Plenty of homeowners start their siding research looking for the difference between stucco and vinyl siding. If having discounted vinyl you are now looking to learn more about stucco then your next step is to compare traditional stucco with EIFS synthetic stucco. So let’s dive in…
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STUCCO AND EIFS?
The layers used in building up the surface is the primary difference. Stucco is made with Portland cement and lime, natural materials that produce something like concrete – a hard, non-flexible siding. These materials allow the wall to “breathe,” so that moisture doesn’t get trapped in the wall and cause rot.
EIFS are built with synthetic materials including a layer of foam insulation and acrylic-based layers of material that cure to be waterproof and flexible. The result is a durable wall that improves your home’s energy efficiency. The downside is that synthetic materials trap moisture – they don’t breathe – and a drainage system must be integrated into the wall. If that fails, then trapped moisture will create significant wall damage.
Keep weight in mind too. Traditional stucco is 5 times heavier than synthetic EIFS systems. On most homes, that won’t be a problem. But you should consult an engineer to determine if your home can hold the extra weight or if footings must be enlarged to bear the 10 pound per square foot weight of stucco – which is similar in weight to brick and cut stone siding.
While EIFs cost up to 20% more, you might find that given your home’s construction and climate, one material is a clear “best choice,” which relegates cost to a second-level consideration. When either option can be successfully used on your home, traditional stucco is more affordable.
WHATS IS STUCCO?
Traditional stucco is also called hard coat stucco, classic stucco and cement stucco.
It starts with a waterproof barrier on the home’s sheathing. This is followed by metal lath and a scratch/base coat, brown coat and finish coat.
>Metal lath – a steel or stainless steel mesh, which comes in a variety of forms
>Scratch or base layer of stucco, roughly 3/8” thick, that is pressed into the metal lath for a very secure hold. It is scarified, or scratched, to create grooves that the next layer can sink into and bond with
>Second coat, aka brown coat though the origin of the name is unclear, is applied and smoothed with a trowel, also 3/8”
>Finish coat is a thin, 1/8”, coat of stucco applied and finished to your preference, which can be smooth or textured in a variety of ways. It can also be colored.
WHAT IS AN EIFS?
An EIFS is an Exterior Insulation and Finish System. You might also see this siding type called acrylic stucco or elastomeric stucco.
Water-resistant barrier, like Tyvek, is used to cover the wood sheathing of the home. The additional layers are:
>Rigid foam insulation board
>Wire lath 3/8” layer of acrylic stucco base
1/8” topcoat, often colored, and textured to your preference
It’s worth mentioning here that which ever type of stucco you choose you will have a variety of different stucco texture options to choose from.
COST OF STUCCO VS EIFS
This section includes the total cost of stucco vs EIFS for materials and labor. This is what most homeowners want to know, since neither of these materials see a lot of DIY installation. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done – traditional stucco is more DIY-friendly than synthetic systems – but it rarely is.
Low: $8.00 for stucco vs $8.50 for EIFS
Average: $9.50 for stucco vs $11.00 for EIFs
High: $10.50 for stucco vs $12.50 for EIFs
The total cost to install stucco is $8.00 to $10.50 per square foot – materials and labor.
The total cost of EIFS synthetic stucco is $8.50 to $12.50 per square foot, so about the same on the low end when the walls are in good condition and prep is minimal, but a little higher on the upper end when wall prep is more involved and/or premium acrylic material is used.
Labor Cost Differences
We’ve applied stucco DIY, and the work and results can be very rewarding. Plus, there’s money to be saved in doing it yourself.
But not with EIFS.
Our recommendation is to have a licensed and insured – and experienced – contractor install EIFS. Why? Mostly because these exterior wall systems have to be installed properly to
1). Prevent water penetration,
2). Allow drainage of water that inevitably gets into the wall structure.
If the wall fails in either regard, you could have serious mold and rot issues. The stories are legion of improperly installed EIFS causing nightmarish damage. Techniques and systems have been improved, but the threat of moisture problems hasn’t been totally eliminated.
Having said that, the labor cost to install EIFS is higher.
Labor cost for stucco: $2.50 to $4.00 per square foot
Labor cost for EIFS: $4.50 to $7.50 per square foot
Expect both systems to last indefinitely with maintenance and timely repairs as needed.
Stucco will begin showing its age around 35 or 40 years – and a few hairline or deeper cracks might need to be repaired. This will necessitate painting the entire wall section or side of the home to hide the repairs.
EIFS look better longer when the material is installed correctly. You won’t have need for major repairs for 40-50 years. The waterproof exterior doesn’t permit the cracking that comes with freeze cycles.
It’s about the same for both materials. You’ll need to wash it as needed. Power washing is not recommended for either material because it can force water into cracks where it can create mold, rot and other damages.
And drilling into EIFS stucco is a bad idea because any penetration can be a place for water to enter.
Synthetic stucco – EIFS – tend to expand and can even warp in extreme heat. While rare, it certainly isn’t a problem you want. Standard stucco won’t be damaged by high temperature, so it’s an ideal siding for hot climates.
But extreme cold is harder on classic stucco because moisture in small cracks will freeze and expand, making the cracks larger. Repeated freeze/thaw cycles can lead to the gradual disintegration of the material.
Neither are ecofriendly. Portland cement used in traditional stucco takes a lot of energy to mine and produce. And acrylic stucco in EIFS is a petroleum product.
For something environmentally friendly, choose genuine wood siding, stone or stone veneer.
ROI – RESALE VALUE
There is little difference in the resale value of EIFS and stucco as long as the siding is in good condition. So, be sure to choose the right material for your climate – something an experienced installer can help you decide.
The best ROI is realized where these siding options are common. If EIFS and stucco are rare where you live, then consider something more commonly found in your neighborhood.