Exterior Insulation and Finish System
When inspecting a house with Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS) every home inspector should take extra care to protect his or her client and themselves.
EIFS, when installed properly, is a high quality, long lasting product. Historically, EIFS has been problematic when used for residential applications, usually due to improper installation. EIFS manufactures typically monitor the installation of their product when being used for commercial purposes due to the magnitude and increased liability of these projects. The problem in residential construction is the projects are to small and to many for manufactures to ensure proper installation.
The main issue with older EIFS products was; the foam board had the potential to act like a sponge. Any exposed foam board, cracked/damaged outer coats, or incomplete caulking could lead to water wicking into the foam board and rotting the wood structure of the house. Newer EIFS products have a water drainage system built in which helps divert water away from the structure.
Every manufacturer has specific instruction requirements of how their product should be installed. Rarely are these specifications followed properly in residential applications. Certain areas you, as a home inspector, should pay particularly close attention to are terminations, expansion joints, interior and exterior corners, and weak areas around windows and doors. Many times, you will find exposed foam board at these previously mentioned locations.
The proper installation of EIFS includes back wrapping the reinforcing mesh at all ends and openings and installing caulk to prevent water infiltration. EIFS may never come in contact with the ground; it must maintain an eight-inch clearance above finished grade and two-inch clearance from hard surfaces. An expansion joint is needed at any line where the under laying material changes or at a floor line (i.e. foundations, change of materials, or penetrations including all windows and doors). An expansion joint should consist of the underlying mesh back wrapping around the foam board, backer rod, and caulk. Flashing should also be installed in the same locations as any other home. Kick out flashing for roof sidewalls should be installed to prevent staining and possible/probable water intrusion.