Synthetic Stucco Raises Some Concerns

EIFS?  I pronounce it as Efuss, I have heard eyefiss, efiss, eye-e-fiss.  It really does not matter what we call Exterior Insulating & Finishing System

So now we can say it.  But what is EIFS & why do we care? EIFS stands for Exterior Insulating & Finishing Systems. It is sometimes referred to as Synthetic Stucco. Its use increased sharply in the 1990s. In North America about 300,000 homes have an EIFS exterior.

We care because in the beginning of it use is was not applied using all accurate building sciences.  EIFS has been connected to concealed rot in wall cavities of early & improperly installed systems.

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A Little History

In 1994, moisture damage to the interior of walls was being linked to EIFS. In August 1995, 32 EIFS clad homes in North Carolina were tested & 30 were found to have moisture problems. In January 1996, the National Association of Home Builders issued a “Builders Alert” about EIFS. In May 1996, Raleigh North Carolina, imposed a moratorium on the product through January 1997. In March 1996, the North Carolina Building Code Council adopted stringent guidelines for the application of EIFS mandating that a drainage system be installed in the exterior walls of EIFS homes. By September 1996, twelve class-action law suits had been launched in the States. In September 1996, Maryland Casualty Company notified its clients, who were contractors, that work with EIFS systems would no longer be insurable. At about the same time, a major relocation company advised its clients that it would eliminate the guarantee on EIFS homes for employees seeking their services during a transfer.

The Mortgage Division of the Chevy Chase Bank decided about the same time to no longer accept mortgages on houses built with Synthetic Stucco. In January 1997, the Georgia Association of Realtors changed its property disclosure statement to disclose whether the house was built with EIFS.

What Exactly Is It?

There are many different systems offered by various manufacturers, but in general EIFS wall systems consist of a wood frame wall covered with a sheathing such as plywood, or even gypsum board. Plastic foam insulation boards are glued or fastened to the sheathing. A 1/16- to 1/4- inch-thick base coat is troweled on to the insulation. A glass fiber reinforcing mesh is imbedded in the base coat. Finally, a finished coat is sprayed, troweled or rolled on. This finish coat provides the color & texture.

Many early installations have no building paper or house wrap behind the stucco to act as a moisture resistant barrier.

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What Is Happening

Rain water appears to be getting into the wall systems through imperfections in the stucco. These include joints around windows & doors & penetrations from railings, wiring, plumbing, vents, etc. Once water gets behind the system it gets trapped, leading to mold, mildew & rot of the sheathing, studs, flooring & other framing members. EIFS houses often look good until sections of the wall are removed revealing concealed damage. The damage can take place within the first few years of the home’s life.

As most of the damage has been found in houses in coastal areas, some have suggested that condensation is a problem; however, since the most severe damage seems to show up around wall penetrations, condensation does not appear to be the culprit. The worst damage is often found below & beside windows, decks, & near roofing drainage areas.

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There is little that can be done on existing systems short of re-siding or paying fanatical attention to keeping the water out. Caulking & flashing maintenance should be a high priority for people with synthetic stucco houses.

In the newer installations, contractors are using moisture resistant barrier such as building paper, liquid applied barrier, or house wrap behind the insulation to protect the sheathing. In addition, the newest installations are designed with a drainage system behind the insulation to allow any water which does get in, to drain out. This is not unlike the drainage system found in a brick veneer home. These improvements should work but only if they are installed properly.


When properly installed & maintained an EIFS system can provide for a family for many years.  It is a newer system, so data is always growing.  It is definitely not an apply & forget system.

I was a union lather, lather is someone who builds stucco systems, & I will tell you that you do need to check your system a couple times of year for cracks,  caulking is good, or just damage from normal use, such as little Timmy running into the exterior wall with his bike, or you hitting it with the mower.  Water intrusion is the cause of concern with this system, so diligence of maintaining the water barrier is important with this or any other system.

During the home or commercial building inspection we will identify which type of stucco system you have, there are currently 8 classes of stucco on the market.  Also, during the inspection we will be observing & reporting any condition not consistent with normal application of the product & any concerns about the current condition of the system at the time of the inspection.

Call Peace of Mind Inspections hotlines at (812) 964-1934 for Bloomington and (812) 329-7712 for Bedford to schedule your home or commercial property inspections today!

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Contact Us

Peace of Mind Inspections, LLC
Jym Littrell Email Us
Bloomington Office:
3802 East 3rd St Suite # 208
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 964-1934

(812) 329-7712

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