EIFS (pronounced “eefs”) stands for Exterior Insulation Finish System. The cladding is also referred to as “Synthetic Stucco”, “Acrylic Stucco” or just “Stucco” (the latter being ambiguous with plaster stucco). Although initially developed around the ’40s to retrofit war-torn WW2 buildings, it is among the newest and most attractive styles of cladding available to homeowners today. EIFS differs from traditional Stucco (cement) in that it is applied using different materials — in multiple layers, providing greater flexibility and benefits.
At Toronto Stucco Contractor, we only recommend and install EIFS. We believe that it is a superior system to cement stucco because it incorporates drainage to prevent mould, has insulation (in toronto insulation is important) and provides a more attractive finish.
So what are the differences between EIFS and traditional stucco (plaster)?
- 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
- Cement stucco may trap water behind the wall
Not a DIY (do-it-yourself) Project
Contrary to conventional wisdom, EIFS actually contains 4 layers:
– An Air/Moisture or Vapour barrier depending on the requirements of the building
– Insulation, fastened either chemically (using cement) or mechanically (using screws)
– A polymer-modified base coat with an embedded fiber glass mesh
– A beautiful, durable acrylic finish coat
While a skilled drywall plasterer may not find the various trowel-applied layers difficult, it takes a certain knowledge of the finer details to ensure the system is installed 100% correct.
The Long and Winding Road
In the past decade EIFS has come under fire for “moisture problems”. While the issues were real, the biggest problem was arguably the quality of the installations in a fledgling industry without any real guidelines or enforcement. EIFS Manufacturers were quick to update their “recommendations” and have gracefully pulled their industry out of a downward spiral. Among the changes are:
- A continuous, trowel-applied moisture barrier which goes over the substrate to keep water/moisture away from the substrate
- Removal of recommendations to use mechanical adhesive methods (screws) as it punctures the moisture barrier, thereby allowing moisture penetration
- The use of flashing above windows and other openings and caulking around wall penetrations
- The most dramatic improvement — the specification of a “drainage channel”. The styrofoam is adhered to the air/moisture barrier in vertical channels of cement; allowing water to drain out of the system.
There’s an old saying that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – and nowhere does this hold more true than in the EIFS industry. EIFS has undergone more scrutiny than any other cladding product and as a result has a mountain of research and technology backing it and supporting it. It still has a stigma to lose, but is currently a safe and attractive alternative to classical brick and mortar siding.