Exterior Sheathing:
Your Home's Undercover Security Guard

You might not think much about exterior sheathing on your new home - because you'll never see it once the house is completed.

Still, it serves several purposes, and is necessary unless you choose other products to fulfill its functions. (Check your local building code to see if it is required.)

Purposes of Exterior Sheathing

  • Braces a building against wind (so it is not blown off square)
  • Acts as wall insulation
  • Allows siding to be attached to a stable material
  • Helps prevent excessive air infiltration

Sheathing Materials

Solid board sheathing used to be the norm, but is typically no longer used because of its high cost.

Plywood sheathing is commonly used on houses today.

OSB sheathing is probably the most common sheathing material used today - particularly in North America.

Both plywood and OSB emit (PF) formaldehyde from the glue used to hold the pieces of wood together. Although it is not considered to be as dangerous as the UF fumes common in interior furnishings, some sensitive people may wish to avoid it altogether.

Asphalt fiberboard, although insulating and relatively inexpensive, does not provide as much strength as the wood products, and can outgas asphalt odors.

Cardboard is also used for sheathing. Typically it is foil-faced, and if installed properly can resist wind. It's insulating value is not great.

THERMOPLY sheathing is one newcomer that is environmentally friendly. It is created from recycled newspaper and is bound together with a nontoxic adhesive (no formaldehyde ). Installation is easy and Thermoply doesn't weigh much at all. It may even lower construction costs because of reduced labor. It also recycles a product that is usually sent to landfills.

Sheathing Substitutes

If you choose to build a SIPS or Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) home, you will not need to be concerned with wall sheathing because it is built-in!

Because SIPS and ICF provide both wall sheathing AND insulation, costs may run much less than you might think.

Go from Exterior Sheathing to House Wrap

Insulation Types

House Framing

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