Installing Surveillance Cameras Into Synthetic Stucco (EIFS) Tutorial

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jul 30, 2018, 12:02pm EDT

Mounting cameras into synthetic stucco, commonly known as EIFS finishes, can be problematic

If not properly planned, EIFS/stucco can be downright impossible for installing surveillance cameras. In this note, we examine the four major methods of mounting cameras on buildings using the finish:

  • Backer Boards
  • Specialty Rooftop Mounts
  • Unistut Reinforcement
  • Specialty Hardware

Not A Simple Install Problem

Many new structures use a mixed brick/EIFS external finish. Because security integrator/installer involvement comes at the end of construction, typically integrators face short time frame to install cameras, with minimal site experience beforehand. Discovering potential problems - like camera locations with no proper mounting prep to hang them from - is something that happens at the last minute.

The image that follows depicts a characteristic example of the problem. The original surveillance plans called for cameras to be mounted on the corners of the building below. However, it soon became apparent this location would be impossible due to the problem in mounting the cameras into EIFS with no backing material to provide an anchor.

The problem often results in rather substantial revisions that move cameras to more accessible and durable locations, but those locations may be further away or at more difficult viewing angles, reducing the overall effectiveness of the system.

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A ****** ****

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The ********

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Backer ******

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Rooftop ******

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Parapet *****

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Other **** ******

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Braces *** ********

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Specialty ******** 

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***** **** ******** ** easy ** *******, *** cost *** *** ** three ******** ***** *** be $** ** ****, and *** ***** ******* above ***** ** **** with **** ******* ******* and **** *** ****.

Comments (20)

If the wall behind the exterior camera location is available, the simple solution is to sendwhich it with a palywood and use very long screws 

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Thanks! In your experience, how often are EIFS locations inaccessible to plywood backing?  10% of the time?  More/less?

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You can plan the installation that the other indoor side highet will be close to the indoor ceiling then to be creativ how to blend the plywood with interior finish 

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90% inaccessible , most have a large hollow area behind the EIFS.

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Yes, though without a spacer installed between the object and the backer you run the risk of compressing the exterior finish. At least most cameras are lightweight. I have run into houses with a plywood backer but most have been greenboard or similar material that require a backing material to be installed.

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Thanks Brian, this is quite helpful!

Another type of siding to discuss, which can pose some challenges, is the Steel Insulated Panel (SIP).  A few months ago I finished an install where a previous company simply used sheet metal screws to secure their single camera.  It was loose when I removed it and the wiring hole was horribly done, due to improper selection of drill bits, and was jagged with no insulator. I was hired to install 12 cameras and a 3 partition burglar alarm system.  The building was a large warehouse completely sided in SIP.

A self tapping sheet metal screw in this thin gauge steel will have little to no holding strength.  Using long bolts alone will create a dent, distort or collapse the insulated panel when torqued.  The electrician who installed outdoor lighting used a combination of EMT and steel boxes to secure lighting fixtures, but created some distortion and collapse when tightening.

I had to install 5 outdoor cameras and an outdoor bell/box.  I used 18" lengths of Unistrut on the inside, long bolts 1/4 20's, sleeved with short lengths of 1/2" EMT, and since I was working alone, some rivet nuts to secure the Unistrut to help me line up the holes and keep the bolts in place while I hung the boxes on the exterior.  This way I could torque everything down without distorting the panel.   

I drilled from outside all the way through the inside panel for the mounting holes, with a drill bit slightly bigger than the mounting bolts. It is highly recommended to use a drill guide to make your holes straight through rather than off center. Then inside, using a step bit, I enlarged the mounting holes in the interior panel only to accommodate the 1/2" EMT sleeve.  Then I attached the Unistrut on the inside panel, securing the Unistrut with rivet nuts, and fed my long bolts from inside to the outside.  The long bolts were locked in place by using Unistrut spring inserts.  The devices mounted outside would then line up with the 1/4 20 bolt protruding through the exterior panel and, finally, receive a lock washer and nut.  Now tightening everything down makes for a strong installation with no panel collapse or distortion.

Step bits in sheet metal make a very clean hole when you need to drill a large hole for wiring and a snap in insulator should be used when going through sheet metal.  Also, some silicone should be used on the outside to prevent water infiltration.

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That's interesting.  Thanks for the detail!

Here's an example of SIP:

In my part of the country, uninsultated panels are common, ie 'R-panel' or similar:

I think the issues in mounting surface devices are similar - pullout, denting/deforming  and tearing can drive you mad!

The unistrut solution you describe is a good one!  How long did the process take you?  

Also - do those spring inserts require tightening later on in maintenance, or do they hold tight on a permanent basis?

 

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I think one hour per camera is a safe estimate, and that's after running the wire to the general location.  I work with ladders, not scissor lifts, so setup, both inside and outside, must be factored in the time.  Once I did the first one, I think I shaved a little time off the rest.

I used cone nuts for the Unistrut, image below.  I've never used these before, so I don't know what type of maintenance they might need in the future.  Once the cone nut is installed onto the Unistrut, I thread my long bolts through the cone nut so that the bolt goes from inside the building to the outside.   When outside the building you'll see the bolt protruding through as if it's just a stud.  I line up and hang my device onto the studs, then using a lock washer and nut, I secure the device.  I would imagine that using a lock washer under the nut will prevent the bolt from backing out.  I'm not anticipating any maintenance on this setup, but in the course of routine maintenance of the system, should I notice something loosening, I'll check the rest of them.  I think the spring of the cone nut might act as a locking mechanism for the bolts as well.

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Another type of spring insert can be used to hold Unistrut nuts in place in a channel before you thread bolts into them. We used a lot of these in building experiment support equipment while I was in graduate school.

Unistrut Spring Nut

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Slammer solution: 3/8” pvc, length cut to width of EIFS, insert flush to face, use caulk to seal, use a 3 inch bolt into the pvc, mount on bolt.

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What you describe is not a 'slammer' solution in as much as it is cheap or sloppy, but it could void the warranty/ not be an approved modification to the material.

If I understand right, the whole 'insert flush to face' process means pounding a section of PVC pipe into the wall.  Much easier to think about installing cleanly than actually doing.

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What you describe is not a 'slammer' solution in as much as it is cheap or sloppy...

Disagree.  It’s the very epitome of slammage.

For what is a “slammer solution” if not inexpensive and inartful?

but it could void the warranty/ not be an approved modification to the material.

And since when do slammers care about “approved modifications”?

To quote the slammer’s motto:

”Your warranty ain’t up ‘til the trunk lid comes down...”

;)

 

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”Your warranty ain’t up ‘til the trunk lid comes down...”

Or, "It's guaranteed as long as it lasts."

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Actually it a concrete warranty which is offered. The installation is under warranty until I am off the concrete.

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note: the method described here involves inserting a PVC pipe as a bushing through the wall (think: giant drywall anchor) and inserting a threaded bolt through it as a threaded stud to mount cameras/boxes to.

It really isn't a terrible idea, but requires a fair amount of tradeskill on behalf of the installer to put in right and without making a big mess inside the layers of EIFS.

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And here I thought the correct answers was to just put more screws into it.

 

 

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Mounting cameras into synthetic stucco, commonly known as EIFS finishes can be problematic...

EIFS aka Extremely Irritating Fake Stucco

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I have a question about the school project from the last class. Back in the day, say 25 years ago the alarm and or camera installers were never really given an allotted number of days to come in and pre wire and prepare the camera mounting system. AKA as prewire stage. They at best were lucky to be able to jump in with the electricians at the last minute . I assumed that with technology expansion over the last 25 years there would have been a shift in the thinking of builders and contractors to insist that the low voltage contractors be given amble time to prewire, prep and stage all required wiring and piping plywood ect. Failure to properly address and budget for ALL stages of the prewire work is a serious mistake and can be a major pain that is not necessary. I know many of the remodel projects that the city has done recently their has been little or no consideration to the low voltage requirements. So, the question is Have things changed ? I'm curious do you have any classes showing the ends and outs of a good prewire camera install . Thanks

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So, the question is Have things changed ?

No. :(

Structured cabling tends to be fairly recognized, and when electricians pull low voltage/network cabling the work tends to be properly scheduled.

However, in many cases the security vendors are hired by the building owner, not the GC or General Contractor, so the work they are doing isn't officially 'new construction' related, but 'work by owner' before the owner actually takes possession of the building.

I'm curious do you have any classes showing the ends and outs of a good prewire camera install .

No, we do not have this. However, it is an interesting idea. Given all the variables in construction, it might be difficult to put together, but we will discuss it internally for sure.

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I HATE this stuff. Thankfully it seems quite rare in my area and I only ever encountered it once, and it was a big surprise. When I was doing telco installs I had to service a house which had been renovated and this EIFS crap applied, however the telco drop was on the opposite side of the house from the NID now so an external wrap was required. I had never seen or heard of EIFS before and assumed I was drilling into stucco. Sure would have been nice if the homeowner had informed me.

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