16 July 2009

EIFS is Legitimate

The 2009 IBC has canonized EIFS as an acceptable exterior wall finish, much like metal composite materials such as Alucobond. Up to this version, EIFS has only been acceptable as an alternative design, and was covered by evaluation reports.

This is due to the apparently tireless efforts of EIMA (the EIFS Industry Members Association, comprising BASF, Dryvit, ParexLahabra, and Sto) to develop test methods and installation procedures, and to assert better controls over their contractors, that will result in successful and durable EIFS systems as a matter of course.

The most recent development is ASTM E 2568 and ASTM E 2570, which are the conversions of the ICC acceptance criteria AC 219 and AC 212. ASTM E 2568 is the specification for the EIFS system as a whole and ASTM E 2570 is the specification for the water resistive barrier between the insulation and the substrate. These in turn reference other EIMA standards and ICC procedures that were converted into ASTM's within the past few years: ASTM E 2098, ASTM E 2134, ASTM E 2273, ASTM E 2486, ASTM E 2430, and ASTM E 2485.

The result is that, in order to be an exterior wall material, EIFS has to comply with ASTM E 2568 and needs to undergo special inspections. Take note that ASTM E 2568 includes a grueling application of ASTM E 331 - 6.24 pounds of pressure for 2 hours, the requirement for barrier wall designs. Your standard exterior enclosure spec could likely require something far less and may need to be updated. The only relief is if the EIFS is drainable according to ASTM E 2273, a far better system that is required by the code if EIFS is installed on a residential building of Type V construction.

Even better yet might be the pressure equalized reainscreen (PER) EIFS, but it's a little harder to come by. Only Dryvit markets PER EIFS in the United States. In Canada, where PER designs are often mandated, Senergy and Sto also market PER EIFS.

Speaking of the Canadian market, Dryvit and Sto use a mineral wool board as the insuation for their PER systems. This has the added advantage of being a fire proofing material, unlike the foam insulations we use in the United States which, let's be honest, are no more than solidified fuel that's been treated to be relatively self-extinguishing in fire.

And speaking of fire brings up yet another point: FM Global stopped approving EIFS in 2006. I don't know if this is due to moisture problems or the fire hazard or both, but apparently the improvements the industry has made have not been enough to reduce their claims exposure to acceptable levels.

Never-the-less, in spite of the improvements that could still be made, EIFS is now officially a legitimate exterior wall system, confirmation of a product that has been in active development since its invention in Germany 5 decades ago.

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