Real Estate Term of the Day: EIFS (Exterior Insulating and Finish Systems)

Real Estate Term of the Day: EIFS

EIFS (aka: Exterior Insulating and Finish Systems) – a synthetic alternative to natural stucco, a cement-based material used for finishing the exterior of houses and other buildings (Barron’s Dictionary of Real Estate Terms)

According to Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG), “Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) is an exterior wall cladding that utilizes rigid insulation boards on the exterior of the wall sheathing with a plaster appearance exterior skin. EIFS in its current basic form was developed in West Germany in the 1960s and introduced in the United States in 1969 by Dryvit. The Dryvit system consisted of expanded polystyrene (bead board) attached adhesively to the sheathing and covered with a lamina composed of a modified cement base coat with woven glass fiber reinforcement and a textured colored finish coat. Over the years, variations of this system have been developed.

Problems observed with in-service EIFS installations are primarily related to moisture intrusion. EIFS provides protection against moisture infiltration at the base coat; however, moisture migration through openings for windows, flashings and other items, or holes and cracks in the EIFS itself, have allowed leakage to occur on EIFS clad buildings. With barrier EIFS installations, or where weather barriers and flashing are improperly installed in conjunction with wall drainage EIFS installations, moisture has entered the wall system at these locations and caused damage to the wall sheathing and framing. The extent of these occurrences on wood frame structures has led to class action lawsuits.”

Common Installation Problems for EIFS are as follows: (*source: Building Envelope Design Guide – Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS))

  • Failure to install or properly install sealant joints around windows, doors, pipes, conduits, and other penetrations of the field of the EIFS.
  • Failure to flash window and door openings in the field of the EIFS to divert leakage through the window or door to the exterior.
  • Failure to install diverters (kick-out flashing) at ends of roof flashing terminating in the EIFS wall.
  • Failure to properly backwrap edges of EIFS at terminations and penetrations in the field of the EIFS.
  • Failure to install expansion joints at floor lines in EIFS applied over wood frame construction.
  • Failure to notch insulation boards at corners of openings for windows and doors to avoid insulation board joint at the corner of the opening.
  • Failure to install diagonal mesh in lamina at corners of openings for windows and doors.
  • Failure to terminate EIFS above grade, especially in termite prone regions.
  • Installation of decks over EIFS without proper flashing.
  • Unrepaired impact damage.
  • Inadequate base coat applications at corners.
  • Inadequate base and finish coat application in reveals.
  • Installation of reveals at board joints.
  • Lack of adequate slope on skyward facing surfaces.
  • Damage from ropes, cables, etc. to EIFS parapet tops.

See also: A great video explaining EIFS installation problems

If you are purchasing a home that has a stucco facade, it is worth the money to have the stucco tested for water damage behind the stucco.  Repairs due to improper stucco installation can literally cost thousands of dollars to repair.  If you would like a recommendation for a certified stucco inspector, please contact me.

If you own a home with a stucco facade, please be sure to monitor for discoloration & cracks that could be indications of moisture damage.


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