Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS, is an exterior wall systems composed of mtliple layers used on homes and commercial properties. Nearly 30 years ago, EIFS were first introduced in the U.S. on commercial buildings. Shortly after, they were used on homes.
The system most commonly consists of polystyrene foam as the insulation board (this board would be on the exterior surface with adhesive or other attachment). A water-resistant coat is applied on top of the insulation, and using fiberglass mesh this coating is reinforced. Finally, a coat of acrylic co-polymer created the finishing coat. The EIFS is commonly referred to as artificial stucco.
Due to the water resistant nature of the material, moisture can actually become trapped behind the components with no form of release. When the moisture is trapped for an extended period of time, the framing of the system begins to rot and mold often forms in the walls. An additional problem that pops up when wood begins to rot is the appearance of subterranean termites. While it might seem that these issues exist only with EIFS, they can actually be present with all exterior siding including vinyl, wood and brick. The difference is that the way the EIFS is set up allows for the condition to worsen due to the highly water resistant nature of the material.
This type of system is typically used around windows and doors to ensure water does not creep inside. An EIFS is also commonly used in exterior decks when they are added later. If there is moisture from inside the home trying to escape, the system will also stop this from happening.
Many lawsuits have been filed tarnishing the products reputation. Most often, these lawsuits have taken place in exceptionally humid climates. Those who have filed, both private home owners and commercial owners, claim that the product is not efficient. However, the manufacturers counter claim that the system was installed poorly and maintained poorly. Keeping both claims in mind, all homes with an EIFS should be carefully examined when inspected.