Exterior Insulated Finish (EIFS) and Stucco Wall Cladding Systems

 

Many homes and commercial buildings are constructed with
Exterior Insulated Finish (EIFS) and stucco wall cladding systems.

The use of EIFS in residential construction was first introduced to the USA in 1969 by Dryvit who brought the technology here from Germany.  EIFS was invented following WWII as an energy and cost savings method of rebuilding thousands of damaged buildings.  By 1996, nearly 35% of all new residential construction contained some type of EIFS/stucco wall cladding system.  In some areas, such as Jacksonville, FL, EIFS/stucco on wood frame/wood sheathing represents over 80% of new home construction.

Unfortunately, many homes experienced moisture issues with EIFS/stucco applications – particularly when installed over wood frame.  There were class action lawsuits in the late 1990’s which almost halted the use of EIFS in residential construction for many years.  We have seen a resurgence of the system with improved training and the inclusion of drainage accessories by the manufacturers.  Currently, EIFS wall cladding systems are recognized as a dependable wall system provided the installation is performed by trained applicators and the manufacturer’s guidelines are strictly followed.  The reader should note many of the issues with EIFS systems apply equally to construction of stone/brick veneers and many types of siding.  With wood frame construction, there are no shortcuts in the Florida climate!

What is EIFS?  A non-load bearing, barrier wall, exterior cladding system generally consisting of the following components:
1.  Insulation board
2. An adhesive and/or mechanical attachment of the board to the substrate.
3. Glass fiber reinforcing mesh.
4. Base coat on the face of the insulation board which serves as the weather barrier.
5. A textured protective finish coat.

Is EIFS recognized by the building code?  Yes, in Division 7 of the model codes adopted by the International Building Code in 2009.

Are EIFS systems inspected by the building department?  Rarely.  Most building inspectors do not inspect wall cladding systems of any type.

What type of EIFS systems are there?  Although there are many systems, the Exterior Insulating Manufacturers Association (EIMA) recognizes two primary systems:

1. Class PB Systems:  A Polymer Based system has the reinforcing mesh embedded into the base coat.  Base and finish coats may have varying thicknesses.  This system is often referred to as the “thin coat” or original EIFS.

2. Class PM Systems:  A Polymer Modified system has the reinforcing mesh applied over the insulation board.  The base coat is generally ¼” to 3/8” thick and is applied over the mesh.  The mesh is applied with mechanical fasteners.  It uses plastic trim accessories.  This system is also applied over masonry.  This system is generally more expensive than a Class PB system.

There are many other systems on the market such as DEFS, OCS, etc., and it is not unusual to find differing systems on the same structure!  It takes a trained inspector to identify the type of system in order to determine if the system was installed correctly.

What qualifications should an Inspector have?  The Inspector should have qualified experience in constructi)ng homes and/or commercial buildings as well as specific qualifications in the inspection of EIFS/Stucco from a recognized accrediting organization.  There are two primary accrediting associations for EIFS:  EIMA and EDI.  EIFS/Stucco failures often present additional problems such as mold/insect damage and any licenses which may help in identifying the damage caused by ancillary issues is worthwhile.  In short, hire the most qualified inspector you can find.  Our qualifications include:

Certified General Contractor, CGC060389
EDI Certified EIFS/Stucco Inspector, FL-122
Licensed Mold Assessor, MRSA2209
Licensed Pest Control Operator, JB218999
Residential/commercial Builder

I am building a new home; how will I know if the wall cladding is correctly installed?  You can rely upon your builder or you can hire an independent inspector.  If you rely upon your builder, you should inquire as to what qualifications the builder or its subcontractor have in regard to the type of system being installed.  EIFS/Stucco contractors should have manufacturer certification in the product being used.  Not all builders will have this certification.  Second, you should make sure the builder is following the model code and manufacturer’s guidelines for the installation – this is where many jobs fail.  Every manufacturer has a written set of specifications for their product and these guidelines must be strictly adhered to.

If you hire an independent inspector and you are purchasing a production home (builder’s plans/lot), you must advise the builder of your intent and the inspector will generally need to schedule inspections with the builder.  It is important for the inspector to witness each stage of the wall installation and this typically requires at least three trips and often four.

What will a new construction inspection cost?  Depending upon the size of the home and location, you should expect to spend between $395 to $695 for each inspection.  Very large or complex homes may cost more.

What is an average inspection fee for existing homes?  Again, it depends upon the size, location and complexity of the home.  A baseline inspection of an existing home starts at $495 for a pre-purchase investigation.  Level II assessments which include invasive techniques, typically cost around $900. Again, complex homes will generally require a higher fee.

I bought a new home recently; should I have it inspected?  The answer is almost always, yes.  If your home is less than 12 months old, it is in your best interest to have the walls inspected.  Buyers lose warranty benefits after the 12th month of ownership and if you have issues, you should go on record with your builder before the initial 12 month warranty expires.

How often should I have my EIFS home inspected?  Annual inspections are recommended.

William Chandler
TBI trademark
EDI Certified EIFS Inspector, FL-122
Certified General Contractor

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