|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,
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
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
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
Stucco Raises Some Concerns
With Urea Formaldehyde
Foam Insulation, preferred pronunciation
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.
care because EIFS has been connected to concealed rot in wall cavities.
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.
Exactly Is It?
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.
have no building paper or housewrap behind the stucco to act as a backup
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.