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Product Guide

Insulation With Integrated WRB and/or Sheathing

Products suitable for continuous exterior insulation that integrate a water-resistive barrier and, in some cases, sheathing too

Zip-R panels are OSB sheathing with factory-installed WRB and bonded polyisocyanurate insulation.

There is a lot of interest among professionals in the residential construction market around strategies for installing continuous insulation (CI). CI adds some complexity to a build, and with complexity come questions. How much insulation is needed on the exterior? How will it be fastened? How are windows and doors integrated? What about vapor control? I’ve written a series on continuous exterior insulation that delves into these topics, among others. Here, I will narrow the focus to spotlight some insulation products, suitable for exterior applications, that have integrated water-resistive barriers (WRB) and/or sheathing. Products that combine control layers are spec’d primarily for ease of installation; with insulation and WRB in a single product, an experienced installation crew can move more quickly than when installing separate products.

Two all-in-ones

There are many products and methods that work for installing continuous exterior insulation. Choosing which to use will depend, in large part, on the project objectives (R-value, airtightness, and even cladding type) and the installation crew’s experience level. Budget and the environmental impact of potential products can also inform insulation specifications.

Let’s start with one of the most well-known options, Huber’s Zip System R-Sheathing, aka “Zip-R,” which has been around for several years. To install the all-in-one panel with integrated WRB, you nail it to the wall per Huber’s specifications, seal the seams, and treat the planned penetrations. It’s a straightforward approach.

There are a couple potential limitations to the product. Areas subject to earthquakes or high winds may require additional structural support. And I know of a few structural engineers who are apprehensive about having a layer of insulation between the framing and sheathing; they worry about reduced shear capacity. Huber does supply engineering documents for Zip-R, but as a builder, if you…

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