When it comes to protecting our homes from air and moisture infiltration, the building industry is quickly learning that there is such a thing as “too tight.” No matter how tightly a home is built, water is inevitably going to find its way in. And the tighter we build those walls, the harder it is to keep them dry. Attempting to stop all water and moisture completely is a recipe for disaster and a surefire way to ensure walls will get wet and stay wet.

In many places, building codes are driving the need for better moisture management solutions. The International Residential Code (IRC) now requires the use of water-resistive barriers, but some states have added even more prescriptive measures to their codes that now include the use of drainage planes, and others are expected to follow.

Thankfully, advances in material technology have resulted in innovative solutions for protecting our homes from the elements while also allowing them to both release vapor buildup and, in some cases, even drain bulk water.

Though exterior cladding is the first line of defense against outside water infiltration, housewraps have become a popular way to block whatever water is able to sneak through. And as building assemblies have gotten tighter, housewraps have taken on a new function—helping to remove trapped water from the building enclosure. Their unique permeability enables them to both block moisture from the outside while also allowing walls to “breathe” to prevent vapor buildup. And the very latest innovations in housewrap technology is taking this moisture removal function one step further to incorporate drainage strategies, as well.

Today’s most advanced housewrap products feature integrated drainage gaps through creping, embossing, weaving, or filament spacers. These new products eliminate the need for furring strips, helping to reduce material costs and streamline installation. Products that achieve a 1mm drainage plane, like TYPAR’s Drainable Wrap, can be as much as 100 times more effective than standard housewraps at removing bulk water from the wall.

These new drainable housewraps meet all current code requirements for drainability (ASTM E2273) without sacrificing any of the durability and ease of installation benefits builders and contractors have come to expect from premium housewraps since they essentially handle and install the same. They are also vapor permeable, so moisture will not become trapped in the wall assembly and lead to mold or rot issues.

The ability to drain bulk water becomes even more important when installing a tightly fastened cladding such as cedar siding or fiber cement board, which could allow water trapped between the siding and a standard housewrap to pool. Drainable housewraps also work exceptionally well with reservoir claddings such as brick, stucco, and stone, providing a capillary break that prevents any stored water from being forced into the wall assembly.

Advances in technology and building codes are driving adoption of better moisture management systems, and that’s a great thing. While we can’t completely stop water from getting into walls, there is certainly a lot more builders can do to help them dry out and minimize damage when they do get wet. By adding drainage capabilities to a solid mix of water resistance, durability and permeability, today’s newest drainable housewrap products are a terrific way to address this challenge.