EIFS over brick: Should you do it?

 EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) is commonly used in new construction. But when it comes to retrofits, you might hesitate. Is it possible to install EIFS over the outside of a brick building or a brick veneer?

What exactly is EIFS?

When you’re debating EIFS for a building, it’s important to understand exactly what it is and isn’t.

EIFS is an insulating system that goes over the outside of a building and increases its R-value. It’s not a term for every outdoor insulation system, nor is it another term for stucco as you might commonly hear. It’s a full system, and it has to be installed according to the manufacturer specifications to work correctly.

Those specifications are different for every single manufacturer. EIFS is a catchall term, not a specific manufacturer’s trademark. Companies from Dryvit to BASF have their own systems, and each one varies in installation details.

Installation technique matters, too. Many older EIFS installations ran into trouble because they trapped moisture, which led to long-term issues with mold growth and leaking. That led to costly lawsuits and repair jobs. Newer EIFS doesn’t have that issue, as today’s version allows water to escape through drainage channels.

EIFS is a system that allows you to get great insulation and a durable, beautiful coating for the outside of the building if properly installed. It isn’t stucco, and it isn’t something you need to beware of for moisture problems in most cases these days.

Proper installation is key

So can you install EIFS over brick?

You can indeed. EIFS is only as good as the installation though, so be sure the install is done properly.

First, make sure that if the brick is a veneer, it’s free of efflorescence (that white, chalky stuff on old bricks). You might need to wire brush the brick to make sure it’s clean. The masonry has to be in good condition—you can’t put EIFS over the crumbling exterior of your old building and expect your problems with the masonry to go away. If anything, you’ll be worse off.

Once the EIFS is installed, you need to make plans for regular inspections. If the EIFS does develop holes or cracks, it can be a real problem, especially if there’s masonry behind it.

So, can you install EIFS over brick? Sure. Just make sure you’re using a good installer and you’ve done the homework.