Six Tips to Prevent your EIFS System from Leaking
Since their introduction in the 1960s, Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems or EIFS are still gaining popularity in American buildings and homes, as few competitive materials in the market offer the same benefits. EIFS is a lightweight synthetic wall covering made of thin synthetic coatings and foam plastic insulation. Its end product gives homes and buildings an aesthetically pleasing flair. It is also flexible in any design and offers unrestricted color and treatment options.
In our 50+ years of service, Raynor Company Group has established ourselves as a reputable commercial EIFS contractor. We aim to provide our customers with all the information they need on EIFS installation, maintenance, and repair for their buildings. In this article, we will highlight the common ways that EIFS leaks occur and ways to prevent it. Let’s take a look.
Common Ways EIFS Leakages Can Occur
Sometimes the EIFS contractor alone determines how durable your EIFS will be. Poor installation is usually to blame for the leaks. However, other factors like impact damage, building movement, or a moist environment can also cause EIFS leaks. Joints and termination points, in particular, are where EIFS leaks are most prone to start, so it is best to have more extra care there.
Some of the most common ways EIFS leaks are likely to occur include:
- Close Proximity to the Ground: Installing your EIFS close to the ground instead of the minimum 4” or other surfaces such as pavers or concrete can cause moisture leaks which can damage it.
- Poor Sealant Joint Installation: Improper use, absence, or improper installation of sealants can cause water to seep into the EIFS and potentially cause it to fail. Applying sealant to the finish coat instead of the base coat reinforced with mesh is a common sealant problem that results in EIFS leaks.
- Inadequate Base Coat Thickness: A base coat that is too thin will not effectively stop water from entering the EIFS. On the other hand, if a base coat is excessively thick, the EIFS may crack. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid these occurrences.
- Improper Window Flashing: Your window openings should have adequate flashing that directs water away from the sills. Water can seep into the EIFS without sufficient window flashing. Keep an eye out for cracks or flimsy wood close to your windows and doors.
How to Prevent EIFS System Leaks
EIFS’ original intent was to be a perfect barrier system or one that offers waterproof protection at the cladding’s outer face. EIFS systems aim to keep the building dry by creating a face-sealed façade that resists moisture. Unfortunately, EIFS systems are rarely perfect, and small installation mistakes often cause leaks and damage. There are, however, precautions that EIFS’s contactors can take to keep an EIFS system from leaking.
1. Have a Moisture Meter Handy
Some believe that moisture meters are indispensable for addressing EIFS leak issues. While they are useful, they only inform you that the wall is wet, not how it got that way. The main advantage of spending a few hundred dollars on a moisture meter is avoiding the need to remove the entire EIFS to determine whether the wall is wet. They are priceless for this reason alone.
Moisture meters come in two types: those that travel across the surface of an EIFS like a clothes iron (scanning meters) and those with pins that you push into the test material (pin meters). You will want to use a pin meter for a more accurate reading. However, you will have to drill some holes in the EIFS lamina to get a reading. If you don’t want to cause any damage to your EIFS, you can use a scanning meter, but you will only get a relative reading of the moisture level.
Moisture meters are also handy as they help you know the most likely places where a leak in the EIFS system can occur. As such, they help you prepare for any repairs or maintenance early.
2. Use Primers
Similar to painting a house’s interior walls, adding a primer on top of the base coat can produce a smooth, colorless surface on which to apply the finish. This inside wall painting comparison also applies to fixing thickness and surface consistency issues.
In addition to increasing the flatness of the surface of the applied finish, primers will smooth out any thickness discrepancies concerning the base coat. This then eliminates the risk of having thin areas that will become more susceptible to moisture intrusion down the road and decrease the chances of spaces appearing where water can leak through.
3. Be Aware of the Climate
Some EIFS assemblies can be destroyed by a humid climate with poor drying potential, especially if the wetting rate is greater than the drying rate. This issue is made worse by poor design and installation, which create cracks allowing water to enter the cladding while humidity prevents damp walls from drying out.
4. Dam the Water at Termination Points
The water’s exit from the wall system must have a clear path, especially where it touches the ground at the bottom of the wall portions. For instance, if the EIFS terminates on top of the concrete or caulks the concrete, it will dam and prevent the water from escaping. If this occurs, water will likely seep into the wall hollow and eventually cause significant damage.
5. Limit Using Incompatible Substrates
Use a reputable manufacturer with a proven track record. Avoid utilizing gypsum board in humid or wet areas since it tends to have moisture absorption issues. Even if the substrate is of excellent quality and appropriate for the building’s location, improper substrate attachment installation or specification could cause leaks in the future.
6. Guard the EIFS Assemblies Against Impact
These assemblies are easily damaged by impact because they are made of thin, fragile covering over a relatively soft substrate. It is wise to add additional reinforcing where holes, dents, or scratches are likely to result in water infiltration.
Heavy-duty mesh, often weighing 12 to 20 ounces, should be used in areas that require impact protection rather than the more common 4.5-ounce mesh. To prevent excessive wear and damage, the design professional could specify a thicker corner mesh for exterior corners.
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The trust we develop with our clients is the foundation of our relationships. We never make excessive promises and always do our task on schedule with the best possible craftsmanship. On every project, we work with teams we create internally and with our clients. We give our staff the power they require to finish the project on schedule and to our standards of quality.
With our team of craftsmen, you can be confident that we have the expertise, skill, and professionalism to deliver the best quality work and the commitment to finish the project on schedule and per the project parameters. Contact us to learn more about our professional exterior and interior wall and ceiling finishes services. To learn more about the Raynor Group visit www.theraynorgroup.com.