What is an Exterior Insulation Finishing System?

If you’re reading this it either means you don’t have a clue as to what Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems are, or you know the term and reference but you’re interested in finding out a little bit more information. Regardless of how much you know about EIFS, one thing you should understand is that EIFS is one of the most significant developments in the construction industry.

EIFS, or Exterior Insulation Finishing System, is a cladding system applied to a building’s exterior, providing a water-resistant and insulation surface that insulates the structure better than most other insulation systems. What became popular in Europe and the States as a means of protecting old wooden structures, modern composite materials used in the manufacturing of EIFS mean that the modern cladding system is not only practical for old buildings; it is quickly becoming the principal means of structure finishes today!

Multi-Layer Protection

A single, unified cladding system made up of multiple layers of materials is what makes EIFS so effective. Being compressed into singular cladding squares makes the entire cladding system easy to apply to the substrate of the structure.

The most important part of the EIFS cladding is the insulation board. The insulation board is made up of several types of material depending on the substrate and structure being built. Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is the most common material used. Polystyrene is a cost-effective material that offers high thermal resistance, so it is considered perfect for insulation. What does differ from structure-to-structure is the treatment of the Polystyrene. Extruded Polystyrene is most often used for External Insulation Finishing System in South Africa. This is because the compressed board is hardier and is less permeable to water and chemical vapours caused by the African heat.

EIFS provides a flat surface on which to apply finishing coatings.

The cladding squares are normally held in place by profiles and fasteners. An adhesive is most often applied to the substrate onto which the cladding square is being placed. Together, the fasteners, profiles and adhesive ensure that the EIFS does not separate from the structure. After fastening the cladding, a mesh is applied as a last measure of protection and stability. The mesh and cladding can then be covered by a basecoat drymix, giving the structure a flat, smooth surface on which to apply a coating.

Why Do Buildings Require External Insulation Finishing Systems?

There are many benefits to having an Exterior Insulation Finishing System. Look at why buildings require this system of cladding below:

  • Insulation: The most obvious benefit of EIFS is the thermal resistance offered. This means that buildings retain heat, creating optimum temperatures within. In a day-and-age of global warming, it is a requirement that structures are built with energy-saving features. A lot of heat is lost in buildings without insulation, and therefore more electricity is used during both winter as well as summer in order to maintain temperatures.
  • Ventilation: While ensuring maximum insulation, EIFS does not limit breathability. Vented insulation boards allow the structure to lose excess heat and therefore water vapour. This leads to lowered levels of condensation and damp damage.
  • Space-Saving: By having insulation on the structure’s exterior profile rather than internal spaces, floorspace within the structure remains the same before cladding is applied. Other forms of insulation result in a reduction of internal space as insulation is usually applied internally.
  • Ease-of-Use: EIFS cladding is exceptionally easy to apply (for those who specialise in coatings and finishing application). The final product also makes it easy to apply decorative finishes, as the smooth drymix finish works well with paint and other specialised coatings.
  • Speed of Construction: With the modular type system, EIFS can be used to clad a building quicker that building brick and mortar walls. Which reduces construction time and turn-around time for investors through lower borrowing costs, and quicker cash flow turn around for contractors.

Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems are so effective at reducing heat transfer and saving energy costs that it is slowly becoming the industry benchmark for structural finishing. Not only is it extensively used in commercial developments, but EIFS is also a trusted insulation system for domestic use too.

Another wall with EIFS finish, as per modern sustainable development regulations.

EIFS in South Africa

Currently the majority of EIFS applications in South Africa have been through cladding of Light Steel Frame (LSF) construction. Parts of Mall of Africa are examples of this, as well as many LSF homes dotted around the country and cladded with the EIFS system.

However there is a “Green Law” that parliament is currently debating with regards to the insulation of buildings, and the associated energy savings thereof.

This application is called retrofitting – cladding an existing brick and mortar building with the EIFS system to better insulate it. It is here that there is massive scope for EIFS to take off in South Africa, and reignite our construction industry and the broader economy.

Homeowners, property developers and contractors should always consider EIFS application for every conceivable construction project. As important as the use of EIFS is ensuring that an applicator contractor with experience in EIFS application is used.

Make sure that you contact Royal Coat Africa for all your Exterior Insulation Finishing System applications, and be sure to visit our EIFS page for more information. If you want to learn more about Terraco EIFS, visit their website here