Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS) provide aesthetic, insulation and weather protection for a building's exterior walls. EIFS was first marketed in Europe in 1963 to insulate older masonry buildings and enhance their appearance.
According to the Morrow, Ga.-based EIFS Industry Members Association (EIMA), at least 400 million square feet of EIFS are installed annually in North America. The systems are specified as a cladding material because of their energy efficiency, durability and design possibilities. EIMA says EIFS currently holds 29 percent of the nonresidential market share, making it the leading cladding product in the commercial market.
The basic EIFS is a barrier or face-sealed system (see diagram below). This nonload-bearing cladding consists of five elements: an insulation board adhered to the building's frame, a reinforcing mesh, a base coat and a decorative finish coat. The system is designed to prevent moisture from penetrating the building's exterior wall. Since water is most likely to enter at joints or through seams in window assemblies, edge-reinforcing materials are installed to keep water out.
EIFS is not explicitly covered by the three major U.S. model building codes. However, it is expected to be included in the next revision of the International Building Code in 2003.