the weather.  I like to probe just below a piece of protruding trim.  Be sure and caulk the hole when you're done.

Please add in any additional information that you may feel is relevant to your personal situation or more detailed property description. This might include items such as square footage, age, and neighborhood.  Items that require special consideration such as  swimming pools, water wells and septic systems should be included.

 
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