Repairs, Maintenance and Renovations
November, 4 2021 Published by Grand River Chapter
Surviving the Cold – Winter Construction: EIFS
It’s that time of year again, the days are shorter, the temperature is cooler, and construction season is finally over. Wait a minute – contractors are still working? There’s no way they should be installing EIFS in this cold, right?
Building off of last week’s article on winter construction using concrete, which can be found here https://www.cci-grc.ca/blogs/view/surviving-the-cold-winter-construction-concrete, this week we’re discussing winter installation of Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFSs).
Despite below-freezing temperatures, winter construction is possible and can be high quality when the correct precautions are taken. While there are inevitable schedule delays due to high winds, snow, and extremely cold temperatures, winter construction is feasible. We’ve outlined the risks associated with this type of work, as well as the appropriate precautionary measures that must be taken to ensure a quality repair.
Temperature and weather conditions are critical to the success of EIFS installation, often mistakenly referred to as stucco. Special attention should be given to temperature and weather conditions when completing EIFS repairs or installation. By maintaining the correct conditions during installation, issues including base/finish coat failures, improper curing, and system performance failures can be avoided.
EIFS components are usually moisture-cure products, meaning they cure through evaporation and will take longer to dry in colder temperatures. Portland cement is a common adhesive used in EIFS and in cold temperatures there is a risk of white salt deposits forming on the surface of the EIFS during curing, called efflorescence. These salt deposits are a result of the evaporation process; in colder temperatures, the water will travel to the exposed surface to evaporate, while in the warmer temperatures the water will usually evaporate within the system before it reaches the exposed surface. To install EIFS at cold temperatures, consider the following:
1. EIFS installations should never occur when the ambient or substrate temperatures are lower than 4°C, or as specified by the product manufacturer. Furthermore, both the surface and ambient temperatures should be maintained at a minimum of 5°C for 24 – 48 hours following each application to ensure curing of each component.
2. Protection and heating of the work area may be required to produce desired installation conditions; however, this is on the installer to maintain the enclosure and temperatures even through the night. Heating is accomplished by propane heaters which pose as a fire hazard if not safely installed and monitored. The enclosure needs venting to heat fresh air and release moist air, and heat should be circulated to avoid hot/cold pockets of air. The substrate may require additional heating to maintain proper installation conditions.
3. A dry storage location and protection from cold temperatures is required for all EIFS materials. It is recommended to have the materials accessible from within the work area in a separate enclosure to prevent exposure to temperature changes when the work area is opened and when more materials are needed.
We often hear that there are two seasons in Canada: winter and construction seasons. We now know that the construction season can be extended for EIFS year-round provided there are proper precautions taken. Proper quality control and third-party review are critical to protecting your investment on any construction project, and even more so if you are considering winter construction. By keeping a close eye on the forecast and taking proper precautions, winter construction can produce high-quality, long-lasting repairs.
If you’re curious about a winter installation at your property, feel free to reach out!
Shawna Smigelski, B.Sc.(Eng.), P.Eng.
Project Manager, Edison Engineers Inc.
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