Back to basics: sell EIFSBack in the “StuccoLithic Period” of Earth’s history, several decades ago, I was really impressed with the many features of EIFS. At that time, I worked for an EIFS competitor in the metal wall system business. We were having alot of trouble selling against EIFS. Why? EIFS was less expensive, had better insulating properties, and could be designed to look attractive in a lot of different ways.
Things have changed. EIFS is a mature product now. Fortunes have been made in the stampede to get into the EIFS business. EIFS is essentially now a commodity and orders are now taken, rather than the product being sold based on its many benefits.
In the current sluggish state of North America’s economy, I think extra effort is needed to really drive home the benefits of EIFS; to close the sale. I also think it is important to really understand how many, many benefits that EIFS has.
This month’s column is a review of EIFS many attributes. It’s a quick refresher course to help you get more business-as a producer, distributor, designer or contractor.
Origins of EIFSThe type of EIFS used in EIFS originated in Europe after World War II. This type of EIFS is what we call Type PB, and uses thin resinous coatings over EPS insulation (there are many other EIFS-like wall insulation types around the world but Type PB is the norm here). This type of EIFS was used to repair masonry walls after the war. A lot of continental Europe was ravaged by the war, with buildings being major victims. EIFS was used to refurbish the exterior, and also to improve the energy efficiency of the wall. Fuel was scarce and expensive after the war and putting the insulation on the outside of the wall really helped people stay warm.
Putting the insulation “outboard” also had the advantage that it was impossible to put insulation within a solid concrete or masonry wall, and if putting insulation indoors, the insulation only took up valuable floor space. If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll notice right away that most people live in smaller houses. Europe is old by North American standards and space is at a real premium, compared to the gigantic homes that some people inhabit here.
EIFS needs to be soldWhat’s the point? We tend to forget that EIFS is probably the most significant type of new wall cladding in the latter half of the 20th century. But it does need to be sold. Below is a list of the key features of EIFS that need to be memorized, and used as tools to close a sale.
The name “exterior insulation” is misunderstood. In some countries, it is a called “external insulation,” perhaps a more descriptive term. External insulation is paramount in having a building that is truly energy efficient. You want the insulation outside of the wall structure that supports it. This allows the wall structure itself-especially if it is heavy like masonry or concrete-to absorb and retain heat energy (hot or cold) and thus moderate the indoor temperature swings. This puts a lesser load on the building’s heating/cooling system, decreasing energy usage.
EIFS is seamless. It is the only product I know of that can be installed without any joints on large wall areas. Lack of joints equals lack of air (and moisture) moving in/out. This may sound insignificant but it’s not. For example, compare EIFS to traditional clapboard siding, with miles of seams between the boards and the building paper and sheathing, and hollow-stud cavities. No wonder the air infiltration of such forms of construction is so high in relation to a comparable EIFS-clad wall.
Studies in North America show that a lot of the heat losses in buildings come from air leakage-not just through the insulation. Sometimes, the losses can be 25 percent or more of the total loss. Why do you think the Canadian building codes are so specific about the use of air barriers?
Proven Track Record
An early barrier to acceptance of EIFS was the lack of completed jobs. Only a blind man would say that now; EIFS is everywhere. And there are thousands of EIFS buildings of every size and shape in all corners of North America that are performing beautifully. The performance of EIFS is a non-issue, in my opinion.
Proven Details and Specs
When EIFS was first introduced to the North American market, there was scant information available about how to do the construction details and how to specify EIFS. That era is long gone and now there is instant online access to hundreds of well-designed CAD details showing how to do almost any wall condition you can imagine. This includes the sometimes-complex details around openings when using EIFS with drainage.
Widespread Availability of Product
One can get their hands on EIFS materials anywhere in North America. Even if you live in the boondocks somewhere, the material is still close. I’ve seen EIFS installed in some pretty isolated areas, such as places in Alaska where there are no roads, islands like Guam, and weird specialty buildings (an astronomical observatory) on the peak of a mountain, where the product was brought in by helicopter.
Plenty of EIFS Contractors
It used to be that it was hard to find someone who could install EIFS. That ended in the 1970s with massive contractor training programs initiated by EIFS producers, plastering trade groups and unions. Now you can find someone who can install EIFS in some pretty remote places.
Design Flexibility and Cost
I can’t think of another building product that can be made to produce so many different types of appearances than EIFS-and at a reasonable price. This characteristic of EIFS is not unknown to building designers, but they need to be constantly reminded of this fact when selling EIFS. For example, a good potential sales target is a building that is over budget that uses real stone that can be replaced by less expensive EIFS. Why do you think architects love EIFS? They love how it looks.
Sell ItIn this era of a sluggish economy, EIFS is a product that helps budget problems on many projects that prohibit other materials that were originally speced.
When I worked in the metal wall industry before EIFS, it was a mature industry. It had all manner of technical data and experience to use as sales ammo. It was a technical sale. It was also highly competitive price-wise, and the producers resorted to incredible technical minutia to try to convince a specifier to use their product.
There’s no need for this level of hard technical selling with EIFS, yet.
I am a nerdy guy. I am not a salesman. But even I can convince people that need a good cladding to buy EIFS. Do the same.
Robert Thomas is a nationally recognized EIFS consultant, based in Jacksonville, Fla. He was the manager of technical services for a major EIFS producer, is the author of several books about EIFS and chairs the ASTM committee on EIFS.