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EIFS (Exterior Insulating Finish System)

EIFS was developed in Europe after World War II and was initially used to retrofit solid masonry walls. EIFS started to be used in North America in the 1960s, and became very popular in the mid- 1970's due to the oil embargo and the resultant surge in interest in high energy efficiency wall systems (such as EIFS provides). The use of EIFS over stud-and-sheathing framing (instead of over solid walls) is a North American technique. EIFS is now used all over North America, and also in many other areas around the world, especially in Europe and the Pacific Rim.

In North America, EIFS was initially used almost exclusively on commercial buildings. As the market grew, prices dropped to the point where its use became widespread on normal single family homes.

In the late 1980s problems started developing due to water leakage in EIFS-clad homes. This created a national controversy and numerous lawsuits. Critics argue that, while not inherently more prone to water penetration than other exterior finishes, barrier-type EIFS systems (non-water-managed systems) do not allow water that may penetrate the building envelope to escape.

The EIFS industry has consistently maintained that the EIFS itself was not leaking, but rather poor craftsmanship and bad architectural detailing at the perimeter of the EIFS was what was causing the problems.

The building codes reacted by mandating EIFS with Drainage on wood frame building and additional on-site inspection. Most homeowner insurance policies cover EIFS and EIFS-like systems.

Insurance companies may not provide fire insurance coverage to clients who install EIFS exterior building systems, due to the lack of adequate fire-resistance inherent in the materials. Also, some facility owners have found that EIFS systems that are installed at lower building levels are subject to vandalism as the material is soft and can be chipped or carved resulting in significant damage.