Setting Straight the Cladding Conundrum: EIFS vs Metal

If you missed the first two installments of the “Setting Straight a Cladding Conundrum” series, be sure to check them out. However, fear not, as the message is unwavering—Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems (EIFS) fit most every need. Code compliance, continuous insulation properties, air/water resistive barrier integration and cost-effectiveness are just a few of the many reasons EIFS is a choice cladding material for buildings of all types. One of the most notable aspects of EIFS is its chameleon-like ability to bear resemblance to stucco, stone, brick, limestone, and metallic finishes, however there are additional aspects confirming that EIFS is a fiercely resilient material.

Metallic Dryvit

Why choose EIFS over metal cladding options? Insulation, installation, drainage and durability.

Although metal sidings can be an attractive option, they may prove to be a less energy efficient solution, creating thermal short-circuits across insulation and dramatically reducing effectiveness.  Metal walls are also known to conduct heat and cold very quickly, subsequently bringing the outdoor climate indoors.[1] In fact, the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors notes that, “Compared with non-metal sidings, steel easily transfers heat between the living area and the exterior, which will elevate energy costs and indoor temperature regulation.” [2] With superior insulating properties, EIFS acts as a high-performing barrier between building occupants and climate conditions, delivering a durable alternative with built-in insulation, regardless of the finish— same look, better features.

Thinking about cladding a building with aluminum or steel? We understand. But we know that EIFS can provide a solution that provides the look and feel of metal siding, without sacrificing cost or performance. As a complete system, including an air/water-resistive barrier and continuous insulation, EIFS reduce building operating expenses through the life of the building. EIFS is also significantly easier to install than steel siding, minimizing time and effort that might be spent precision cutting metal panels with special-order blades. In addition, adding an insulation layer to metal siding is almost always necessary to complete the building envelope while EIFS is manufactured as an all-inclusive system. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s NISTIR 7238 study, EIFS with air barriers can reduce HVAC energy consumption up to 15 percent in cooling climates and up to 40 percent in heating climates. [3]

While it is true that insulation and air/water-resistive barriers are available and can be added to metal siding for an additional cost to complete the building envelope, denting, chalking and scratching can occur during the installation process and may be another a source of unanticipated repair costs. If one section is dented from inclement weather, such as hail or strong rain, it may be difficult to color match and replace.[4] EIFS provide the same great appearance while lowering or mitigating the cost of repair.

Architects and contractors working with EIFS are confident in the ability of the cladding to withstand climate events and changes, which can be paramount depending on the location. EIFS exterior insulation reliably moves the dew point outside the drainage plane and combined with an air/water-resistive barrier, drainage EIFS are ideal for any climate. EIFS has the unique ability to look like metal while simultaneously outperforming traditional metal cladding materials.

In addition to the properties of EIFS discussed above, EIFS come in virtually limitless colors, a wide variety of textures, and can be formed into practically any shape or design. And while metal can also come in several colors, its shortcomings remain the same. EIFS can replicate materials without the weight and bulk of conventional cladding, with skilled applicators able to create a range of exterior architectural detailing that may be costly using conventional construction – cornices, arches, columns, keystones, cornerstones, special moldings, decorative accents and more.[5]

Homeowners-to-be, architects and builders are discovering how EIFS are changing the way projects are designed.

Ready to talk EIFS? We’re ready to listen.


[1] Fabral. Frequently Asked Questions. Web.

[2] Gromicko, N., Tarasenko, K. Steel Siding Inspection. the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

[3] DeLaura, M. Energy-efficient Building with EIFS. The Construction Specifier. Web.

[4] Emilio. The Pros and Cons of Metal Siding. United Home Experts. Web.

[5] Martenes, R. High Performance EIFS. Whole Building Design Guide. Web.


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