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Why Are EIFS Bad?

New EIFS systems are built better than before. Traditional EIFS with no drainage capabilities, old EIFS systems had a tendency to harbor moisture, leading to a range of water-related problems.......  Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) earned a bad rap in the 1980's and 90's.


A traditional hard-coat Stucco exterior System is extremely strong and durable because it essentially covers your home with a layer of rock......  Barrier EIFS on the other hand, uses a multi-layer "synthetic" stucco that is much softer than traditilonal stucco.

Are EIFS Waterproof?

It's normal for exterior walls to have moisture within them, and most are designed to let water escape or dry. However, once water gets behind the EIFS, it has difficult time getting out.... EIFS is not a do-it-yourself product.

A Brief History of EIFS

Synthetic Stucco was developed in Europe in the 1930’s and following the development of expanded polystyrene, E.I.F.S., was used widely in the rebuilding of Europe after World War II. The Dryvit Co introduced E.I.F.S. into North America in 1969 using the name Outsulation and the system gained popularity with the energy crisis of the 1970’s. 1995 a class action lawsuit was filed in Wilmington North Carolina against the E.I.F.S. industry due to water penetration into hundreds of homes with E.I.F.S. cladding. The ensuing investigation revealed several defects in E.I.F.S. design and installation, particularly at the terminations of the E.I.F.S. cladding and through wall penetrations. These E.I.F.S. terminations and through-wall penetrations remain the typical areas of failure on E.I.F.S. cladding. Once water has penetrated the E.I.F.S. cladding it will follow the path of least resistance through the wall assembly which often times will result in water penetrating into the interior of the structure. E.I.F.S. with drainage was developed in 1993 to accommodate incidental moisture penetration behind the system and allow a drainage pathway or plane for moisture to the exterior of the wall assembly.

When designing an E.I.F.S. wall assembly one should take into consideration the climate, local seasonal weather conditions, and exposure of the structure to wind and rain. The Northeast coast is often considered a maritime climate with wind driven rain occurring frequently. This highlights the need for proper use of sealants, flashing, and caulking. The use of a drainage plane to accommodate moisture penetrating the cladding is recommended:

How Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems Work:

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) installation can be technically challenging, sometimes making the cons overshadow the plusses. Installation problems are due in part to manufacturers' systems all being different: Different systems require differentr installation techniques. EIFS is either assembled in panels in a warehoouse and shipped to the construction site or assembled and installed in the field. Contractors do the instalation, so the builder is responsible for finding someone skilled at installation, which can be difficult. Inexperienced workers plus fast-tracked construction can equal compromised EIFS products that leak -- one of the many things that can go wrong during installation.

It's normal for exterior walls to have moisture within them, and most are designed to let water escape or dry. However, once water gets behind the EIFS, it has a difficult time getting out. If EIFS fails it waterproof claim and leaks, it can be extremely difficult to identify who is responsible since there are a number of people who contribute to the integrity of the system: Homeowner, manufacturer, supplier, builder, installer, electrician, roofer. In fact, it's common for insurance companies to add full exclusions and other rule-out provisions to their liabililty insurance policies for this reason. The EIFS Industry Member's Association (EIMA) says reputable distributors don't sell to the public because EIFS should be installed by a trained professional, not an unskilled homeowner. EIFS is not a do-it-yourself product. Homeowners who have tried to do it on their own have ended up with problems like leaks and holes or worse. The situation has led to a flurry of class-action lawsuits; homeowners who've done their own installation end up suing manufacturers, distributors, builders and any number of people who have participated in the EIFS process. Sometime building codes disallow the use of EIFS, but residential projects generally have looser standards, making them more vulnerable to EIFS glitches. It may be because of these disadvantages that EIFS is more popular among commercial construction than residential projects, citing one out of every 11 commercial buildings in the United States has EIFS on it (source:DryVit).


Stucco and EIFS are common cladding systems that appear similar from the exterior. these systems have very different attributes however. This digest explains the reasons why face-sealed EIFS are fundamentally flawed as cladding systems for most applications, and describes how drained EIFS can be used successfully in almost all climate zones and exposures. Cracks, lamina deterioration, and movement joints are also discussed. 


EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) are cladding systems that combine a finish with a layer of exterior insulation. The finish is comprised of polymeric (organic) bonded aggregate and cement reinforced with a glass mesh. Stucco is a cladding made of inorganic-cement (Portland Cement and/or Lime) bonded sand or earth used for thousands of years. Although these two claddings may look the same, they perform very differently.


EIFS became very popular in the 1980's and experienced a significant number of serious failures, almost all related to rain penetration. Early EIFS used a face-sealed approach (defined later). Face-sealed exterior insulation and finishing systems (EIFS) are inherently defective and unfit for use as an exterior cladding system where moisture sensitive componenets are used without a provision for drainage or in locations and assemblies without adequate drying. Most EIFS of the past were face-sealed systems that by definition had no provision for drainage. The typical system also contains moisture sensitive materials. Specifically, the following moisture sensitive componenets are used: exterior gypsum boars, oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood sheathing, metal or wood studs, fiberglass cavity insulation and interior gypsum boars sheathing.

Drained EIFS are significantly different from face-sealed systems in that, by definition, they have a provision for drainage. unlike face-sealed perfect barrier systems such systems can be successfully used as an exterior cladding system in essentially all climates and exposures. Drainable EIFS are not subject to the same limitations of uses as face-sealed or barrier systems. In fact, drainable EIFS are among  the most robust and advanced moisture contrl assemblies available.