EIFS: Then and now

Our September 2013 article on entrapped moisture touched on issues related to early iterations of exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS). It led to this letter to the editor from Scott Robinson, of the EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA).

While going through the September 2013 issue of The Construction Specifier, I read, “Claddings and Entrapped Moisture: Lessons Learned from Early EIFS,” by John Koester. As manager of public affairs with EIMA—a national non-profit technical trade association comprising EIFS manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and applicators—the article gave me pause.

On page 74, in the piece’s conclusion, the author eventually states:

EIFS manufacturers have made significant strides in successfully remedying the entrapped moisture problem by adding a drainage plane. Further, it is critical to remember the entrapped moisture problem is not exclusive to just one type of building envelope.

With this conclusion, I’m confused why the author, from Masonry Technology Inc., would find interest in an article such as this—an article that opens and continues for several pages discussing issues that are more than a decade behind the EIFS industry. I was not alone. Our members have sent me various questions pertaining to the article, and I’d like to share them, with the hope you can understand our frustration.

For example, on page 69, the author writes:

Moisture problems with EIFS are often in areas where the system abuts other materials such as wood trim, at the top wall, at roof flashing, around wall openings, and where other items penetrate the cladding’s surface. EIFS can also develop penetrations over time—foundations move, walls crack, storms can blow debris into façades, etc.

This paragraph continues, but it raises a great deal of questions, especially since it is the first time EIFS is discussed. The paragraph spells out EIFS in the very general and broad sense, getting away from the “early EIFS” in the title, leading to the question of why EIFS, as a single exterior wall cladding, is spelled out and not others? The author points to areas that any wall cladding would have a greater probability of leaking—by solely pointing to EIFS, he directly infers this is an issue that only EIFS deals with.

Further, the caption for Figure 3 (i.e. “moisture occasionally entered and became trapped”) lacks a complete depiction of an EIFS wall cladding, and also shows moisture within the wall, giving no origin of its entrance. On page 72, Figure 3 is referenced and again associated with the term “wide scale”—nowhere is there a figure or data to explain what “wide scale” means. Without a definition and a very broad and upsetting statement, we are left to assume the author lacks the information to defend his statement.

Continuing on page 72, Figure 4 suggests the author may not know what an EIFS system is composed of. For example, what is an “EIFS Coating”? If the answer is the ‘finish coat,’ then he is forgetting the base coat. If he implies it is a combination of the two, then I’d question why the reinforcing fiberglass mesh is excluded, especially since he references durability issues with the system on page 69.

We also call Figures 6 and 7 into question, because they are not labeled with a specific exterior wall cladding.

Finally on page 74, the author brings full circle any concerns we may have had toward EIFS and entrapped moisture problems—pointing out it could happen in any “building envelope system.” So why not talk about those other building systems—possibly a masonry building that is struggling to meet new energy codes or continuous insulation?

As the article draws to a close, EIFS is only then mentioned once on the remaining two pages while the focus turns solely to moisture, vapor retarders, rainscreens, and several other items the author offers service for on his website. Our membership is left wondering if someone with 40 years of experience with his own masonry construction business wrote an article to show the advancements in the EIFS industry over the last decade, or if it was his intention to use EIFS as a punching bag to sell items and services listed on his website.

The Construction Specifier is a publication many of us read, while others in our industry take great pride in contributing to, which is why this article is so troubling to so many of us.

One thought on “EIFS: Then and now

  1. John Koester

    I am writing in response to Mr. Robinson’s letter about my article in the September 2013 issue of The Construction Specifier. My reason for referencing the “early” EIFS systems was because those systems were some of the first exterior building envelope veneers to employ outboard rigid board stock insulation. The author appreciates the EIFS industry’s sensitivity on this subject.

    It is my hope articles like this (those that discuss entrapped moisture) alert other producers and installers of other veneer types (e.g. thin brick, thin stone, and natural brick and stone)—and the construction industry as a whole—to potential entrapped moisture issues. If good construction practices (design and execution) are not employed, and the result is entrapped moisture, all participants in the construction industry will suffer.

    My purpose was not to denigrate the EIFS industry. On the contrary, I made the following statement in the article:

    It is important to note this article is not intending to single out and disparage the EIFS industry. In fact, it should be seen as just the opposite — EIFS manufacturers have made significant strides in successfully remedying the entrapped moisture problem by adding a drainage plane. Further, it is critical to remember the entrapped moisture problem is not exclusive to just one type of building envelope system.

    The EIFS industry should take pride in the fact it saw a need and fixed it! They are a positive example to others in the construction industry—when it comes to potential moisture problems in the building envelope, best practices need to be employed, and problems need to be addressed.

    Reply

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