This comprehensive technical paper on EIFS discusses the current status of EIFS and its compliance to Australian Building Regulations. Masterwall provide an outline of the evolution of EIF Systems in Australia, which is beginning to replicate international trends and a highly regulated EIFS industry is imminent. It is an important and relevant information that every Australian builder, renderer, owner builder or architect needs to know.

E.I.F.S (‘Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems’)

EIFS are an exterior cladding system providing insulation, weatherproofing, and a finished surface in a single integrated product.

EIFS are typically made up of:

  • Medium grade expanded polystyrene with flame retardant
  • Alkaline resistant fiberglass mesh
  • Crack-resistant topcoat or finish coat
  • Flashings, sealants and other weatherproofing materials

EIFS were first used in Europe in the 1950’s before the technology was transferred to the U.S. Today E.I.F.S contribute to 30% of the commercial market in the U.S and this figure is growing. In 1995, the industry suffered a setback when a number of E.I.F.S clad homes were discovered with moisture damage behind the cladding. The damage incurred in these scenarios was typically caused by poor construction detailing and practices.

Pre-finished Polystyrene (factory prepared panels) were developed to meet the demand in the building industry for faster build times and to provide additional benefits to renderers.

  • Renderers save up to 25% of time spent on a job.
  • Reduce on-site labour and OH&S costs.
  • Reduce manual handling costs
  • Satisfies CSIRO Structural Fastening Criteria

E.I.F Systems and Compliance to Building regulations:
The B.C.A 2008:The use of E.I.F.S is regulated by the ‘Performance Requirement’ of the BCA, as an ‘Alternative Solution’ and assessed on the basis of the provision of a CSIRO or equivalent appraisal as an independent assessment of a product as a fit and proper building material.

Building Permits: Before Building Surveyors issue Building Permits on projects that use External Insulation Systems, part of their responsibility is to ensure that the products specified on the plans are fit and proper Building Materials. To streamline this process, Building Surveyors request that documents providing evidence of third party certification (i.e CSIRO) are submitted with the plans.

Moisture Resistance and energy efficiency: EIF Systems should ensure a watertight external building fabric that does not rely solely on the acrylic render system to keep moisture out of the building face. This would include the supply and installation of joint sealants, breathable builders paper, proper flexible flashing tape and sealant systems for all openings and tanking solutions. These components also address 5 star energy requirements to seal all gaps.

Current Practices:
Builders (DBU/DBM.): Allow the installation and Render of E.I.F Systems by others, or themselves that fail to meet the performance requirements of the BCA.

Designers/Architects: Prescribe non-compliant E.I.F systems in two ways:

  • By nominating E.I.F. systems in a non specific manner, i.e. the specification will call for merely ‘polystyrene foam’ or 75mm ‘Polystyrene Foam’ without nominating an E.I.F. System supplier whose product meets the Performance Requirement of the BCA.
  • By nominating an E.I.F. System supplier whose products have not been appraised and therefore whose products fail to meet the Performance Requirements.

Renderers: Supply, install and render polystyrene cladding that does not meet the Performance Requirement of the BCA.

Owner Builders: Purchase polystyrene cladding systems that fail to meet the Performance Requirement of the BCA from Renderers and non compliant EIFS manufacturers who do not hold the relevant builders licence/s as required by the Building Commission (for works over the value of $5000)..

E.I.F.S Manufacturers: There are less than a handful of companies nationally whose EIFS products have been appraised by the CSIRO or equivalent or have had their product accredited by the Building Commission. Some of these companies also split contracts. Consumer law dictates that contracts for these works cannot be split i.e. supply from one company and install and render by another as it challenges the integrity of the warranty.

Building Surveyors/Inspectors: Building permits are being issued by the thousands each year, where polystyrene products that fail to meet the Performance requirements of the BCA have been specified on the plans and permits have still been approved.

Despite the fact that polystyrene products that fail to meet the performance requirements of the BCA have been specified on the plans, each year thousands of building permits are still being issued. Each year there are thousands of building permits issued even though polystyrene products that fail to meet the performance requirements of the BCA have been specified on the plans.

E.I.F System Suppliers need to look for:

  • BCA compliance
  • Adequate technical data
  • Appropriate builder licences
  • Complete system with no contract splitting

The Future:

  • A highly regulated environment