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The Challenges and Opportunities of Exterior Air Sealing

Posted by Bruce Sullivan, Guest Columnist

Jan 29, 2020 11:36:21 AM

Ask building professionals for the best method of air sealing and you’re likely to get a wide variety of answers. Most builders, designers, and consultants have selected materials and developed methods that work for them and meet their budgets. That being said, there are three fundamental steps based on building science than can lead to superior, cost effective, air sealing.

First, identify the building’s thermal boundary. For many situations and climates, a good location for the boundary is the exterior structural sheathing. This layer of plywood or OSB on a wood-framed wall already covers the entire exterior surface of the building. Second, use easily applied sealing materials that will adhere well to the surfaces to which they are applied and will not shrink, crack, or otherwise deteriorate over time. Third, test the effectiveness of the air sealing by using a blower door test to measure leakage and to check for leaks either with a smoke stick or by feeling for drafts. Many experienced builders prefer to run the blower door test while they are air sealing, a process known as blower door directed air sealing.

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Durable Siding Options: Side By Side

Posted by Juliet Grable

Sep 28, 2015 11:49:00 AM

NOT TOO LONG AGO, if you were building a house in this country, there were only three major cladding options—brick, stucco or wood—and the choice was largely determined by your region. After World War II, aluminum siding took center stage, and in the 1980s, vinyl began its ascendancy. Today, the field has expanded. And while vinyl is still king, fiber cement is making inroads, and other cladding options are experiencing a resurgence. Wood, which inspires so many of the alternatives, makes up but a small fraction of the cladding of new homes.

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Air Barriers and Insulation: What's the Biggest Energy Saving Bang for Your Buck?

Posted by Chris Norris

Jun 5, 2015 8:58:00 AM

Citing a case study of a fluid-applied air barrier, the author argues that air barriers may be underrated in terms of their energy saving impact.

Historically, state energy codes have focused on conductive heat transfer through prescriptive R-value and U-values for building enclosure systems. Lesser focus has been place on air leakage control and air barrier requirements.

But codes requiring air barriers are starting to be adopted on a state by state basis, although they are not currently required in most states. With recent changes in energy codes, continuous insulation is now required for frame construction in at least six out of eight U.S. climate zones—while there are continuous air barrier requirements in five out of eight climate zones. But does this make sense from a building science perspective. Let's look at the energy conservation benefits of continuous air barrier systems, relative to the benefits of increased insulation.

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Techniques to Ease Fiber Cement Siding Installation

Posted by GBM Research

Aug 20, 2012 11:36:00 AM

By Charles Wardell

FIBER CEMENT SIDING has become a popular alternative to vinyl.  That's no surprise.  Fiber cement looks like wood, holds paint, and won't rot.  Termites don't eat it, and it doesn't burn.  You can even cut it with a circular saw and fasten it with regular nails.

Though not recyclable, fiber cement has a longer projected service life than vinyl, and its manufacturing process causes less enviornmental harm.  (The manufacturing of vinyl siding produces dioxin.)

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