Applications EIFS are not well suited for
As with any construction material, Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems may find themselves being used in ways they weren’t meant for, either improperly installed or in completely inappropriate situations. Even the most knowledgeable or skilled craftsman may not be able to pull off these particular applications effectively, and attempting to do so will cause problems later on.
Using EIFS inside a home or building
Consider fire safety for a moment. The soft, vulnerable foam core of the EIFS is combustible, but this is usually not something to worry about because when it is on the outside of the supporting wall, the supporting wall must do all of the hard work in meeting fire codes and preventing the spread of the flames. If the fire originates from the indoors, the EIFS is readily available for the flames to get to first, instead of having to burn through layers of drywall and the supporting wall to reach it on the outside of the building. If this is an idea that cannot just be cast aside, the EIFS finish could be used in certain inside areas without the use of the foam, simply for aesthetic purposes.
Around the pool
EIFS may look like they’d be an appropriate texture for a poolside environment, resembling the finish of many public swimming pool decks and even sometimes sandy beaches. Some homeowners may even want to use the material on the pool walls themselves. This is a horrible idea for several reasons. First, we can imagine what happens when EIFS is installed below grade, and we can all sit for a minute and attempt to imagine what would happen to the EIFS if it was sitting under water – mush. The second reason is that not only is it sitting in water, but chlorinated water at that. EIFS lamina and volatile compounds do not get a long, and the finish will be either dissolved of severely discolored.
The third, final reason, as if one would need any more discouragement of this idea, is around the deck use of EIFS will likely result in horrific injuries to party guests. Its texture is hard and not compliant with foot traffic, which will likely also perforate the finish eventually. Those inside the pool, instead of bumping up against the smooth laminate materials that are often used, would leave the pool missing significant amounts of skin.
Speaking of stomping on and running around on EIFS, it’s not a very supportive material. It can of course withstand elements like wind, but it is not designed to carry a weight load if something is drilled into it, like say a deck or a railing.
Placing EIFS over downspouts while retrofitting
Consider that EIFS are being used in the renovation or retrofitting of an old building. This old building has several downspouts or weird things hanging off it that cannot be relocated or removed without creating a significant chore. You could, theoretically cover or embed the downspout within the foam. However, the moment this now embedded item has a problem, it affects the EIFS and the whole wall, especially if it is water-related. Water can easily leak out of a downspout, into the foam and then further find its way into the structural components of the building. These elements should be placed within the wall internally or above the foam.
Foam and more foam
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is usually the foam insulation of choice for EIFS, although some may end up using other types of foam and insulation media.
However, two different insulations should not be mixed on the same wall, as they offer different properties such as texture, heat retention, combustibility and softness. Different materials like base coats and adhesives may even have to be used to install both foams, which can lead to cracking where the different foams intersect. The major difficulty with semi-customizing EIFS, is that when problems inevitably occur, it is impossible to try and blame the manufacturer as you’ve altered their “system” and the blame will be placed solely on you.
EIFS below grade
Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, EIFS will not waterproof anything, nor will it behave properly if it is used underground. Water and critters will have a much easier time accessing a home or building through the EIFS and will quickly get to work ruining the structural elements inside. EIFS sheds water, but it is not waterproof.
EIFS on soffits or overhangs
Some may want to use EIFS in an inverted position on large overhanging parts of the building or on soffits. In case of a fire, not only will the EIFS catch fire, but the overhang or soffit has been encapsulated in combustible foam, and can collapse.
EIFS as a windowsill
One of the most common misuses of EIFS of all time, is as windowsill for aesthetic continuity. On windowsills, the likelihood of pooling water in this area is significantly high, and this can result in leaks, and dirt is much more likely to accumulate in these areas. Windows can also be a high traffic area as they are frequently washed and opened, leaving the EIFS much more vulnerable to damage if it is used in this location. EIFS used as rounded decorative foam shapes can also face similar problems, and will need to be cleaned frequently.
The moral of the story is that EIFS are designed for specific uses and have been developed and refined to suit these uses perfectly, and are not to be used in other ways. Using EIFS in these other applications can void warranties, not meet building codes and end up costing the installer future business and having litigation and liability placed squarely on them. If you’re unsure as to whether the application in which you’re intending to use EIFS is a good idea or not, speak with the manufacturer. They know their product better than anyone and have seen many unorthodox applications before, and they’ll be able to help you decide if it’s something you should go through with.