Thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS) - the complete solution for thermal insulation

Thermal insulation composite systems (ETICS) are the complete solution for the external insulation of facades. Their components - insulating layer and plaster - are coordinated. The systems are suitable for many buildings, as long as the façade can and should be changed. They allow a very efficient thermal insulation. As insulating materials are numerous materials - including natural insulating materials - to choose from.

The beginnings of ETICS are inextricably linked to the increasing popularity of BASF's synthetic EPS / Styrofoam insulation. The first corresponding system was installed in Berlin in 1957. In the 1960s, ETICS gradually gained in importance. The early ETICS were still a long way from today's thermal insulation standards, for example, the former Dämmstoffdicken amounted to 20 to 50 millimeters. Nevertheless, the systems brought about an energy saving that has not been achieved so far, which has played an increasingly important role since the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 as a requirement for the construction industry. On November 1, 1977, the first Federal German Heat Insulation Ordinance came into force. In 2002, it was replaced by the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) together with the previous heating system ordinance. ETICS, as well as other thermal insulation methods, have been continuously upgraded in this process.

Table 1: m2 costs for ETICS and other forms of facade external insulation

Shape of the external insulationCost per m2
EIFS100 - 150 euros
Insulating clinker (special form of a ETICS)170 euros
Ventilated curtain wall170 - 300 euros

What are ETICS?

ETICS are integrated systems with coordinated building materials for external insulation of the facade of buildings. The insulation material used in each case is the heart of the overall system, according to which the plaster and mortar used and the thickness of the plaster layer. In addition, the manufacturers supply the complete equipment for mounting and mounting the systems.

High building law requirements for the entire system

Insulation materials used in a ETICS must meet high requirements with regard to their material properties. In addition to their thermal insulation performance, the fire behavior plays an important role here, including EPS / Styrofoam has been repeatedly criticized because of its alleged lack of fire safety. However, this topic can be considered to have been largely completed: All thermal insulation materials must at least meet the requirements of building material classes B2 / E and may therefore be at most normally flammable and flammable, if necessary by adding flame retardants. If the building is to be subject to increased fire protection requirements, insulation materials class A1 (non-combustible / non-flammable) or A2 (low proportion of flammable materials) may be considered, including all mineral insulation materials.

Individual examination and approval of the systems

ETICS are tested by the German Institute for Construction Technology and approved on an individual basis. There is no uniform and binding standardization for the systems, so each manufacturer develops his own system. The precondition for the building permit of ETICS is that all components - insulation, plaster, mortar, adhesive, reinforcements and assembly elements are supplied by the same manufacturer. If this condition is not fulfilled, it is in effect an illegal construction measure. The approval of a ETICS also regulates the entire process of its application on the facade. Even slight deviations from the approval content constitute a defect from a building law perspective.

Apply ETICS in-house?

Many builders are interested in providing as much of the construction work as their own contribution. When using an ETICS, this step is generally excluded for greater cost efficiency. The selection of the right system requires as well as its installation expertise. As a rule, the construction work is carried out by plasterers.

Costs for a ETICS

With regard to the required investments, ETICS are in the middle of the cost of external facade insulation. Depending on the construction and insulation material, the m2 price for the systems varies between 100 and 150 euros; on average, around 120 euros per m2 are due. By comparison, a ventilated curtain wall costs between € 170 and € 300 per m2, while for clinker clinker - a special type of ETICS, which is particularly suitable for the energy-efficient renovation of older houses - costs of € 170.00 are incurred.

Manufacturer of ETICS

ETICS are offered by numerous German and European building material producers, including Brillux, the mineral wool manufacturer Rockwool, Homatherm, IsoBouw and Pavatex.

Tips & Tricks

For ETICS, there is no binding standardization, the systems must be approved by the building inspectorate on an individual basis. All components of an ETICS must come from a single manufacturer. If this requirement is not met, the installation of the system is illegal from a building law perspective.

Construction of a ETICS

The systems are suitable for both new construction and renovation. They consist of several components. The insulation boards are laid on the facade masonry, their attachment takes place depending on the structural conditions with adhesives, dowels or rails. In addition, combinations of these fastening variants are possible. On the insulation there is a 1.5 to 5 mm thick reinforcement layer made of a special reinforcing mortar with integrated glass fiber fabric. The fabric spreads the façade tension flat and thus prevents cracks in the plaster caused by temperature differences between the outer facade cover and the substrate. The completion of the system is the external plaster.

When is which mounting option used?

The fixation of a ETICS depends on which load has to cope with the construction due to the weight of the insulation material. Light insulation boards with a maximum weight of 10 kg / m2 are glued directly to the outside wall - depending on the system, the surface area of ​​the gluing should be between 40 and 100 percent. Dowels are common especially in regions with high wind load and corresponding weather conditions, from a certain building height, they are required by building regulations. For ETICS insulation of old buildings, a dual solution - the combination of bonding and pegging - is often necessary for structural reasons. Also ETICS made of mineral insulating materials in larger formats and with a corresponding weight are usually both bonded and pegged. Rail systems find - also due to their relatively higher price - almost exclusively on very uneven ground use. On a bond can be completely omitted here.

Upper plasters for ETICS

The exterior plaster of a ETICS may consist of inorganic / mineral or organic materials. The former includes lime plaster, lime cement plaster and lime cement lightweight plaster, organic plaster, for example, products based on silicate or synthetic resin. For highly diffusion-open ETICS with natural insulating materials, clay plasters are also suitable.

In the case of mineral plasters or loam, structural-physical as well as ecological advantages come into play. If mineral plasters are used, textured plasters are usually the first choice because they do not require painting and offer good protection against moisture effects - such as algae formation. The higher density of these materials results in a better heat storage capacity, which among other things prevents the cooling of the outer insulation at night and thus the formation of condensation. Overall, mineral plasters and clay provide a significantly better moisture balance of the outer walls. Its higher pH compared to organic building materials reduces the risk of algae growth and fungal infestation.


For both organic and mineral plasters - with the exception of textured plaster - a unique leveling coat is recommended. It protects against harmless weathering phenomena, prevents color changes in colored plaster and improves resistance to algae attack and fungi. For this purpose, use is made of dispersion silicate or silicone resin paints. When using mineral insulation and natural insulating materials, it is important that the coating does not destroy the diffusion openness of the system.

Special building physics aspects

As with other types of insulation, it is imperative to avoid condensation in the wall and / or the insulating layer of ETICS. This is achieved, among other things, when the thermal insulation capacity becomes stronger towards the outside, whereas the water vapor diffusion resistance decreases.

Since various materials - insulation layer and exterior plaster - meet in a ETICS, different coefficients of thermal expansion (expansion coefficients) must be taken into account in order to avoid stress cracks.

EIFS insulation materials

The vast majority of insulation materials are also suitable for ETICS. The decisive factor is whether it can be used in the form of insulation boards with sufficient material strength. For example, hemp insulation for this reason can not be used for ETICS.

For a long time, ETICS were mainly offered as EPS / Styrofoam insulation systems. Alternatively, the highly permeable calcium silicate boards were used for old building renovation. In the meantime, the range of possibilities has expanded considerably. Especially mineral wool - stone and glass wool - are a popular insulation material for modern ETICS. For the most natural insulation solutions, wood fiber boards are often integrated into the systems.

Table 2: Selected insulation materials for ETICS

insulationThermal conductivity (W / mK)Minimum insulation thickness (cm)Cost / m2 (EUR)
EPS / Styrofoam0,035 – 0,045145 – 20
rock wool0,035 – 0,0401410 – 20
glass wool0,032 – 0,0401410 – 20
wood fiber0,04 – 0,0551840 – 50
calcium silicate0,0652080

Advantages of ETICS

  • Effective insulation
  • High energy saving potential
  • Protection of the building fabric
  • Good to very good heat protection
  • Added value of the building.

Disadvantages of ETICS

  • Relatively high investment costs: With regard to the costs for an ETICS, in particular, the preparation work - scaffolding, preparation of the facade, knocking off the old plaster - have an effect. Added to this is the need for high quality materials for the insulating layer and the plaster. The financial outlay for a ETICS can be significantly reduced if its assembly is combined with an already required facade renovation. In addition, the larger the surfaces to be insulated, the more economical the costs.
  • Perfect design: A ETICS requires the utmost care in the design, in addition to the installation of the system are also the connecting work - for example, on windows, doors or line breakthroughs - of importance. Achieving an optimal moisture balance of the outer wall also requires very solid technical expertise.
  • Algae formation: Although this does not affect the condition of the building, it does affect the visual appearance of the house. Sufficient roof overhangs as well as correctly connected window sills are particularly important for a ETICS. Hydrophilic (moisture-absorbing) mineral plasters have a preventive effect.
  • Woodpecker holes: Woodpecker holes can lead to the formation of thermal bridges, but can be repaired quickly and easily by a specialist craftsman.

When are ETICS unsuitable?

ETICS are particularly suitable for the thermal insulation of large-scale facades. Limits of their uses are always given if the outer facade of the building should not be changed. Therefore, the systems are not suitable for thermal insulation of listed buildings.

Tips & Tricks

Like any other form of thermal insulation, ETICS can be publicly funded by KfW grants or KfW loans, provided that their insulation performance falls below the minimum requirements of the EnEV 2014 - a heat transfer coefficient (U-value) of 0.24 W / m2K. Prerequisites for the support are an application before the start of the construction work as well as the opinion of a professional energy consultant, who usually also handles the application.

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