EIFS Stucco

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Building Material

Exteriorinsulation1.jpg

Diagram depicting typical application of EIFS.

Contents

Background

EIFS is an acronym which stands for "Exterior Insulation Finishing System" sometimes referred to generally as a synthetic or an acryllic stucco, despite the fact that EIFS is not in fact a "true" stucco.

History

Berlin after World War Two

The history of EIFS dates back to the conclusion of World War Two. EIFS was originally used as a means to repair masonry work damaged from six years of extensive fighting.

Much like how Bondo is used to repair and restore vehicles plagued by rust, EIFS was used to cover holes in buildings caused by shelling and gunfire. In doing so, it was discovered that EIFS could be used as an inexpensive means to replicate masonry work and restore buildings to their former grandeur.

The use of EIFS would become popular in Germany in the 1950s and in North America during the 1960s. By the 1970s it would become a widely used and recognized means to finish exterior walls.

Use In Building Construction

EIFS is very popular with builders as it is cheap to purchase, easy to apply, and can be tinted in any colour.

Typically, there are three layers to an EIFS.

  • The Inner Layer which is usually a foam insulation surface applied with adhesive to the exterior wall.
  • The Middle Layer which is a polymer cement base coast applied directly onto the insulation then re-inforced with fiberglass meshing.
  • The Outer Layer the textured outer coating which bears some resemblance to a smooth-looking stucco.

Leaky Condo Controversy

EIFS is not impervious to water, as was discovered during 1980s and 90s in British Columbia

The technique of spreading EIFS over a wood-frame was developed entirely in North America. It was this technique that led to the "leaky condo" problems in the 1980s and 1990s where water ingress through the EIFS and into the wood frame led to "condo rot" - namely the weakening of the building's frames and mold problems.

Proponents of EIFS argue that it is no more susceptible to water ingress than any other form of construction material, and that the culprit in such circumstances is rather poor design or poor craftsmanship to blame for the "leaky condo" problem associated with EIFS.

EIFS systems which make sufficient use of drainage, rainscreening, flashings and other techniques designed to either prevent water ingress or to allow for water vapour escape often function without any problems at all.

It is estimated that the total direct cost of the leaky condo fiasco is well in excess of one billion dollars while indirect costs to homeowners and businesses may have exceeded two billion dollars. [1]

An estimated 40,000 condominium units were effected in British Columbia. [2]

Difference With Original Stucco

  • EIFS is softer and sounds hollow when tapped
  • EIFS has a finely textured finish coat
  • EIFS provides insulation and water management
  • Cement stucco is solid and cement-like
  • Cement stucco is typically rough and contains large swirls [3]

Benefits of using EIFS

The Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas utilizes EIFS siding

Despite the negative attention that EIFS has gotten as a result of the Leaky Condominium issue, EIFS is still a widely utilized construction material that can have many advantages if used in the right climate.

The biggest advantage to EIFS is that it works as a form of exterior insulation. Resulting in lower energy consumption without diminishing square footage like interior insulation does. [4]

EIFS is also an inexpensive and versatile means of exterior wall finishing compared to other building materials such as brick.

EIFS has since received a major overhaul in terms of how it is utilized on structures. This is to prevent further issues concerning water damage. As a result EIFS is safer and more reliable than it ever has been. Though it is important to regularly inspect exterior walls covered with EIFS, especially if it was installed before the year 2000.


References

  1. Concordia University
  2. The Condo Group
  3. Toronto Stucco Contractors
  4. How Stuff Works
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