Textured acrylic surfacing systems
September 29, 2004

Textured acrylic surfacing systems provide an appearance that has become extremely popular in commercial and residential construction during the past 30 years. They are the most widely used cladding option in retail, office, hotel and amusement construction, and they rank near the top as a choice for medical facilities, dormitories and custom homes. They can be used just about everywhere: in new construction and renovation, low rise and high rises, in the tropics, and in the Arctic. Yet very few people understand the significant difference between then and conventional stucco.
Acrylic surfacing systems are comprised of an acrylic / portland cement base coat, reinforcing fiberglass mesh and an all acrylic finish. The acrylic content of the base coat, coupled with the embedded reinforcing mesh, create a flexible, crack and impact-resistant, vapor-permeable weather barrier the represents a significant improvement when compared with the performance of cement stucco. The acrylic systems, unlike their stucco ancestors, do not require expansion joints when applied over the surface of ICFs.
Commonly associated with exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS, sometimes referred to as synthetic stucco), acrylic surfacing systems provide architects and designers with the most efficient and economical means for adding shapes and details to a project design. Quoins, archways, columns, cornices, keystones and other EPS shapes easily attach to ICF forms as integral parts of an acrylic surfacing system.
The appearance of most acrylic finishes, reminiscent of stucco, is their strongest selling point. Acrylic finishes are offered in a variety of textures that are either uniformly aggregated with fine, medium or course stones, or riled or swilled. Standard color palettes of suppliers range from adequate to extensive. In addition, the manufacturers and their distributors custom formulate a match to any color imaginable.
Several specialty finishes based upon acrylic chemistry offer appearances that don't resemble stucco in the slightest. Those incorporating fine glass beads, reflective mica chips or replicating the look of natural stone can be found in glamorous resort decors, in upscale shopping centers, movie sets, exhibits, hotel lobbies or other public gathering spots. Acrylic finishes with metallic pigments yield a look that is remarkably similar to expensive metal panels at a fraction of the cost.
Today's acrylic finishes deliver the optimum combination of crack-resistant flexibility and dirt resistance. They don't peel, flake or chip, and are fade and abrasive resistant. In cases where algae and mildew represent a constant challenge to any cladding, manufacturers can offer additives that improve the resistance to these growths. Each manufacturer has instructions for the surface of the finish, but in general cleaning a dirty acrylic finish can be accomplished with light power washing using a solution of detergent and bleach.
Acrylic surfacing systems are probably the easiest of all cladding option to apply over ICFs. Detailing window and terminations at grade or where substrates change might require a review by and recommendations from the surfacing system manufacturer, but in general the application over the surface of an ICF is simple and quick.
Application over ICF is straightforward to the applicator who is skilled in the use of a hawk and trowel. A contractor holding current certification from an EIFS manufacturer should possess the skills to install the surfacing system over ICFs. The process is completed in as few as two steps. First the base coat is spread over the wall surface. Immediately, while the base coat is wet, 38-inch wide strips of reinforcing mesh are pressed into the base coat and the surface is smoothed out to completely cover the mesh. This reinforcement is required over the entire surface of the wall. An additional layer of mesh must reinforce all inside and outside corners. In cases where added impact resistance is desired, a layer of high impact mesh is embedded in the base coat prior to the application of the standard reinforcing mesh.
After the base coat has dried for approximately 24 hours, the finish coat can be applied. Sometimes a primer tinted to the color of the finish will be applied over the base coat prior to improve the intensity of the finish color and eliminate any chance of efflorescence.
ICFs clad with acrylic surfacing systems are a perfect combination offering unlimited design flexibility, the look people want, low maintenance requirements, and reduced energy costs.