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Exterior Wall Construction

by Don Vandervort, © HomeTips

Keeping nature’s extremes at bay is no small task. Exterior walls must reject rain, wind, and cold in the winter and block excess heat in the summer. To do this, they must be well insulated and designed to be leak-free. A variety of siding systems has been created to accomplish these tasks.

exterior walls construction diagramMany different kinds of sidings are used on houses: clapboard and similar wood sidings; sheet sidings made of plywood, hardboard, or oriented-strand board (OSB); synthetics such as vinyl, aluminum, and steel; wood shingles; masonry veneers; and stucco.

In addition to providing a barrier to the elements, exterior house walls are designed to hold up a house. With few exceptions, house walls are framed with wooden wall studs and then clad with some type of siding system. This method provides the necessary strength and allows many options for appearance.

Though many older homes don’t have insulated walls, exterior walls of most homes built since 1970 are insulated. Insulation may be located in the cavities between walls studs or may be applied as rigid board panels over the top of—or instead of—the sheathing that goes beneath the exterior siding.

House wrap, a relatively new material, significantly reduces heat loss caused by air infiltration through walls. The material, sold in 12-foot-wide rolls, is stretched over sheathing or wall studs and stapled or nailed in place. Because it is made from spun-bonded or woven polymers, it rejects water and wind but doesn’t trap indoor humidity in walls.

Building paper—a thick, black, asphalt-treated felt paper—provides a protective barrier between sheathing and sidings of wood, aluminum, vinyl, steel, or masonry. It is applied horizontally across a wall, from the bottom up. Each 36- to 40-inch-wide layer overlaps the one below by about 2 inches.

Furring strips, a grid work of 1 by 2s or 1 by 3s, provides a flat nailing base for some types of siding. Furring is required for nearly all vertical siding patterns.

To get free recommendations for top-rated local contractors, call the most reliable and comprehensive referral service, HomeAdvisor, at 866-350-2983 (toll free).

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