What Is EIFS? Understand the Pros and Cons

Kathryn Pomroy
Written by Kathryn Pomroy
Updated August 9, 2021
The exterior of the upper windows of a house
OliverChilds/E+ via Getty Images

EIFS looks a lot like stucco, but it's a unique material that may just be perfect for your home

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Whether you have a cottage in the woods or a bungalow on the beach, you want the exterior of your home to be durable, stand up to any weather, and boost the curb appeal of your home. Choosing the right exterior materials for your home can be tricky, but if you haven’t heard of EIFS, it may be the perfect choice for you. EIFS has its share of both pros and cons, but with a little know-how, you can determine if it’s right for your home.

What to Know About EIFS

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, or EIFS, is a type of wall cladding applied to a building’s exterior surfaces. EIFS is also referred to as “synthetic stucco” because it looks very similar to traditional stucco, but it is actually quite different.

The main difference is that stucco consists of two, and sometimes only one, thick layer of original stucco spread over a mesh wire. EIFS, on the other hand, consists of a total of six different layers. It’s also more expensive than stucco.

The Six Layers of EIFS

Present-day EIFS has been upgraded from earlier versions and now has six layers: 

1. A water-resistive barrier (WRB)

2. The addition of a drainage plane between the WRB and the insulation board that lets water drain out from behind the cladding

3. Insulation board that is usually made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) 

4. Glass-fiber reinforcing mesh embedded in the base coat

5. A water-resistant base coat that’s applied on top of the insulation 

6. A finish coat to prevent cracks

Pros of EIFS

Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems have many advantages when compared to other common exterior finishes, including:

  • More energy-efficient than conventional stucco over time

  • Weighs around 80% less than traditional stucco, despite the number of layers

  • Flexible, making it less susceptible to damage from drastic changes in temperatures

  • More durable than traditional stucco

  • Can shed water and be sealed at the windows and other openings, making it hard for water to leak in

  • Can be installed in a variety of textures and colors to make your home's exterior stand out

Cons of EIFS

EIFS installations also have several disadvantages, including:

  • Installation is complex and uses more materials than some other exterior finishes, so it can be expensive

  • If EIFS siding needs replacement, the cost can be as high as $16 per square foot. Stucco costs an average of $6 to $9 per square foot

  • EIFS layers can’t breathe, which can allow moisture to become trapped and cause damage, including mold. But this depends in part on the installation

  • EIFS can require frequent inspections because of the potential of water seepage

  • Can be hard to clean and may need regular pressure washing

Is EIFS Right for Your Home?

The exterior of a typical Californian house
KathyDewar/E+ via Getty Images

The biggest problem many have had with EIFS in the past is that it can allow moisture to become trapped within the layers and cause significant damage to your home. Without an inspection, this damage can go undetected until mold and rot have damaged the structure, causing expensive repairs. 

However, over the past several years, the industry has gone to great lengths to improve its durability and eliminate any problems with trapped moisture. Today, EIFS is more flexible and has a higher R-value than traditional stucco, which means better insulation and less cracking as a result of fluctuating temperatures. The fiberglass layer provides more durability against harsh weather, making it a good choice in very hot or very cold temperatures. 

If you’re buying a home with an EIFS finish, you might want to reach out to an insulation pro in your area who can inspect your EIFS system and ensure it’s up to standards. 

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