Although both constructions sound similar at first, EIFS and stucco have major differences. Not knowing what to choose between the two will cause you minor to major structural breakdowns in the future.

To prevent this from happening, let’s determine the difference between EIFS and stucco to know what is the best match for your project.

What is Traditional Stucco?

There are many types of stucco but generally, when someone talks about stucco, they are referring to the traditional type that is made from natural materials such as cement, sand, water, and limestone.

Stucco Construction

Traditional stucco is made from the following materials attached to the wall structure:

  1. Weather Barrier: Weather or water barriers are made from house wrap, cementitious gypsum board, or felt paper.
  1. Galvanized Steel Lath: This component provides stability to the wall and holds the base and finishing coat.
  1. Coats: Generally, a scratch and a brown coat are combined to create the base coat. An acrylic polymer can also be used as a base coat. The finishing coat is then applied to the exterior part of the wall.

Advantages of Using Stucco

Stucco is widely used by homeowners and construction personnel because of the following features:

  1. Affordable
  2. Fast curing time
  3. Easy to install and repair
  4. Vapor permeable/breathable

Disadvantages of Using Stucco

On the other hand, the downsides of stucco are the following:

  • Heavy
  • Damage from moisture buildup
  • Prone to buckling, cracking, and peeling

What is EIFS?

EIFS or External Insulation and Finishing System (EIFS) is made from synthetic materials that provide better insulation properties than traditional stucco.

EIFS Construction

Synthetic stucco or EIFS commonly consists of the same materials used in traditional stucco. The main difference between the two is that EIFS has a rigid foam insulation board and a nylon fiber mesh attached to the wall structure before the base coat is applied.

The insulation board is attached to the wall with plates and fasteners or adhesives. Note that there is also a narrow gap inside the wall for water drainage.

Advantages of EIFS

The improved insulation is the primary reason behind EIFS’ popularity in the construction industry. Other advantages of using EIFS than traditional stucco include the following:

  • Weigh less than stucco. EIFS weighs around 2 pounds per square foot and stucco weighs about 10 pounds per square foot. You can save money on the foundation and structural support expenditures by supporting 80 percent less cladding weight with EIFS.
  • More flexible than stucco. EIFS can be curved in an unlimited number of ways to create a variety of architectural features, resulting in a remarkable visual appearance for a small additional cost.
  • Not prone to cracking. EIFS can withstand thermal expansion and has mesh netting that reinforces the base wall structure.
  • Less maintenance. Because of its acrylic coating, EIFS rarely needs to be repainted. It has properties that can resist fading and chipping.
  • More durable than stucco. EIFS are impact and puncture-resistant, not prone to common building deflections, and have a lower impact resistance than traditional stucco.
  • Higher Energy-efficiency. EIFS became the top product as a solution to meet the increasing standards governing commercial building energy efficiency. Long-lasting insulation properties can greatly raise the R-value of the walls.

EIFS is becoming increasingly popular in the market. In comparison to brick, stucco, and fiber cement façade technologies, EIFS is the finest material for controlling moisture content and thermal expansion. Increased insulation in new buildings can allow a lower-capacity HVAC system to be installed without affecting interior comfort.

Architects use EIFS for building constructions and renovations in both residential and commercial construction projects due to its drainage feature, continuous insulation, lightweight, stability, and design versatility.

Disadvantages of EIFS

Although you will have better protective layers than stucco, using EIFS has its disadvantages such as:

  • Expensive 
  • Not breathable
  • Harder to install than stucco
  • Susceptible to moisture damage
  • Complicated to repair, customize, and modify

What are the Differences Between Stucco and EIFS?

In terms of application, EIFS has a higher risk of error and a more complicated application process. It is strongly advised that you engage specialists to perform the EIFS installation so that you do not face problems such as low water resistance and wall damage.

On the other hand, stucco is easy to install since the wire mesh is covered in material initially. They’re built with standoffs to allow a limited amount of water to pass through. This is why they are coated with a semipermeable material.

The EIFS’s barriers prevent moisture from escaping in a gaseous state through its coating. On the other hand, water may freely flow in and out of the wall made from stucco because the material has a porosity similar to cork. To conclude, stucco allows ventilation while EIFS’s components are entirely closed.

Aside from the information mentioned above, stucco is more breathable than EIFS since its materials are vapor permeable. The term “breathability” is the capacity of a wall to let water in and out. This factor is important since all walls become moist at some time. The water that has already gotten inside the wall can escape if the walls are porous. Likewise, the liquid substance will eventually find its way out of the stucco coating.

Stucco is typically brittle and if subjected to minor structural movement, there is a higher chance that it might crack or further damage the wall. EIFS on the other hand, are crack resistant and can withstand minor structural movement. 

Molds can grow on the surface of the stucco. If you live in an area where the weather varies frequently, stucco may not be the best choice for your walls because it is more likely to crack in extreme weather. Does this mean you should invest in EIFS rather than using stucco? Well, it depends on your current budget, project, and in your environment. Note that repairing EIFS is more complex than stucco.

EIFS vs Stucco: Which One Is Better?

Structures with EIFS lasts longer than stucco since it has insulation boards that are commonly made from polystyrene foam. Walls with EIFS are known to last for more than 50 years with proper maintenance.

EIFS is better than stucco in many ways, but its installation and repair are quite expensive. If you’re building simple structures and, on a budget, stucco is recommended to use. If you choose traditional stucco, you’ll get a durable wall at a very affordable price.

Traditional stucco might be ideal for your project if you reside in an area with more consistent temperatures, low humidity levels, and drier air. If you experience various weather conditions, EIFS will save you a lot of money from frequent maintenance.

Stucco has limited color variations due to cement hydration. Use EIFS If you want aesthetic structure design with various colors on your project.

This wraps up our comparison between EIFS and stucco. Both have their pros and cons. All you have to do is choose between the two based on your project, preference, budget, and environment.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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