What can I get away with – Modifying EIFS

Exterior Insulating Finishing Systems are great multitaskers, and there’s a lot they can do for you. They insulate, are energy-efficient and offer a high aesthetic appeal. That said, these qualities may not be enough for some, and there’s many people who wonder if they can get away with modifying EIFS in some way (or if they can create a “hybrid system”), but still not alter their functionality or structural integrity. This article will shed light on key issues that should be taken into consideration before attempting anything of the sort.

Industry and community responsibility

When a snowmobiler chooses to go for a ride on a frozen pond when the ice is too thin and falls through, the entire snowmobiling hobby takes a hit. It’s seen as a dangerous and stupid risk, even though humans have been crossing huge ice fields for centuries, and many snowmobilers do it safely each winter. When someone decides to go against local bylaws and keep a dangerous animal irresponsibly as a pet and is caught, responsible pet owners are hit with bans, more laws, and a bad rap, and the industry as a whole suffers. These analogies work for the EIFS industry as well. If someone were to modify the EIFS in such a way that it resulted in problems down the road, the whole industry can develop undeserved stigma. One only has to reference EIFS to find a slew of stories about how prone to water intrusion they are, because improper installation has led to such problems in the past. These issues were the fault of the installer, not the product, and yet the entire industry in the end must bear responsibility for the mistakes of a few. It’s unfair to those who choose not to modify EIFS and install it properly to be painted with the same brush as those who make choices that will ultimately affect their product, that product’s reputation and the livelihood of those who work with it. This is definitely something to keep in mind, and it’s important to ensure that one acts in a way that will not result in bad press for EIFS.

Overstepping bounds

Contractors are skilled, knowledgeable craftsman, and not just anyone can do their job. The same holds true for building designers and architects, they are there to do their jobs properly based on the skill, qualifications and knowledge they possess, and these tasks simply cannot be undertaken by just anyone. When attempting to design some kind of modified EIFS, future litigation, liability and blame is placed squarely on the person who acted in this fashion if problems arise. It is especially important to consult with other designers, architects and other industry professionals, as well as have them on record as supporting these modifications to back you up in the future.

The components of EIFS work as a system, are approved as a system and are designed to be used as a system. Defending the alteration of the system is key, and get as much of this approval in writing as possible.

Building code specifications and warranties

While all of the components of EIFS separately may meet preexisting building and manufacturer codes, the new, modified EIFS as a whole may not. The system itself is what is recognized, not the individual “parts”, and these systems have been tested and refined to the point where there is little improvement to be made. Your modifications are likely something that has been already tested and thought of, and it’s recommended to check the new system with building inspectors, or bring them something similar that is already in use elsewhere that also meets code to help them visualize your plans.

The same is true for warranties, and creating new systems may void the warranty completely or run the risk of manufacturers being very hesitant to offer one at all. Creating new composite systems can also incorporate materials from different manufacturers, which will result in a whole other slew of warranty difficulties when blame needs to be assigned accordingly.

Check one, two, three

Nowadays EIFS components are available through many different sources and these sources are less regulated than they were in days past. This also means the liability is passed onto you, the person who has actually incorporated these components into a new system.

Check your modifications with everyone possible. This includes building inspectors, designers, architects, and especially the manufacturer. The manufacturer will know their product better than anyone, and will have likely heard all sorts of crazy modification ideas already. They’ll be the first to tell you if your plan is innovative or catastrophic.

The need to modify EIFS does arise, and is not always a poor choice. However, in order to ensure the least frustrating and most successful end product, taking heavy precautions is a wise move.

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