When you are building the walls of a structure, you may be wondering whether or not to use some type of envelope / wrap to use to improve energy efficiency. There are many options on the market and it can be confusing determining which type is best for your project.
Actually, the answer to the question of when you should use a house wrap is simple, and that is, “always.”
In this guide, we will tell you what a house wrap it is, and why it is important for any structure. We will also go over the types of house wraps, how to install one, and some top options to consider.
What is a House Wrap?
A house wrap is also known as a “rain screen” or a “house envelope.” It is a type of water-resistant barrier that you install between your exterior sheathing and your siding or cladding. It can be made of board, paper or fabric.
It is not a vapor barrier, because it is designed to allow moisture from inside to escape, rather than trapping condensation inside your walls.
But it does prevent rain that gets under your siding from penetrating your wall cavities.
Do You Need a House Wrap? (Yes)
Your building codes may or may not dictate that you need to install a house wrap. Nevertheless, you should do so regardless, as there is absolutely no benefit in not doing so. Moreover, not installing a house wrap could seriously decrease the longevity of your home.
“But I am installing vinyl siding,” you might say, “and I heard that it is waterproof. So do I really need a house wrap?”
It is true that vinyl is waterproof, but vinyl siding is not. The reason is that there are seams in vinyl siding that can let water through. So, even though the vinyl itself may resist water, water can still penetrate your walls.
Indeed, if you get a lot of sideways rain with strong gusts of wind, it can be particularly easy for precipitation to sneak through your siding.
But if you have a house wrap underneath your vinyl siding, the water will not be able to get past that exterior weather barrier.
That means you can prevent rot and mold from taking root and compromising the structural integrity of your walls.
There is another benefit to a house wrap as well, and that is that it provides an additional layer of insulation for your home, helping you to maintain a comfortable temperature and reduce your heating and cooling costs.
So, if energy efficiency is one of your primary concerns during construction, it becomes doubly important to install a house wrap.
Types of House Wraps
Any of the following types of materials can be used to make house wraps:
- Asphalt felt, usually Type 1 felt that conforms to ASTM D 226 standards. This material is also called “tar paper.”
- Polyolefin fabric made of polyethylene or polypropylene fibers. This material is often called “plastic.”
- Grade D building paper. If you are building a structure with stucco siding, this may be the material you use for your house wrap.
- Rigid foam. Sealed rigid foam insulation board may be able to keep water out of your walls.
- Liquid WRB. One can spray or roll liquid water-resistant barriers (WRB) into place.
- WRB sheathing. It is possible to use a type of sheathing that acts as a water-resistant barrier in and of itself. Oriented strandboard (OSB) panels that have been coated and sealed can function in this manner.
How to Install a House Wrap
Generally speaking, it is not considered a particularly difficult step in construction to install house wrap before putting on siding.
But it does need to be done quickly, because if you wait too long between installing the wrap and installing the siding, it will be exposed to sunlight for longer than it should be.
The longer house wrap materials are exposed to the sun, the more they will weaken. They may even be compromised enough to let water through in spots.
Plus, if you make any mistakes during the installation process, the barrier you put in may not be able to do its job as effectively as it would otherwise.
For those reasons, it is wisest to have a contractor who is experienced with installing house wraps do the job for you.
Top House Envelope Options to Consider
Now that you know why house wrap is important and a bit about the requirements involved with installation, let’s check out some top house envelope options.
1. Tyvek Homewrap
Of the brands of home wrap on the market, the one we recommend most highly is Tyvek.
Tyvek Homewrap is a product of DuPont™. That is the same company that invented Teflon™, Kevlar®, and Mylar®.
Tyvek Homewrap is a premium product. It is not the cheapest house wrap on the market, but it is worth paying extra for if you can afford it as the quality is hard to rival.
Describing the product, the company writes, “DuPont™ Tyvek® HomeWrap® is the original house wrap, incorporating unique material science that helps keep air and water out, while letting water vapor escape.”
Benefits of Tyvek Homewrap
Here are some of the reasons to consider Tyvek Homewrap:
- A manufacturer that commands respect. DuPont manufacturers numerous proprietary materials, and has extensive experience creating rigid insulations, adhesives, weatherization products, and more. This specialized experience has given the company the expertise it needs to engineer a fantastic product that leaves most competitors behind.
- Lightweight. Tyvek Homewrap is especially lightweight. This makes it less expensive to ship, and also easier to work with. As a result, installation may also be faster and less expensive. If, by any chance, you are installing house wrap on a portable structure, it is another advantage that your home wrap will not add much to the overall weight of your home.
- Breathable. Tyvek says that its product is made of a “unique non-woven structure.” Its proprietary technology allows for excellent breathability, preventing moisture from building up inside your walls. While other house wraps are also designed to do this, Tyvek Homewrap’s performance is superior in this respect.
- Impressive protection against water. Tyvek Homewrap is great at venting moisture from inside your walls, but it is equally effective at preventing rain or other water from outdoors from penetrating your wall cavities. Once again, this is something that all house wraps are designed to do, but Tyvek Homewrap performs to top standards.
- Outstanding insulating effects. Along with keeping rain from getting through to your walls, Tyvek Homewrap has impressive wind blocking capabilities as well.
Drawbacks of Tyvek Wrap
The biggest drawback of Tyvek Homewrap is its price. It is a lot costlier than some other house wraps on the market. If you have a large structure to wrap, those extra costs could add up quickly.
Just keep in mind that such a high quality product may save you money in the long run through superior performance. So, if you can afford it, we recommend it. You don’t often get a chance for a do-over with your envelope installation. For that reason, we recommend going with the best quality brand possible. In our opinion, Tyvek is that product.
Is Tyvek Homewrap Right for You?
If you can afford Tyvek wrap material, we suggest going for it. But if you are on a tighter budget, the housewrap option below may be more suitable for your needs.
2. HomeGuard Woven Housewrap
If you want to cut your costs in half compared to using Tyvek, HomeGuard Housewrap is an excellent budget option for a water-resistant barrier.
This product is manufactured by a company called OX Engineered Products. Other products the company makes include structural insulated sheathing, roof underlayment, construction tape, and Polyiso Foam.
The company lists these attributes for HomeGuard Woven Housewrap:
• High strength microperforated woven polyolefin housewrap with 6 Month UV Resistance.
• Surpassed the ICC-ES AC38 test requirement of ten minutes when tested according to ASTM D 779.
Benefits of HomeGuard Woven Housewrap
- A trusted manufacturer. With their expertise, OX Engineered Products is up to the task of manufacturing high-quality, durable, effective house wrap.
- Vapor can escape. The woven material used to make this type of HomeGuard Housewrap allows vapor to escape, preventing the build-up of moisture inside your walls.
- Your wall cavities are protected from water and drafts. This house wrap does a good job keeping drafts and precipitation out of your walls.
- You save money. This type of house wrap is a lot less expensive than some other products, including Tyvek.
Drawbacks of HomeGuard Woven Housewrap
Even though woven materials have a long history of use as water-resistant barriers, some people prefer not to use them for this purpose.
The reason is that they are perforated, albeit on a very small scale, in order to allow vapor through.
There are some engineered woods, insulations, and other materials used in home construction nowadays that are highly sensitive to moisture.
Thus, not everybody feels comfortable using woven house wraps, and may prefer a non-perforated product.
But if you do not have these highly sensitive materials and/or you live in a relatively dry climate, this may not be a big deal to you.
Is HomeGuard Woven Housewrap Right for You?
If you want to save money on your house wrap and, as mentioned above, a woven wrap is appropriate for your structure and location, HomeGuard Woven Housewrap is a quality choice.
3. TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap
OX Engineered Products also manufactures TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap, which is the company’s answer to Tyvek.
Describing TITAN, the company writes, “TITAN is an advanced non-woven, non-perforated, Housewrap & Air Barrier material that has been engineered as a drainage material to provide superior performance while exceeding the most stringent criteria for the Building Thermal Envelope. With premium performance in air holdout and water resistance, TITAN non-perforated housewrap minimizes air intrusion and maximizes the thermal efficiency of the best designed wall systems.”
OX lists these attributes for this type of house wrap:
• Water Resistive Barrier complies with ICC Acceptance Criteria 38 (AC38) Certified Air Barrier Material which exceeds ASTM E-2178 minimum requirements. .
• Certified Drainage Material exceeds ASTM E-2273 performance requirements.
• Greater Tear Resistance & Strength than competitive products Class A Flame Spread Rating: ASTM E-84.
Benefits of TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap
- A trusted manufacturer. Once again, you are getting a product from OX Engineered Products, and this company knows what it is doing.
- A non-woven design that is similar to Tyvek. If you are concerned about perforation, you will prefer the TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap over the company’s woven product.
- You get protection against drafts and outdoor moisture while letting out vapor from inside.
Drawbacks of TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap
The main drawback we have noticed at this time with this product is simply that it seems to be a little bit harder to find than other types of house wrap, including Tyvek.
Is TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap Right for You?
If you are looking for an alternative to Tyvek that offers many of the same benefits, TITAN Drainage Non-Woven Housewrap may be a suitable option.
Wrapping Up: Protect Your Home from Moisture With a Quality House Wrap Now
Now you have our recommendations for effective house wraps to keep water and drafts from getting into your wall cavities. Any one of these products can help prevent rot and mold, extending the lifetime of your structure. At the same time, a quality house wrap will also protect your home from drafts, boosting energy efficiency.