Synthetic stucco, formally known as Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS), is an exterior home finish commonly used as an alternative to more traditional exterior wall finishes such as brick, wood or siding. EIFS became popular because of its superior insulating properties and ease of maintenance. However, over time, owners of EIFS homes have reported significant problems. Since EIFS are impermeable to water, moisture becomes trapped when water penetrates behind the exterior finish, leading to deterioration of framing and supporting structures. It is critical that EIFS homes be inspected for excessive moisture and that their windows, doors and joints be properly sealed and caulked to prevent future water damage.
United Inspection Group utilizes the latest technology to provide quick and reliable results. We are certified to perform a “traditional” (visual inspection). Unlike other firms, United Inspection Group offers Thermal Imaging Screening of the Stucco/EIFS surface in addition to a visual inspection. In order to confirm the presence of moisture behind EIFS, penetration is necessary. Instead of hypothesizing potential penetration locations based on visual observation, we use IR camera’s screening results to narrow down possible compromised areas. Therefore, we can use our time more efficiently, eliminate unnecessary holes in EIFS and provide the highest quality of work. Remember, when United Inspection Group works, you save.
What are EIFS?
EIFS are multi-layered exterior wall systems, which typically consist of five components: adhesive, an insulation board, a base coat, a fiberglass mesh in which the base coat is embedded in, and a decorative finish coat in the client’s desired color and texture. This type of system, which has been widely used in new residential home construction, is called face-sealed barrier EIFS.
EIFS are commonly used as the outside face of the wall and completely covers whatever is behind it. If water penetrates an EIFS home, it can become trapped near windows, doors, chimneys or other joints since EIFS are impermeable to water. The trapped moisture then begins to rot wood sheathing and framing and support members, which can then result in significant repair costs since once installed, EIFS can’t be removed. Therefore, it is critical that EIFS homes be inspected for excessive moisture and that all windows, doors and joints be properly sealed and caulked to prevent future water penetration.
What is the solution?
Although EIFS may look fine on the outside, problems could be hiding deep in the wall structure. Since EIFS can’t be disassembled and reassembled without reinstalling new EIFS materials, a thorough inspection is rarely possible without poking holes in the wall. Luckily, there are some nondestructive inspection techniques that will give you an idea of the wall’s condition. There are three steps United Inspection Group takes to conduct our EIFS/Stucco inspection.
First, we perform a visual observation in order to identify common areas with potential water damage including areas with color deterioration, cracks, etc. Unfortunately, more often than not, significant damage behind EIFS may not show any visual signs on the surface. In order to address this issue, during the next step, a Thermal Imaging Survey (using an IR camera) is conducted. Thermal image scanning has a significant impact on efficiency and quality of the inspection and greatly improved our ability to perform stucco and EIFS moisture intrusion inspections***. An IR camera alone cannot detect or confirm the presence of moisture. Instead, it is used to locate thermal patterns that may be associated with the presence of moisture.
The only way to determine if there is a problem with an EIFS is with an invasive inspection. Therefore, during the third step, the use of a moisture meter is essential. Based on visual observation and IR camera results, United Inspection Group can locate potentially damaged areas that require further testing. Areas can’t be confirmed as dangerous without moisture meter readings because infrared thermal imaging only reads surface temperatures and is only used as a guide to locate areas that are suspected of elevated moisture content.
In general, the process of obtaining moisture meter readings requires that small ±1/4" holes be drilled in the stucco finish in areas where elevated moisture is suspected. A moisture meter with a probe is then used to take a reading of the existing moisture content. After readings have been obtained, the holes are injected with caulk to seal them and prevent moisture from entering and causing any further damage.
We understand that this invasive process is undesirable for the owner and buyer. Therefore, we work hard to keep the testing area as narrow as possible and to make sure all holes are properly sealed and unnoticeable.
In conclusion, United Inspection Group offers a significantly improved EIFS inspection method for our clients. We select our intrusive test locations based on results, not only visual observations, but also based on Thermal Imaging Survey. This precise method can significantly increase the efficiency of the testing and decrease the number of drilled holes necessary.
***Weather Conditions that MUST be present: