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EIFS | Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems

Home | EIFS | Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems

EIFS | Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems

What is EIFS - Exterior Insulation and Finishing System (EIFS system) 

The Exterior Insulation and Finishing System, or EIFS system, is a style of exterior wall cladding systems that offers exterior finishing to walls by means of an insulated, finished surface. The finished wall is also water-proofed by utilizing the benefits of an integrated composite material system. EIFS was originally invented in Europe following World War II to retro-fit solid masonry walls. The use of the system spread to North America during the 1960’s and soon grew in popularity – particularly for the high-energy efficiency offered. In the United States, the use of EIFS was initially utilized by commercial properties. However, as the technique grew, costs to manufacture and install the system witnessed a major decline. This allowed EIFS to become widely-applied to average, single-family houses.

How EIFS Works 

Even if you have never heard of the term “Exterior Insulation and Finishing System”, or EIFS systems, chances are that you have seen the results without being aware of it! The systems are quite common all throughout the U.S., but are widely misidentified as stucco or concrete finishes. Many types of buildings use EIFS, ranging from residential to commercial developments: houses, apartments, supermarkets, office parks, government facilities, and many, many more. EIFS is often referred to as “synthetic stucco” – a common misconception. Traditional stucco applications are made from an age-old, non-insulating material derived from sand, Portland Cement, and water. The finished stucco is hard, compacted, and thick substance. EIFS, on the other hand, is light synthetic wall covering that is made of foam plastic insulation and thin synthetic claddings. It is important to note that EIFS are proprietary systems offered by specific manufacturers. The entire EIFS must be architecturally devised and installed as a complete system that consists of the specialized, compatible components obtained through the EIFS producer. 

The Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems use rigid insulation boarding and an exterior covering made of a plaster-like material. There is a wide variety of EIFS options: The traditional, and most common, EIFS is referred to as the “Barrier EIFS”. This system solely includes insulation and EIFS materials such as coatings, adhesives, and the like. Other forms of the Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems may include other accessory compounds like plastic edge trims, water-resistant barrier materials, and draining cavities. Originally, the term “EIFS” did not describe the inclusion of wall-framing, sheathing, caulking, water barriers, flashings, doors, and windows. Recently however, architects have been specifying the addition of flashings, sealants, and wiring fasteners to EIFS plans. According to the ASTM International Organization, the national consensus standard for the EIFS definition lacks publications regarding flashings or sealant coatings. Yet, many EIFS manufacturers provide detailed views of standard building conditions for window/door flashings, control joints, internal/external corners, and various penetrations that should be executed by qualified, professional contractors for the specific producer’s warranty. 

EIFS installation 

EIFS systems are generally affixed to the outside surface of exterior walling using adhesive materials or mechanical fasteners. Adhesives are typically made of cement-like or acrylic based products and used to attach the EIFS to gypsum/cement boards or concrete substances. Mechanical fasteners are used to attach the EIFS when it is anchored to sheet-good weather barriers (i.e. wood sheathings). The system includes several layers that are installed in a specific order. The basic system is comprised of three layers, applied respectively: 

1. The first EIFS layer is composed of a foam, plastic insulating material that is provided in 2’x4’ sheets. If an adhesive compound is used to affix the insulation, it is applied first to the foam with the aid of a trowel. The common insulation type used in EIFS is Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). The standard thickness range for EIFS insulation products is between ¾” and 4”. Some pieces that are thicker – called foam shapes – may be used as decorative accents. 

2. The second EIFS layer is a reinforcement applied to the face of the insulation called the Base Coat. A trowel is utilized to incorporate the material. The reinforced layer is composed of a fiberglass, reinforcing mesh that is embedded within a cement-like adhesive. This mesh layer is offered in a wide range of weights that are selected based on the damage resistance level needed of the surface. The standard mesh weight used is 4 ounces, whereas the high-impact meshing weight is between 15 and 20 ounces. 

3. The final EIFS layer is the top-coat or finish that is achieved by floating. This layer is a colored and textured product that resembles paint. In general, the top-coat is applied with a trowel but may also be applied by spraying. Manufacturers offer a great variety of colors and textures. Custom finishes may also be produced upon request. EIFS textures include smooth surface textures and rough textures similar to those of stucco. Other finishes may also include embedded stones, multi-colored compounds that resemble granite and treatments that are similar to brick finishes.

Contact our EIFS, Stucco Experts at (917) 657- 3346