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IN DEPTH: Housewrap and Insulation

Dealer Role

For LBM dealers, it’s essential to understand these systems and how they work together, their installation requirements, and how they meet evolving building codes—not to mention the importance of a high-performance building envelope overall.

“They really need to push the fact that we know that keeping the wall structure dry is critical to the structural stability of the entire home,” says Tennison. “Make sure people understand it’s not a time-consuming thing they have to do for code, but rather an integral part of maintaining a structure’s integrity.”

Thomas says: “The technology is changing: How do we get a builder on and off a project as fast as possible with no callbacks? Builders and contractors look every day for those solutions, and the dealers that provide those answers will lead in their marketplace.”

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Doing so requires dealers to be intimately familiar with local and national energy codes as well as the installation methods and preferences of customers.

TamlynWrapTamlynWrap™ drainable housewrap from Tamlyn features a unique design that the company says removes at least 100 times more bulk water from a wall versus standard housewraps. This is achieved through the gap created by 1.5 mm spacers bonded to a high performance housewrap, which is engineered to provide a true drainage space between the sheathing and cladding material.

“It’s important to be aware of the code requirements, specifically the energy code requirements related to the exterior insulation category. They’re changing rapidly, especially in Northern climate zones,” says Allen Sealock, Huber’s product director for ZIP System. “And then, they have to have an awareness of what products are available. Like our sheathing—it provides multiple functions in one. Being able to articulate the benefits of such a product to customers is important.”

Dealers should work closely with manufacturers to understand installation procedures for their products and how they work with other materials, and they should forward installation updates and revisions to customers. “Dealers are the first line of contact with installers,” Yount says. “We have instructions, videos, on-site training, and a variety of programs, but our dealers are a critical part of passing along the latest building science information to the customers. And for the contractors, the LBM dealers are the ones they trust most, so when they hear it from the dealer it carries a lot more weight.”

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“Be engaged with your manufacturing partners,” says Winslow. “As you engage with your customers on the front lines, we want to make sure you are equipped with the knowledge, tools, and information you need.” CertainTeed, for example, offers a number of resources to help drive sales, such as marketing and advertising support, selling tools, field and technical support— including troubleshooting apps for Insulsafe SP blowing insulation and CertaSpray SPF—training and education, and a newly launched Insulation Selector Tool.

Perhaps the most important thing for dealers to keep in mind is that building envelopes—and the products within them—are a system. And that means retailers can’t simply sell a random hodge-podge of housewraps, sealants, flashing, and insulation. “By picking and pulling pieces from a variety of manufacturers, no one person is able to evaluate that system as a whole,” to make sure they work well, are compatible, and adhere to one another, says Yount.

“It’s important for dealers to help the builder understand that a true system is more than a singular product, and that a high-performance wall is more than just a feature, it’s also a marketable benefit to homebuyers,” says Anderson. “Owens Corning can assist dealers in having this conversation with builders, as well as how builders can sell the benefits of high-performance walls through to potential buyers.”

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WeatherSmart Drainable housewrapWeatherSmart Drainable housewrap from Fortifiber offers 95% drainage efficiency. It is made with a spunbond polypropylene fabric with a non-perforated breathable barrier layer, resulting in a reliable air barrier that is described as durable and UV stable.

“Air-sealing is really an area that we are seeing an ever increasing need for products, and more importantly, integrated systems from the outside of the wall all the way to the inside,” says Winslow. “It is about controlling the air—keep the inside air in and the outside air out. And in order to effectively control the air, a builder needs to incorporate not only an exterior air barrier strategy, but also an interior one.”

Spray polyurethane foam can be used to address challenging details, such as rim joists, Winslow continues. It can also be utilized as a full-cavity solution or in conditioned attic assemblies where mechanical equipment may be housed. Air-tight drywall, window foam sealants, and caulk and seal packages can also be great solutions to address a variety of details from the inside. “Newer, more-advanced approaches also include using a smart vapor retarder, such as MemBrain, installed as a continuous air barrier with tapes and sealants, or you could utilize a similar system like SmartBatt with Tape, that is integrated with batt insulation that can be simply taped to tackle air, moisture, and heat in one application.”

Code Changes

That need for knowledge includes staying up on codes, which are continually advancing to increase efficiencies— and decrease air and water penetration. Though some states lag in adopting the most current versions of the IRC, others are going beyond. California, for example, will require all new homes to be net-zero by 2020.

“Code updates and changes continue to improve the overall performance of buildings,” says Thomas. “On Sept. 1 of this year the state of Texas implemented improved building performance standards measured by improved air exchange rates. In 2018 California will adopt a Continuous Insulation (CI) standard for new residential construction. These and similar updates continue to improve performance; nevertheless, it’s important to remember that codes are the bare minimum requirements. There are builders in every market that utilize best practices and building science to exceed code requirements on every structure they assemble.”

One of the code changes impacting this category within recent versions of the International Energy Conservation Code is the requirement for R-20 or R-13+5 wall assemblies in some climate zones. The former typically calls for assemblies using 2×6 wall construction, which allows for more insulation, while the latter requires continuous insulation, such as foam board, on the outside.

Owen's Corning's Foamular XPSOwen’s Corning’s Foamular XPS continuous insulation products, seen here on Ron Davis Custom Homes, come in a range of sizes, thicknesses, and edges. The rigid foam board offers an insulation value of R-5 per inch of thickness.

Also new is a requirement in some areas for fewer air changes per hour (ACH). In Dallas, for example, new homes must have 3 ACH; as an alternative, builders can have 4 ACH plus R-3 insulation on the outside. Owens Corning has been working with dealers in Dallas to educate builders on how to accommodate those requirements with current products and practices, with particular focus on systems. One way builders there are meeting requirements is by combining Foamular continuous insulation products, foam gaskets, and tape alongside housewrap to ensure homes have the right air changes per hour and thermal efficiency.

“Lumberyards are in a good position to provide that information, and to know what offerings manufacturers have to reach the new energy efficiency goals,” says Anderson. “Builders are looking for dealers who can provide them with solutions to meet the requirements in their market.”

“Builders are reaching out to HERS raters to answer questions,” he adds. “But if a dealer can translate the solutions that the manufacturer has, they can become a trusted resource to builders as a source for code knowledge and practical product solutions as codes and code compliance become more complex.”

Just as the past few years have brought significant changes, expect the same in the near future. “Greater air sealing requirements are going to continue to grow within the code,” says Yount, “which will push new thinking around installation procedures and detailing to make sure we’re really paying attention to every little seam and connection in the building envelope. Dealers are going to need to know how to recommend these systems and how to specify full systems that will meet these changing building codes.”

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