Far too often, I see builders and remodelers use multiple brands when they are assembling their weather-resistant barrier (WRB) systems. Just the other day, I witnessed a new construction job where I counted more than five brands of building wraps and flashing tapes on the wall. It looked like the builder was using leftover materials from previous jobs. It reminded me of a patchwork quilt and seemed unlikely to perform over time as the builder was expecting.
That project was an extreme example of course, but many trade contractors use multiple brands as a standard practice. There can be unintended consequences even with decent workmanship and good intentions. On one hand, I understand how this can happen. You don’t know what you don’t know, or so the saying goes. Until someone shares important reasons why you might want to change your approach to WRBs, it is very easy to continue on with “business as usual.”
On the other hand, we have all seen or heard of projects where water intrusion has created major damage, or in some cases created a situation where the building is at risk of imminent collapse. So why aren’t we all more focused on this phase of the construction process? Why are we creating unnecessary financial risk and potentially putting the reputation of our business on the line?
Here are some common scenarios that come to mind:
Lack of Knowledge
As I mentioned above, you don’t know what you don’t know—no matter what the topic is. I will be the first to admit that I was incredibly ignorant about the topic of WRBs until 10 years ago, and I am so glad that we at Dunn Lumber started considering building science when evaluating product options to be added to our inventory. Many of the WRB manufacturers have product specialists whose sole job is to train you or your crews for free.
Thinking Your Project Will Never Leak
Okay, let’s agree on one thing: maintaining this attitude is insanity. There are just too many variables (like subcontractors and extreme weather) that can compromise your “perfect system." As our good friend Mark LaLiberte shares when discussing window products: it’s just a matter of time until products leak, and when they do—you want to have a system installed that is designed to channel liquid and moisture away from the wall cavity.
Trying to Save Money
I struggle with this one. When you look at the total investment that goes into new construction and remodeling projects these days, it floors me that someone wouldn’t spend the small amount needed to take care of this very important detail. When clients are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on their home, investing a little more in the WRB should be a no-brainer.
What options are available? Although there continues to be some amazing product advancements in this category (such as fluid applied weather barrier systems), what if we all just committed to installing a quality WRB system on our projects? The additional investment to upgrade to a quality WRB system for the average size house is only $400-$600. Could we convey the additional benefits and peace of mind our clients will enjoy with an average investment below $600?
Notice that I mention the word “system.” This is a key point. By utilizing a system, it will provide a limited warranty for you and your client. Make sure the house wrap you choose (along with adhesive-backed flashings and any sealants) are all part of an approved system. This will help you avoid finger pointing if a challenge involving the WRB occurs on your job.
Reputable companies such as Tyvek and Fortifiber sell a full system. As mentioned, both of these companies have designated product specialists who are available to help you—free of charge.
I know these aren’t very sexy topics to discuss with customers and clients, but WRBs are important, and we should all consider working them into our presentations more often.
We will be sharing more information on this topic in Part 2 and 3 of this series. This WRB topic is always on our radar, as I am sure it is for many of you. Should you want a little support in choosing or learning about a system, or help with job site training, feel free to reach out to us for more info at email@example.com.