Which EIF-System Should You Have Installed?

It’s a fallacy that all EIF-systems are created equally.

EIFS installations are more intricate and detailed than other claddings, which is one of the reasons that it outperforms nearly all other claddings when it comes to water management, insulation and aesthetics. They’re ideal not only for new homes being built to last for decades, but also for older homes that have crumbling brick or aging vinyl siding. However, even with a comprehensive design, material and installation manual… it’s human nature for something to go wrong in the process. By selecting a system that makes it as simple for the tradesmen installing it, you’re helping to ensure that you get the top notch installation that will give you the return-on-investment you deserve.

You’re not a construction expert or building inspector though, so how do you know what to choose? Here are a few tips:

  • Is the company a member of the EIFS Council? The EIFS Council is the organization that sets the standards for EIFS in Canada. Members must be actively involved in advancing the industry and meet minimum criteria. It consists of all the major Canadian and International organizations. Systems from companies not listed should not be considered. See the full list at: http://www.eifscouncil.org/manufacturers.html
  • Are 100% of the products from a single specified manufacturer? Aside from the manufacturer being certified, all components in a given system must come from a single manufacturer. Contractors will sometimes take the least expensive components from various manufacturers and piece them together into a Frankenstein system. Not only do you run the risk of the individual components being incompatible and failing prematurely, but you are also guaranteed to void the warranty if the manufacturer finds out.

When your contractor provides you with a quote, make sure to ask the above questions (is the manufacturer a member of the EIFS Council? Are ALL of the components coming from that manufacturer?) so that at least the basics are covered.

Durock PUCCS with 10mm drainage spaces creating a hockey-puck-shape

Another topic that should be covered is which system is actually specified by the contractor. “Geometrically Defined Drainage Cavities” (GDDC) is a term that has taken over the EIFS industry as the new standard for properly installing EIF-systems. It may sound complex, but it is essentially used to refer to EIFS that uses insulation boards with grooves cut into the back of them that allow water to drain when installed vertically. While it has only recently (in the past 2 years) become a standard for the industry, systems such as Durock’s PUCCS (Pressure-Utilized-Compartmented-Cavity-System) have been making use of the idea for almost a decade now. Developed in 2004 and patented in 2008, Durock had the foresight to envision a system actually makes it difficult for a contractor to screw up.

Original EIFS systems had the insulation board attached directly to the substrate, with no airspace to let water escape. It’s those types of systems that made EIFS so well known for causing water to become trapped and mould growth. Unfortunately, there are still contractors who will install this type of system because the quote is lower than their competitors and the home owner doesn’t know better. Well, now at least you do.

The next step for EIFS was to install insulation boards on the substrate using cement adhesive installed in vertical ribbons, so that an airspace (about 3mm) could allow water to evacuate the wall, preventing the associated moisture that caused mould. The problem that was discovered over time was that contractors didn’t always use the correct amount of force when placing the insulation boards. They sometimes used enough force to flatten the ribbons of adhesive so that water still could not escape.

That problem was addressed by the PUCCS system around 2004, and eventually caught up to become the industry standard. By creating a 10mm groove in the insulation boards, the applicator could no longer accidentally flatten the ribbons of adhesive by pressing too hard. Within the past 2-3 years, all major manufacturers have begun using insulation boards with drainage cavities, but not necessarily all contractors.

Just like there were contractors who held out when vertical ribbons of adhesive became the new standard, there are contractors who still specify and install vertical channels of adhesive now that GDDC has become the new standard. In fact, an estimated 60% of the home-renovation projects that Toronto Stucco Contractor was not awarded in 2010 was due to the fact that the competing contractor was installing a non-GDDC system – at the expense of the home owner.

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    "Stucco" is typically what people in the Toronto area use when they're looking for EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish Systems, or "synthetic stucco"). We use the two terms interchangeably.

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