An exterior wall cladding (siding) system in use today is known as EIFS. Exterior Insulated Finish System. The term EIFS, is an often a divisive term or is considered in a negative light among home buyers. It is the primary cladding system or exterior finish for the past 20 or more years throughout the western states. It consists of a drainage system, foam insulation and weather barrier paper covered by a thin application of stucco, which reduces exposure by errant water or water vapor penetration into the wall.
The modern application of “EIFS with drainage” should not be confused with the first generations of “EIFS”. The initial development of this cladding system had notable failures which resulted in law suits. First generations of EIFS did not include a vapor barrier, or a drainage system which trapped moisture and created an environment for moisture damage, resulting in large repair bills.
The EIFS with drainage system is an evolutionary upgrade to the methods and materials used to clad the exterior of homes. The older system is not even permitted by local building codes. The confusion and honest ignorance of the term “EIFS” is understandable. But how do you know?
If you are purchasing a Stucco/EIFS home built after 2009, it most likely is built using the installed drainage system. Homes which were built earlier may also include this system, and may be identified by the presence of a metal weep screed, a hollow sound when you tap on the exterior wall, or visible foam board may be present of there is mechanical damage to the walls. The presence of vapor or weather barrier paper may be difficult to determine with visual methods since it would be covered. If this is the case, contacting a Stucco contractor for further investigation may be required.
Proper performance of any system is based on the application by the tradesmen who install it and the environment in which the home is built. From a home inspector’s perspective, visual clues are all he/she has available to determine the type, its proper performance or defects associated with the Stucco/EIFS walls of a home. You home inspector should looks for indications of correct installation, signs of repairs, or points where moisture could penetrate into the walls, and apprise you of such. For further information you may consult the EIFS Industry Members Association website.
North American Home Services has been providing home inspection services to the greater Sacramento region for over 10 years. We have completed thousands of inspections on residential and commercial buildings in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado, Yolo and Solano counties. Our home inspectors are highly regarded and qualified. Each is certified through the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors and remains current on all aspects related to providing the best home inspection services.