I'm currently in the process of replacing all the siding on my 1940s home. It was originally wood dutch-lap and that was covered with felt paper and asbestos siding. I'm taking all the siding off, repairing what I can, insulating, and installing Hardie siding. I'm at the point of beginning to consider what to put under the siding, specifically as a vapor barrier.

I plan to add OSB of some sort, rather than just nailing the siding to the studs. The house needs a bit of structural help, and I think it'd make installation easier.

As a long-term DIY project, I like the idea of the HuberZIP because it seems easy and seems like it'd be harder to damage as I'm finishing the rest of the house. But, it's AWEFULLY expensive, at first glance.

How would that compare to standard Tyvek house wrap? Are there other options that I can consider?

I've also heard a little about Hardie-backer, but that sounds more like an interior sheetrock replacement. Is that intended for this purpose?

So the question is, what are my options, and what kinds of things do I need to consider when making that decision?

EDIT: In case climate matters, I'm in South/Central Texas, just NW of Houston.

  • FYI, house wrap is not a true vapor barrier, it's a weather barrier that is slightly permeable. True vapor barriers are installed on the warm side of insulation, the interior side in temperate climates. – bcworkz Feb 25 '14 at 21:22
  • Ah, I didn't know that. That being said, I'm in South Texas, so it's probably more likely that the warm side will be on the outside ;-) – mHurley Feb 25 '14 at 21:51

You have asked several questions at once so a little difficult to give you the answers you want. First, Hardy backer board is a newer, lighter, substitute for concrete board and usually used in bathrooms and under tile installations. I have never seen it used on exterior walls as a sheathing.

Second, the huberZip system is from Advantec. I love Advantec sheathing and subflooring. I'm sure it does what it says, but it is pricey compared to OSB sheathing and tyvec. Selecting a product because of price is not what we do here. An OSB, or any T&G exterior sheathing with properly installed and taped Tyvec or a house brand wrap also works very well.

Third, a true vapor barrier is installed on the heated side of the wall studs, not under or over the exterior sheathing. the wall cavities and insulation must have a a way to breath. They will breath and excessive moisture should escape through the exterior siding. Tyvec is not a vapor barrier, it is an air penetration barrier, just like the new Zip system. they both stop liquid water infiltration, but water vapor is a different story, it must be able to pass through. On wet, foggy or very humid days, humidity gets into the wall cavity, the vapor barrier keeps it out of the living space. When the weather conditions are better, the moisture migrates out of the wall cavity through the siding, thus drying the wall.

I hope this has answered some of your questions. Good luck on your project.

  • Excellent, thanks! Now I know what I don't know ;-) I guess my next scope of research will be exploring whether or not it's feasible to install a vapor barrier from the outside (without tearing up the interior walls), and if there are any alternatives. Thanks again! – mHurley Feb 25 '14 at 21:56
  • If you are ripping it to the studs, you can remove the insulation, install the vapor barrier, replace the insulation, put on the exterior sheathing, air barrier and siding... Sound simple? lol – shirlock homes Feb 25 '14 at 22:11
  • Lol, of course it sounds simple, that's how I got started on this project ;-) I'm just wondering about the implications of putting the vapor barrier over the studs (between the insulation and the sheetrock), instead of between the studs and the sheetrock. – mHurley Feb 25 '14 at 22:21
  • if you put it on the outside, the moisture will be trapped in the wall. this will damage the insulation and mold may result. Do not do that!!!!!!!!!!! – shirlock homes Feb 25 '14 at 22:35
  • Of course not, I understand that part. I think you misunderstand me. I don't mean to put it between the siding/OSB and the studs, I mean to put it over the studs, and then put the insulation in, pressing the plastic down in between the studs. That way, the insulation is on the outside of the VB, and the only thing on the inside is the studs, but I also don't have to tear out the interior surface. – mHurley Feb 26 '14 at 15:49

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