This sprawling luxury hotel is down the street from my office in Florida. It is on the ocean. The building structure is metal stud and sheathing with EIFS. It is more than 30 years old and looks brand new.

EIFS is like any other building material in the sense that it is well-suited for some uses and not for others. This column is a compilation of my thoughts about where EIFS works well and where it does not, including some unusual specialty uses.

Local Aesthetic Ordinances

In some towns, local laws only permit the use of certain materials for exterior claddings. This is especially true in historic districts. Local laws may require that a certain percentage of the cladding on the street side be a material like brick. In some cases, materials like EIFS and stucco are not allowed. The local building department, contractors, developers and architects can advise if such laws are in effect and how you might go about getting a variance (if that’s a possibility).

Dirty Environments

Places where there is a lot of soot, smoke or exhaust fumes can pose a problem with EIFS. The dirt can get embedded in the EIFS finish and very difficult to remove. Examples of this type of situation include bus stops and areas with a lot of vehicle traffic. One way to reduce this problem is to coat the EIFS finish with a sealer to make it shed the dirt more easily. In cases where the dirt is already there, the EIFS finish can be painted but will also need to be carefully cleaned first. The use of hard cleaners can ruin the EIFS finish. There are specialty cleaners commercially available for use with EIFS and some of them are advertised in this magazine.

An ICF project that is intended to receive EIFS as its finish.


EIFS can be used as the finish for insulated concrete forms. Whether or not a specific EIFS coating system can be used on a given ICF (there are a number of designs) depends on whether they work together. Some EIFS producers endorse the use of only certain products with ICFs; check with them for details. There are several aspects of ICFs that are different than normal EIFS.

ICF foam may be of a density of grade that is incompatible with EIFS. The forms need to fit tightly together-without gaps-to avoid cracking of the EIFS coating.

The forms need to stand out in the weather for weeks while the concrete cures. This will degrade the surface of the EPS form. The form will need to be sanded so the EIFS coatings will adhere. The whole wall will need to be sanded.

Adding Extra Stories

The exceptionally light weight of EIFS can make a difference when adding extra floors above the existing roof. This can help get around the problem of having to reinforce the existing building structural systems. This can save a lot of time and money, and get around the problem of disruption of on-going use of the building.

Blow-Off Panels

An unusual application that EIFS is well-suited for is in walls that are designed to release from the building frame at a predetermined force. Usually, these are metal stud panels with EIFS cladding. Examples of this include buildings used for industrial processes that may explode and those where the base is subject to flooding. The latter allows the walls to come loose, thereby letting the water surge under the building. The building I am sitting in now is on a beach where hurricanes have landed. The building is on stilts and a parking garage on the ground floor. It has these types of panels.


The light weight and flexibility of EIFS can be an advantage in areas where buildings might rock and roll. The “give” of an EIFS structure allows it to not crack and fall off. The light weight of EIFS-especially on upper stories-helps limit the amount of weight that is being thrown around by the movement of the building.


If physical security of a wall is important, such as in the construction of a bank building, EIFS is not the answer. The light weight nature of the EIFS coatings provides virtually no resistance to penetration-you can ram a screwdriver through it. The penetration resistance must come from a robust substrate such as concrete or block.

One example of this came in an odd request I once was asked about using a metal stud and gypsum board wall with EIFS as the cladding for the exterior walls of a prison.

If physical security of a wall is an issue, such as a bank building, EIFS is not the answer.

Agressive Environments

If the air around an EIFS-clad building is full of chemicals, EIFS is not a good solution. The styrene foam core of EIFS is not highly resistant to attack by solvents. Thus, the use of EIFS around refineries and chemical plants is a bad idea.

People sometimes ask me if EIFS will work in extreme cold or hot climates. The answer is that this has been done lots of times. The key is to design the EIFS properly. Probably the most aggressive common environment is humid, hot, salty seaside areas. Even then, EIFS can hold up well. The key is to do routine maintenance, including surveying the face to look for leaks and cracks.

Impact Resistance

If EIFS is in an area where it can get beat up by normal use, the system will get damaged. Common examples include street level walkways on strip malls and areas next to sidewalks in a city, like a bus stop. Although the EIFS coatings can be beefed up considerably to avoid impact damage, there are limits. One solution for areas that are subject to high traffic is to use stucco in those areas and regular EIFS on upper floors. The stucco area is then coated with the EIFS finish so it matches the upper floors.

Dark Colors

The EPS foam used in EIFS has a low maximum service temperature. It is possible for the EIFS coatings (if they are done in a dark color) to get hot enough to become detached from the EIFS. This happens mostly on the south and west façades of buildings in areas with bright sunshine. EIFS producers can advise what the maximum acceptable darkness of the finish coating is for a given geographic location.

The Finish Line

The above list of specialty uses of EIFS may help you extend your sales. On top of all this is EIFS’ obvious benefits of good looks/good value for the dollar and high energy efficiency. It is no wonder this product is used so often.