ZIP System Sheathing versus OSB Wall Panels

Building Product Review Test: House Wrap Versus Zip System Sheathing

Foreword by Ian Thompson, Editor

ZIP System Sheathing Versu OSB – Is it even a fair test? Nearly every house building project I’ve seen Matt build or tour was built with Huber Engineered Woods ZIP System. It’s not easy to miss with its distinctive green surface finish. It’s just a shame that we can’t get it here in New Zealand, because I’d probably use it in my own building projects too.

Huber’s website defines their ZIP System as: “Rigorously engineered to streamline continuous air and water barrier performance in structural roof and wall assemblies, it has changed the way teams build.” So in this video, Matt explains why he uses ZIP System Sheathing products and tapes over traditional house wrap.

The ZIP System is essentially OSB (Oriented Strand Board) with a few additional layers to protect it. I can only assume that the ZIP System Sheathing is a cheaper option than the OSB and extra protection layers because of the extra labour involved.

Since I haven’t used the products myself, I can’t really comment further, so I’ll ‘wrap up’ and pass you over to the one and only Matt Risinger.

Zip System Sheathing from Huber Engineered Woods

The Famous Green Panel: Zip System Sheathing products by Huber Engineered Woods, USA

House Wrap Versus Zip System Sheathing

Video Transcript

The build show today: house wrap versus Zip system sheathing with my buddy, awesome framer. Let’s get going.

All right Tim, you’ve built a lot of houses in your decades as a frame carpenter. You’ve been using this since 2009, this is Zip system sheathing, but before that you used a lot of house wrap. Let’s see if we can compare the two for people out there. And by the way, we’ve got a Zip system installed right behind us so we can use this as a bit of a comparison. So where do we start?

“So, way less trips around the house. We’re basically one and done. This is a wood structural panel with our weather-resistant barrier. All we have to do is tape the seams.”

“Pretty nice. Yeah, so no ladder work for us. Well, I shouldn’t say that. There’s some ladder work for the tape, but no extra ladder work.” There’s a ladder right behind us as we’re talking.

“Well, I mean we got to nail off the panels, right? So we get the panels up, but normally we would do exactly what they’re doing and then come back with house wrap.”

“That’s right, that’s right. So basically, the base of this, this is 7/16-inch oriented strand board, just like we might use as a structural panel for sheathing as well. And then after that went up, we’d come back with house wrap, whereas now this is up, all we need to do is tape the seams to get our waterproof layer.”

“It really is just that simple. This is a structural one panel, so it’s our structural Zip System sheathing. We nail it off properly, and then we just run around with tape. That’s pretty nice.”

“Now we’re using two different versions of it on this job. I’ve got my standard green 7/16 on this job, but I’ve also got some places in the house where I’m using this right here, which is Zip R, which is a bit of a game-changer because now it’s almost a three-in-one in some respects. I’ve got my integrated weather barrier, I’ve got my structural layer, and I’ve got a continuous break. And now this is really one trip around the house.”

“So there’s definitely a labor savings here, but in comparison to, let’s say, a standard house wrap, there’s a couple things that I really like about it. And one of the things that you mentioned earlier was when you penetrate a standard house wrap, what happens with that?”

“It just tears. You know, because we would run, we would get so meticulous with that house wrap. No wrinkles, make it really perfect, make it look good because then people drive by, they think these guys pay attention to detail. And because we are, then the plumber comes through, drills his hole and jams a pipe or whatever it might be, and it just tears. So then you’re reworking, and it’s just a total hassle, especially if it’s second floor, for sure.”

“And the other thing you have to be cautious about with standard house wraps is blow-off issues too. You know, you get a high wind zone, and especially if you’ve just hammer-tacked that on and not used a cap staple, it’s really easy for the wind to catch that sail and blow it off the building. And we’ve all driven by buildings that have big flaps of house wrap where it’s raining and the house is getting wet under it. It gets all wrinkled, you really can’t repair that. You have to take it down and reinstall it.”

“Yeah, and reinstall it. It really needs to go. Again, back to the tear though, one thing that I think you and I both really like about Zip system is there’s multiple options to repair and flash penetrations. So the electrician, the plumber drills through this panel and penetrates that green facer, I can either use Liquid Flash, I can use tape, and there’s also a stretch tape option as well. And speaking of stretch tape, what do you like about that stretch tape product?”

“It sticks and it stretches. Like, it stretches every direction. You know, we first got pieces of it, I’ve got video in 2015 where we’re stretching it as far as we could go before it breaks. It’s idiot-proof.”

“Yeah, I think that’s a great way to say it. This whole system is basically idiot-proof. I looked at the instructions to correctly integrate windows with house wrap, and I felt like I was looking at a wiring diagram for something. And we did that for years, but now if I have somebody that’s brand new on the job site, I can demonstrate how to tape and roll the tape, and I can demonstrate how to properly flash a window. And by the third or fourth window, it’s just, they’ve got it down. It’s super straightforward and super easy.”

“The other thing that I really like about it is that once you detail everything on the outside of this, you can see it all. There’s nothing that’s concealed or hidden back there. You know, sometimes with layers of house wrap, it’s hard to tell what’s been done behind, was it mislapped, any of those kinds of things. Whereas when we use Liquid Flash and we use tape on this, we can go back later and we can check to make sure that it’s done correctly, including the rollers actually have a typewriter Z on them. And they always say roll the tape, but you can actually tell if you use that typewriter that the crew did that.”

“Not if you use the typewriter, if you use the roller that has the Z in it.”

“So the job that we’re working on, we’ve been allowed to tape the seams before shear inspection. On our end, in the other county that we build in, I haven’t been back with these inspectors. And so I called the inspector and said, ‘Hey, we’re using Zip System sheathing, we’re using the tape.’ He’s like, ‘I know what it is.’ I was like, ‘How do we go about getting shear inspection without…’ and tape the wall before we lift it. And he’s like, ‘Why do you want to do that?’ I don’t want to be on ladders up high. So if we could tape the second or third floor before we lift it. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, just take pictures, document it, and then we’ll work from there.'”

“Because he knows you can feel the nail spacing, you can see if they’re overdriven. So that means we’re able to eliminate almost all of our ladder work. They’re not going to let us do that with house wrap.”

“That’s right. Because they can still see all the field nails. So if they can see that you were attentive to detail there, the assumption is you were at the corners too.”

“That’s right. And so that’s just greatly simplified cycle time for us, for sure. Another thing that you and I think have really liked about the Zip System sheathing is the tech support is excellent. They have really good people that are available for us to get a hold of really easily, and they have a great website with lots of tech details and lots of details for install. But I think for me, the ultimate, the trump card so to speak, is air sealing. You know, when you install Zip system on a house, you’re not only waterproof, but you’re naturally airtight as well.”

“So like, if you think about this panel behind us, once that’s all taped, it’s really easy for me to make sure that I get a good air seal. And because fluid-applied sticks to it perfectly, I can also use a fluid-applied product like Zip system Liquid Flash to transition from the wood framing to the concrete foundation below. So I can get that really good seal in a place that’s super vital to seal out for both air, water, and bugs coming up into my wall.”

“Yeah, and you got penetrations with the Liquid Flash. It’s just the glorified caulking gun, right? Big sausage gun. Pretty idiot-proof again.”

“I think idiot-proof between idiot-proof and airtightness, those are two things that I think summarize the whole reason why we really are big fans of the Zip System sheathing. I mean, if awesome framers can do it, then it must be idiot-proof!”

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