Exterior Insulated Finishing System (EIFS) and or Direct Applied Exterior Finishing System (DEFS) are exterior wall cladding systems that have a synthetic / polymer stucco finish coat applied to them. It’s used on residential homes as well as commercial buildings.
With EIFS, an insulation board is attached to the substrate. Then a base coat is applied over the insulation panels with a reinforcing mess embedded into that base coat. Finally, a textured protective finish coat is applied over that. EIFS was developed after the war in Europe and began being used in the 1960’s in North America, but became more popular in the 1990’s. Perhaps one of the most popular benefits is the architectural details that can be added-on that are made out the same materials. The various types of moulding / details are really only hampered by your creativity.
DEFS on the other hand are typically the non-insulated version of EIFS. That is, the sheathing boards (such as DensGlass® Sheathing, DuRock and Hartitex™) act as the substrate to which the synthetic stucco is applied to.
Determining the type of system utilized, materials / methods used, underlying conditions and the likes is very difficult if not impossible to identify during a visual building inspection. Further, there are differing types of materials / products and applications utilized in the building industry. For example, there are two types of EIFS that can be employed: one that is water managed (allows a path for moisture to escape) while the other system that is not. Today, the water-managed EIFS system is most commonly used. Regardless, the installation method, procedure and application are critical to the success of the system employed.
There is a history of problems concerning water / moisture penetration into buildings that caused wood damage / rot and the likes. This damage may be hidden, for example, inside wall cavities and not readily visible. Depending on the exterior finishing system used (manufacturer, product, etc.) there may also be class action lawsuits and or class action settlements regarding them.
To perform an EIFS and or DEFS inspection typically requires destructive or invasive testing. This may include puncturing the exterior surface with long pins from a moisture meter in various places and or cutting open the wall surface itself for further examination. This however is outside the scope of a normal visual building inspection.
Read more about Exterior Insulated Finishing Systems (EIFS)
If you are considering buying a home or commercial building with EIFS / DEFS, ensure you carry out your due diligence as to what has been installed in the first place and what warranties / guarantees are available to you, if any…and be sure to have the home / building inspected.