Most problems associated with E.I.F.S. or Synthetic Stucco are the result of improper installation. If moisture gets behind the surface, wall sheathing, studs and plates can detertiorate while concealed from veiw. At General Inspection, we are trained in E.I.F.S. installation and inspection and can identify problem areas, hopefully before serious damage has occured.
EIFS was first used in Sweden in the 1940s. It was a form of plaster that was isolated from (or separated from) the movement of the building by a layer of mineral wool. This isolation minimized cracking. Over the next several years, similar systems began to be used in other parts of Europe. In the late 1950s, a system incorporating a rigid polystyrene and mesh coated reinforcement started being used in Germany. In 1969, the product was introduced into the United States with the formation of Dryvit Systems, Inc. EIFS products did not see widespread use in residential frame construction until the early to mid 1980s. Modification began to be made to the system as the product was developed and marketed for use here in the United States. Many of these modifications resulted in the use of various materials as an exterior wall surface. The continuing process of marketing and engineering evolved into the product that we know today as EIFS or synthetic stucco.
EIFS is a non-load bearing exterior wall cladding designed to be attached to wall sheathing with an adhesive or mechanical fastener. Sometimes EIFS is referred to as synthetic stucco. It is designed to provide a weather barrier and thermal insulation. There are two types of EIFS: drainable and non-drainable. The non-drainable EIFS systems typically consist of five layers: adhesive, insulation board (attached to the wall sheathing of the structure with the adhesive), a base coat into which a fiberglass reinforcing mesh is imbedded, and a finish coat of the desired color. In the Georgia building code, only drainable EIFS are approved for installation after October 1997. Although there are many similar installation requirements for both type of EIFS, non-drainable EIFS typically do not have a weather resistive barrier behind them and the insulating foam is applied directly to the wall sheathing. Non-drainable EIFS are not designed to accommodate water infiltration behind the exterior coating.
Substrate or sheathing serves as a structural component for resistance to lateral forces and provides a surface for mounting the insulation board. Substrates used are normally 4X8 sheets of oriented strand board (OSB), plywood or gypsum that are nailed or fastened directly to the wall studs. However, there have been other materials used as a substrate, to include foil backed foam products as well as different variations of foam board.
Insulation Board used is typically expanded polystyrene or polyisocyanurate foam core board faced with a specially coated glass fiber mat that is attached to the substrate with adhesive or mechanical fasteners.
Reinforcing Mesh and Base Coat serve as the moisture barrier. Applied directly to the surface of the insulation board, the mesh should be fully embedded in the base coat.
Finish Coat provides color and texture to the wall surface and is applied directly over the base coat and fiberglass mesh. In combination, the base and finish coats are referred to as the EIFS lamina.
EIFS, usually pronounced EEFS, is the acronym for Exterior Insulating Finish System. EIFS is often described and referred to as synthetic stucco to differentiate it from the cement stucco wall finishes which have been used in Europe for hundreds of years. There are few similarities between the two wall systems other than appearance.
The "EIFS problem" has been a source of great anxiety for prospective homebuyers, as well as prompting confusion and uncertainty in the real estate industry, and serious hardships for homeowners who were unprepared to deal with the costs of repairs and remediation.
Occasional TV programs and newspaper articles have created and maintained public awareness of EIFS issues, but there have also been complaints that the programs and articles were sensationalistic; causing panic reactions among homebuyers and particularly in the real estate industry. There may be some justification in many of the complaints; specifically: the problems with EIFS are real, can be expensive to identify and remedy, and require vigilance to deal with over the long run. However, media programs and articles have not adequately provided the details and updates needed to properly serve the needs of the situation.
Much has been learned about the technical side of testing, repair and remediation over the past three years that should be made available to the general public. There has also been such a surge of new players into EIFS testing and remediation that standards have become confused; driven more by market opportunities than by technical effectiveness. Hopefully, this information will bring some order out of the chaos. One purpose will be to suggest realistic responses to EIFS problems as alternatives to panic ("Tear it all off") and denial ("What problem").
General Inspection can recommend certified contractors that will test E.I.F.S. for moisture intrusion problems.
Fees depend on the size of the area being tested.