I’m frequently asked to look at existing EIFS projects to assess their condition (as in a house sale) or to determine what’s causing some problem (as in the case of water leaks). A thorough analysis often requires cutting into the wall to see what is going on inside. Subsequently, the wall needs to be patched. And the patch needs to be done soon to keep Mother Nature out of the wall. But where do you get the materials and how will the patching be done and by whom? The solution to this problem is to provide what I call a “Maintenance Kit” (or “the kit”) to do minor repairs. This month’s column describes the kinds of items that should be in the kit.
THE KIT’S PURPOSE
The purpose of the kit is to have on-hand enough material and information to do normal repairs and maintenance, such as impact damage or cracks. There’s no need to stockpile more than that, unless some major remodeling-an addition, for instance-is planned for the near future.
This kit is intended to be used by someone with the necessary skills to do the maintenance work properly. In the case of the typical homeowner, this means hiring an EIFS contractor, since most homeowners don’t understand EIFS nor know much about plastering. Sometimes on larger commercial properties, the owner or maintenance staff has the requisite skills and can do simple repairs themselves. The specialized plastering equipment used by an EIFS contractor (plastering trowels, mixers, etc.) are not included in the kit, as the EIFS contractor should have them do the work.
If the EIFS is adhesively attached, you’ll need enough adhesive in the kit to re-attach the new insulation where a section of the EIFS was removed. You’ll need some of each type of adhesive that was originally used, such as cementitious and/or noncementitious types, for various substrate types.
You’ll also need each of the different types of basecoat adhesive (again, both cementitious and noncementitious) if both types were used.
If the adhesives are cementitious (i.e., use Portland cement as a separate add-in material), you’ll need this product when the time comes. It’s not smart to stock this material, as it tends to go bad (develop lumps or set up) over time due to airborne humidity getting into the paper packaging sack. Portland cement can easily be obtained at a DIY store when you need it. The same applies to EIFS materials that come as dry bag goods with Portland cement and powdered resin premixed. In that case, add water but since the bag contains dry Portland cement powder, it is subject to the same problem of getting lumps or setting up.
You’ll need various types of finishes used on the project. This includes both colors and textures. This is a key component of the kit, as it is “what-you-see” when the patch is done, and it needs to match in terms of color and texture.
Keep in mind that EIFS finishes, like virtually all paint-like coating products, do fade and age over time. Usually, they get lighter or chalky. The point is that if you are using fresh, new finish of the exact, original color and texture, to do a patch on an old wall, you can count on the new finish being discernible from the existing material-it’ll be brighter compared to adjacent existing finish.
Some local EIFS distributors can make small batches of finish, including their supplier’s various textures and colors. It’s done using equipment similar to that used at DIY stores to make house paint. Having such materials available locally can be handy if you need repair materials quickly. Otherwise, they can order it from the EIFS producer’s nearest factory.
The key to uniform color is to paint over the new finish to the nearest corner or joint, so that the patched area is not so visible. Usually, exterior grade, water-based acrylic latex paints will work just fine. Such paints can be rolled or brush-applied. EIFS producers make a “paint version” of their EIFS coating, which works well too. Be careful to use a paint that is compatible, as some of the high performance EIFS finishes use special formulas that reduce the ability of the new top coat finish/paint to bond-to the existing surface-unless you use a compatible, original material. Do not use solvent-based paints as the solvent may leach through the lamina and attack the foam insulation, thereby causing the lamina to come loose.
Adhesives and basecoats need to be stored where they cannot freeze or get baked. Thus an unheated garage in a cold climate area will not work. A basement usually works, provided it’s not too damp. The containers should be the original ones, and should not ever have been opened. The shelf life for these materials is a few years at most, if unopened. The contents will have settled if left undisturbed for long periods, and will need to be remixed. If, upon opening the pail, the contents smell foul or have mold growing on them, do not use them. If in doubt, obtain fresh, new material from the EIFS producer. EIFS producers make “small-pail” versions of their products on an on-demand basis. They are pricey but you get only what you need. Usually they are 1-gallon pails instead of the normal 5-gallon size.
A small roll of each type of reinforcing mesh used on the project should be in the kit. This would normally be the standard weight mesh and the heavy weight mesh. The roll should be the wide type (36 inches or 1 meter wide); smaller pieces (for terminations, etc.) can be cut from the large roll.
Most EIFS use EPS insulation and this basic generic type of insulation is readily available at DIY stores. However, the DIY type of EPS is not the same as the high tolerance EPS specified by EIFS producers. Thus, you’ll need several sheets of real EIFS EPS insulation of the various thicknesses used on the project, and you’ll want to include it in the kit, instead of trying to find out who locally produces this specialty type of EPS.
EIFS WITH DRAINAGE
EIFS with drainage, used mostly on wood frame structures, uses materials in addition to those that are part of a classic barrier type EIFS, as listed above. Specifically, this includes a water resistant barrier and some type of drainage medium. The WRB can be a liquid-applied material (trowel, brush or spray applied) or some type of sheet good, such as building paper or a plastic housewrap. The drainage media may be some sort of spacer (usually an expanded plastic lath-like material) or may be grooves cut into the insulation.
This is critical. A copy of the EIFS producer’s published application instructions should be in the kit. Again, this is especially important if you are working in a remote area where access to trained EIFS contractors is limited, or in-house maintenance staff needs guidance as to what to do. This information is usually also printed on the pails of wet materials but having a printed in-hand copy is much handier.
If a warranty-for the materials or labor or both-is part of the project, then a copy should be included. The original should be stored in some safe place.
EIFS PROJECT INFORMATION
This is a general category of information that is very useful - especially down the road when no one can seem to remember who did what. This information should include:
• Brand of EIFS product used, and the name of specific EIFS system type. Example: Dryvit brand Outsulation MD EIFS product
• Local EIFS contractor contact information
• Local general contractor contact information
• Local EIFS supplier contact information
• EIFS producer’s published application instructions
• Colors and textures of EIFS finish materials
• Date the EIFS was installed
• Brand of caulking used and name of specific product. Example: Dow 790
A REAL TIME-SAVER
Many EIFS producers include a maintenance kit in their standard architectural guide specifications for projects using their products. Usually it is a submittal at the end of the project. Sadly, quite often the kit is not supplied, and years later a lot of time is spent trying to figure out what EIFS is on the wall and how to get replacement materials. The simple kit described here goes a long way toward not wasting time when doing routine maintenance. W&C