Walls vs Weather

As I’ve been researching, one of the things I’ve found that I need to learn more about is weatherproofing.

If you break house building down to the basics, it seems pretty simple. I’m basically going to be building a wooden box. A giant wooden box, compared to a jewelry box or something. Then, since I’ll be living in it, add a bit of insulation to keep warm in the winter. Next, something around the outside to keep rain and snow out. That’s where it gets very complicated! There seem to be a lot of steps and layers that nobody’s really clear about. And unlike other parts of the build that are either inconsequential if you do them differently (like cosmetic choices) or there’s really only one way to do them, if I mess up the exterior I’ll be screwed. Water is evil when it comes to building a house. I’m worried that I’ll mess up and the problems will be unseen in my walls. I don’t want my house to end up like our old trailer, all rotten, so I’ll need something to protect it.

I’ve been going back and forth between two types of sheathing: the usual OSB/plywood and house wrap OR the zip system. For the 1st option, I’ll have to choose between OSB and plywood – I’m not really sure if it’s important. Then I’ll need to wrap the house with a huge roll of plastic stuff, staple it up, and make sure the seams overlap. With the 2nd choice, the wood already has a water seal on it so all I need to do is tape the seams. Oh, and pay more. The zip system is supposed to seal better, but it’s more expensive (I think). Some contractors swear by the zip system, others stick with what they know. Should I go with the time-tested, tried and true method, or rely on something new that could be better? Decisions, decisions.

Then, there’s a rain screen. From what I understand, this is basically just vertical pieces of wood that keep the siding off of the sheathing so that any water that gets behind the siding will slide down and out the bottom. Apparently you also need something at the bottom of the rain screen that keeps bugs and things and from getting in, but that also lets water out.

Don’t even get me started on the roof! It gets more difficult too, because I actually want to have livable “attic” space.

And there are also vapour barriers. Every source says a different thing! On the inside, on the outside, both, neither, facing this way, facing that way, permeable, not permeable! And none of what I’ve read explains exactly what they do or what they’re for! I’ve still got a lot of reading to do.

There are a bunch of odd little things in house building that I’ve never heard of. I think learning to build a house is a great thing, because most people don’t know how. Our society is so specialized; we’re like factory workers who only know how to make one part of the final product. I suppose we do work together, but I want to be capable all on my own. I like knowing things other people don’t, I’m snobbish like that, but also, I want to learn what I can so that if/when an apocalypse happens, I won’t die of something stupid because I didn’t know how to do something. Humans these days (in first world countries) are really quite helpless and pathetic. We (generally) don’t know how to hunt, which plants are poisonous, how to make our own clothes, or how to build our own shelter. I don’t want to be like that. Rain screens are kind of a useless place to start, because I’ll die of starvation before my walls rot, but I might as well start somewhere!

I’ll have to make a very detailed list of every possible step of the build, and make sure I understand every bit. The project doesn’t seem all that daunting when I break it all down to things as simple as “cut this piece of wood to this length”. Then one more tiny step, and the next step, and the next, and the next. That’s manageable. A tiny house built in tiny steps, how fitting.


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"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare. It is because we do not dare that they are difficult." - Seneca

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris
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