So, how do you know if you have EIFS or some other product? EIFS looks like stucco and stucco looks like EIFS. Here are a few tips to determine which product that you have. This info does not apply to the newer drainage type systems which started to show up in late 1997,
1. Ask your Builder for documentation. This probably won’t work but if you can get it, do.
2. Inspect a penetration through the wall. Many times penetrations aren’t sealed the way they are supposed to be. This may afford a look at a “cross section” of the system.
The hard “stucco” layer (lamina) of EIFS is thin, usually between 1/8″ and 1/16″. Traditional stucco is hard all the way through and is typically 5/8″-1″ thick.
Embedded in the lamina of EIFS is a fiberglass mesh. It looks kind of like window screen, except the openings are larger. It’s made in a number of colors. The mesh in traditional stucco is made of heavy wire, usually in a diamond pattern.
EIFS is typically applied to either white or yellow foam. These foam panels are attached to the sheathing. Traditional stucco is applied over building (tar) paper which is applied directly to the sheathing.
The total thickness (not counting sheathing) of EIFS can be from 1″-4″, depending on foam thickness. The total thickness of traditional stucco is usually 5/8″-1″ thick.
3. When I want to know which it is, I just probe it. Remember that thin lamina that EIFS has? Well, this will allow you to drive an ice pick or similar tool through it relatively easily. You may have to give it a few taps with a hammer, but when you penetrate the first 1/16″ or so of lamina, the tool will glide through the foam. Try driving anything lighter than a jackhammer through traditional stucco and you’re in for a workout. Your workout will continue for about 3/4of an inch.
A Hint: Don’t just start poking holes willy-nilly. Most of the decorative trim at windows, doors, and corners is EIFS on newer houses, even on traditional stucco houses. These details should be applied over the stucco, instead of the stucco butting to it. If the stucco does butt against the EIFS, you may have a problem. Don’t probe below the top of the foundation. Sometimes the EIFS will change to stucco at this point. Find an area in the “field” of a wall. Speaking of walls, don’t check a retaining wall. Make sure the wall contains wood framing. Look for an out of the way spot that isn’t noticeable and has some protection from the weather. I like to probe just below a piece of protruding trim. Be sure and caulk the hole when you’re done.
That’s it! See, that wasn’t so hard. (unless it was stucco of course)