Some extra tidbits about EIFS

Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems are a wall cladding system. Like any construction material that is used outdoors or on the exterior of a building, Ontario climates create a few extra precautions necessary to take during winter installation.

Few other climates match that of Ontario, with out hot, humid summers, dangerous UV indexes and smog warnings in parts of the province. When it comes to winter, one might forget what those summers even feel like. The winter affects everything from your morning commute, how you tread lightly on ice-covered sidewalks, and that you may bring extra blankets, flashlights and emergency supplies out of storage – just incase. Not only do we deal with extreme temperatures and weather, but also rapid freezing and thawing. Temperatures can range from -40°C one day, to a moist, wet and even almost balmy +1°C the next.

EIFS ingredients and Ontario winters

When one thinks of EIFS in the winter, the first thing that comes to mind is whether or not it will hold up. But there are other situations to consider, like a building in the middle of construction or nearing completion. Can EIFS be applied in the winter safely, or should the project be closed down on the coldest days?

Keeping the EIFS materials in a safe place is the best place to start. Preventing these materials, especially those that are liquid-applied, from freezing (or cooking, if installing in the summer) is important for protecting their structural integrity. Obviously if a pail of finish or base coat is frozen solid, you can’t use it, and if it does freeze and is later thawed, it may be damaged beyond repair. It is also nearly impossible to determine visually or even by laboratory testing if the material is useable or not. Applying materials that have been frozen, which impact the overall functionality of the wall, is a poor choice and can lead to litigation in the future. Storing the EIFS materials or “ingredients” properly will negate the need to throw them out, also preventing extra costs.

Adhesives that are noncementicious tend to cure faster when the ambient air is dry and warm. If applying such a material on a cool, damp winter day, it can take a very long time for it to dry fully. If they’re being used, allowing extra time for adequate drying is necessary. Other materials, like cementitious adhesives, dry because of the reaction between the water added to the material, not because of time or air temperature. Portland cement, for example, might be far less affected by ambient temperatures than other materials.

Other EIFS-related materials and Ontario winters

It’s not just the EIFS materials themselves that can be affected by strong temperatures, but the walls they’re being clad upon. If you’ve ever touched a cement wall, it can typically be far colder than the ambient air, even on warm days. Imagine this effect in freezing temperatures.

Applying EIFS to cement-based substrate, especially if the EIFS ingredients are at room temperature, can lead to very poor adhesion. Other substrates, particularly wood-based sheathing, are better for applying EIFS on frigid days.

Depending on the ambient air, if not done quickly, any adhesive coating could freeze before whatever is being applied is added (this is Ontario we’re talking about), leaving a base coat that the foam can’t stick to properly, leaving gaps that will eventually result in cracks or the loss of the EIFS – it could fall off completely.

Risks of applying EIFS in Ontario winters

If we want to get scientific, materials used in EIFS applications dry or cure when the moisture evaporates from them. In freezing temperatures, while the air is dry, the evaporation process is slowed down immensely. If the materials are applied anyway, efflorescence or uneven materials due to the different or slowed rates of curing can occur. Delamination and cracking are only a few of the risks once might face if the above application were to go forward.

How to apply EIFS in Ontario winters successfully, safely and even comfortably

The manufacturer’s instructions may also include a provision for application in colder temperatures. These instructions should be followed to the letter as to not void the warranty, but if it’s not mentioned, you can create an “enclosure” made over the wall, or covering the scaffolding on large buildings. A small propane heater can allow for controllable temperatures within the enclosure during winter EIFS application. If a secure enclosure is set up along with a propane heater (such as a “Salamander”, a rentable propane heater that requires a low-cost license to operate), additional costs may be incurred. However, those costs can be recovered by the simple ability to install EIFS safely, effectively and even comfortably all year – even in the harshest of Ontario winters.

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