EIFS Inspector

EIFS / Stucco Inspections

Although there are many variations and manufacturers of stucco and synthetic finish systems, there are three primary systems on the market.

Hard Coat Stucco A 3-coat system, ¾” thick with no caulking
1-Coat Stucco Base coat contains polymers/fiber, 3/8” thick
EIFS Foam base with 1/8”-3/16” thick, synthetic finish

Traditional, or hard coat stucco (HCS), consists of a substrate, a moisture barrier such as Tyvek house wrap, either metal or fiberglass mesh, control joints, a base coat, a brown coat, a finish coat and drainage accessories. It has a hard finish and is allowed on open frame construction. HCS systems allow for moisture drainage behind the finish with weep screeds at the bottom. Prone to cracking.

1-Coat Stucco systems, consist of a substrate, a moisture barrier such as Tyvek house wrap, may or may not have insulating foam, metal mesh, control joints, a one-step finish coat and metal drainage accessories. This process allows for
moisture drainage behind the finish with metal weep screeds at the bottom. It has a hard finish.

EIFS or Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, use a thin (1/8 inch to 3/16 inch) synthetic top coat over a substrate of expanded polystyrene foam. Originally designed as a barrier system with no water management behind the foam, EIFS in the residential market now has to have reliable paper and flashing assemblies behind it to allow water to drain. However, EIFS still requires surface caulking and sealing at joints (caulking is not part of a hard-coat stucco system). There are over 30 EIFS systems in the market and identifying each specific system can be a challenge.

The primary systems are:

Barrier or Face Seal, polymer based, PB EIFS. Barrier means the system is designed such that water should not get behind the surface. Uses EPS insulation backer with a base coat containing fiberglass mesh and an acrylic finish coat. Typically about 1/16’ thick. Generally the foam insulation is glued to the substrate. Does not use any moisture accessories such as weep screeds and has a hollow sound when tapped.

Moisture Drainage or MD EIFS. The basic installation is similar to PB EIFS but includes a liquid applied moisture barrier over the substrate. PVC drainage accessories are permitted but were not required. Historically, the foam insulation was mechanically fastened and has a hollow sound when tapped. Foam insulation is generally glued to the substrate today.

Polymer Modified or PM EIFS. This system was not extensively used in all parts of the USA. It is similar to a hard coat stucco system and uses a XPS foam insulation mechanically attached to the substrate, a heavy fiberglass mesh mechanically attached to the foam, a thicker basecoat, ¼”-3/8”, control joints and pvc or metal trim accessories. Typically it has no drainage plane or moisture barrier.

Original Polyisocyanurate or PI EIFS. Considered an economical installation, it was permitted to be used over open framing and was sold in 4x8 or 4x9 panels. Only required the joints to be meshed. Prone to failure due to lack of substrate, drainage plane and limited use of mesh. The modern or current version of this system requires a substrate, moisture barrier, joints must be basecoated and meshed and the panel must be fully meshed and basecoated. Obviously, this requirement offsets the economy of the system.

Direct Applied or DEFS. A lamina is applied to an approved substrate such as DensGlass or Cement Board ( no insulation board). Uses cement board in exposed wall areas and DensGlass or equal in protected areas. Uses mesh and system accessories.

Proper drainage is the key to all stucco and EIFS systems. Drainage detailing in critical areas such as window flashings requires site coordination with trades. Terminations at grades may involve landscapers or foundation crews, window flashings can involve roofers, window installers, trim carpenters as well as the stucco contractor. Proper drainage requires all components to have a “shingle” effect and the general contractor has to coordinate trades or make allowances for this necessity.

Improper drainage, missing or improper flashing, caulking, improper grading and non-compliance to manufacturers specifications make up the majority of stucco failures. Generally, these failures relate to poor contractor oversight.

Primary leakage areas in stucco applications are:

Roof-to-wall joints. Main problem here is improper flashings (use of a standard 2 inch step flashing instead of a 4 inch flashing) and lack of coordination between the roofer and stucco installer.

Wall penetrations. Every penetration such as a hose bibb, dryer vent, etc. is a potential leakage point.

Window flashing. Failure to use the shingle effect, improper flashing material, missing or undersized caulking and lack of coordination leads to leaks.

Improper spacing between bottom of stucco and grade. Contractors love to run the stucco below grade for appearance and nothing could be worse. Conventional stucco should have a minimal 4” reveal and EIFS should have an 8” reveal above grade for proper drainage. Do not allow the landscaper to fill this area with mulch.

We are a certified EIFS/Stucco inspector. Unfortunately, excessive moisture has been found in a significant percentage of EIFS and Stucco applications. Moisture retention and transference into adjacent framing members and interior finishes is primarily due to improper flashing, caulking and improper drainage system. If it is not performing, can it be repaired or will total replacement be necessary? This determination cannot be reached by a visual inspection and complete testing is required. Testing protocols have been established by the Exterior Design Institute and InterNachi. We are competent to analyze your building’s condition and support any claim for manufacturer’s or workmanship defect.

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