Walls & Ceilings Architect/January 2008 - (Page 28)

the FINISH LINE BY ROBERT THOMAS What is EIFS? What is EIFS? This is not a dumb question. It has lots of implications and there are many opinions about what EIFS is. No doubt many contractors have gotten into some ripe discussions when someone who doesn’t know the product very well tries to tell you that a certain wall system is EIFS, when it clearly is not. Depending on your definition of EIFS, including such issues as how it is being designed, used or installed, many a so-called EIFS may not even be an EIFS by any mainstream understanding of what EIFS is. Hence, opportunities for business and construction confrontations abound. The definition of EIFS can affect cost, profits, bidding, insurance and even legal issues, such as code compliance. At a recent technical meeting I attended, a discussion occurred about how to defi ne EIFS. Some new EIFS producers wanted some technical work done by a well-known technical society on a product that is sort-of-like EIFS. This prompted a lot of discussion as to whether or not this technical group should even handle the request. In some countries EIFS are called External Insulation Systems, meaning external to the main wall. External is actually a better word to use in the English language, but it still raises the question of what constitutes “external.” If the words “exterior” and “external” mean “outside of the main wall structure,” then a metal sandwich panel mounted outside of a block wall could be considered EIFS. So could foam insulation sheathing applied outboard of the studs, with vinyl siding over it. Clearly this is not what most people would think of when contemplating EIFS. Outside of North America, there is a much more liberal defi nition of what constitutes EIFS. Essentially, in North America, it is rigid foam plastic boards with thin synthetic coatings. Not so elsewhere. In many other countries, all sorts of other insulation types and coating systems are considered to be EIFS. In a sense, North American defi nition of EIFS is narrow, and its origins are a result of certain products initially proclaimed as EIFS in this market, various design factors (the use of foam shapes, for instance) and cost issues (such as labor-versus-material cost ratios). So don’t dismiss some never-seen-before nouveau EIFS as not being EIFS, because it may be. EIFS: A PRODUCT? Here’s a true story: I’ve received a number of email purchase orders over the years, wanting me (a technical consultant!) to ship them “2,000 square feet of EIFS.” Usually this type of “I have no clue” request comes from some well-meaning but ignorant functionary in the purchasing department of some huge international trading company that happens to Goggle onto my website, www.eifs. com. They think that EIFS is a product, but EIFS are systems. They do not come as a complete ready-to-use unit that is put in place, like a nail fl ange residential window. EIFS are created at the job site from a group of raw materials (or in a prefabricated panel factory). They can be created in countless variations, not to mention user-selected personal options like color and texture. So, there is no such thing as a “standard” EIFS. This versatility is one reason EIFS is popular. This flexibility of design has a big effect in determining at what point a particular system is not EIFS, or ever was EIFS. In effect, it’s easy to make hybrid quasi-EIFS systems that are not quite EIFS. Consider the product pictured on this page, which is considered to be EIFS in some countries. Note the special EPS foam, the thick “mortar” layer with EPS beads in it, the metal reinforcing, the base coat, the extra coating layers, and so on. What should one call this product? I call it expensive. It is not any standard type of EIFS. RESIDENTIAL CONFUSION Confusion about EIFS is especially prevalent in residential construction and when buying, selling and insuring property. For instance, some real estate offices will not even handle homes with EIFS on them, even if it is a small percentage of the facade. This column will explore the root issues of this question and will help contractors in their work to discuss the apparently simple question: “Is it EIFS?” First things fi rst: EIFS are always outside of the main wall structure, never inside the main construction– unlike cavity insulation, that is, by definition, within the wall. Someone told me once that any exterior wall that has insulation in the wall is EIFS. Not so. Don’t be confused! This wall section is not EIFS, even thought it contains EPS foam, a “mortar” layer with EPS beads in it, metal reinforcing, a base coat, and additional coating layers. 28 | Walls & Ceilings Architect | January 2008

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Walls & Ceilings Architect/January 2008

Walls & Ceilings Architecture/January 2008
Trade News
Special Spec Sheet Section
Making EIFS Look Easy
ICFs Convert
Greenbuild '08
The Finish Line
Cracking the Code

Walls & Ceilings Architect/January 2008