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EFIS Overview

December 25th, 2007 · No Comments

EIFS is not ‘stucco‘ in the sense of the word stucco. Traditional stucco is often called Portland Cement Plaster, and is a centuries-old non-insulating material. Stucco consists of sand, Portland Cement, and water, and is a hard, dense, thick, non-insulating material. EIFS is a modern, lightweight synthetic wall cladding that includes foam plastic insulation and thin synthetic coatings. There are also specialty stuccos that use synthetic materials but no insulation, and these are also not EIFS either. A common example is what is called one-coat stucco, which is a thick, synethic stucco applied in a single layer (traditional stucco is applied in 3 layers). There is also an EIFS-like product called a Direct-Applied Finish System (or DAFS), which is essentially an EIFS but without the insulation – this product is also not EIFS either, and has quite different characteristics.EIFS are proprietary systems of a particular EIFS producer and consist of specific components. EIFS are not generic products made from common separate materials. To function properly, EIFS needs to be architecturally designed and installed as a system.There are a number of versions of EIFS, as described below. The most basic and common EIFS is called a barrier EIFS (also known as a traditional or conventional EIFS). Another type is called an EIFS with Drainage, which is a barrier EIFS to which a water drainage capability has been added.A basic EIFS includes only the insulation and EIFS materials (coatings, adhesives, etc.). Other types of EIFS may also include plastic edge trim, water-resistive barriers, a drainage cavity, and other accessories. The technical definition of “an EIFS” does not include wall framing, sheathing, flashings, caulking, water barriers, windows, doors, and other wall components. However, as of recently, architects have begin specifying flashings and sealants as being a part of the EIFS scope of work, essentially requiring EIFS contractors to carry out that work as well. The technical national consensus standard for the definition of an EIFS, as published by ASTM International organization, does not include flashing or sealants as part of the EIFS.

How EIFS are Used

EIFS can be used on a wide range of buildings, including homes, apartments, condominiums, high-rise buildings, offices, malls, shopping centers, hotels, motels, clinics, government buildings, and so on. It can also be used to create facades and soffits on shopping centers, and for decorative purposes (to look like stone, or to create signage or artwork). EIFS is not a roofing material.EIFS can be used on new buildings and also can be installed on existing walls, called “retrofitting“, to upgrade the appearance and provide insulation, without affecting the activities indoors during the renovation (EIFS is installed completely from the outside of the building).EIFS has a number of features that contribute to its popularity, including a modern seamless look, the ability to mimic other materials, reasonable cost, and high energy efficiency. EIFS looks like traditional stucco or concrete, and is very common through North America (many people do not realize what they are looking-at when they see an EIFS-clad building – they think it’s stone or concrete).The use of EIFS is regulated by the building codes. However, since EIFS is a relatively new type of wall cladding, many codes do not refer to EIFS by name. EIFS is generally regulated by Evaluation Reports (“ER’s”) which are technical reports issued by code agencies for a specific product. The ER’s go into great detail about how a specific EIFS product can be used. The primary source of ER’s in the USA is the Evaluation Services division of the International Code Council . Copies of ER’s for specific EIFS products can be downloaded free from ICC-ES’s website.

How EIFS are Installed

EIFS is attached to the outside face of exterior walls with an adhesive, mechanical anchors (screws and washers), or both. The supporting wall surface is continuous (not “open framing”) and flat, and can be a solid material, or some type of sheathing that is attached to studs. The surface to which an EIFS is applied is called the substrate. Common substrates include concrete, cinder block, brick, cement board sheathing, Dens Glass Gold, exterior grade gypsum sheathing, glass fiber-faced gypsum sheathing, oriented-strand board (“OSB“), and plywood.EIFS is usually installed at the construction site by hand by independent professional plastering contractors; EIFS producers do not install EIFS products. EIFS is not a DIY product – it is not sold through retail stores.EIFS can also be made as prefabricated panels. The panels are made in a factory and have a lightweight welded metal subframe. When completed they are trucked to the building site, raised with a crane, and attached to the building frame.

Composition and Types of EIFS

EIFS consists of a number of layers that are installed in the following order. The most basic EIFS (a barrier EIFS) consists of 3 layers:

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