How to Build a Vacation Home That Won't Leak

Vacation Home with Tyvek House Wrap

The best way to protect your home from severe weather is to pay attention to where you site it. If that's not possible, you have to think carefully abut your materials and building techniques. In the case of Artemisia, we fell in love with our land, which is a short walk from the town of Winthrop, yet perched on a hill with sweeping vistas of the Cascade Range. Our stunning views come with a cost: exposure to the elements. In the spring, the wind whips through the Methow Valley and pummels our house with the occasional rain. The hot summer sun beats down on our roof all summer long (producing electricity via the rooftop photovoltaic array). And in the winter, snow piles up high and slides off the roof in sheets.

All this exposure to the elements calls for some beefy building supplies.

 Triple-pane window flashed with Tyvek FlexWrap and StraightFlash.

Triple-pane window flashed with Tyvek FlexWrap and StraightFlash.

Dupont™ Tyvek® Commercialwrap® D

As part of our Artemisia Lab program, we are testing out a more rugged version of traditional Tyvek house wrap. Designed to withstand the rigors of commercial applications, Commercialwrap D has vertical grooves for enhanced drainage.

While your siding is designed as the first defense against rain, it doesn't do a perfect job. Water, especially in the form of wind-blown rain, inevitably finds all the cracks and crevices in the siding--between laps, around windows and doors, and anywhere a nail or pipe or anything else penetrates the wall. The possibilities for water intrusion are almost endless, and tracking down a leak can be maddening. The grooved surface of this Tyvek product channels any water that bypasses your siding down to the base of the building, where it can drip harmlessly away. This is much more desirable than having it pool up at pinch points, or worse still, work its way inside your home, causing damage and possibly even mold problems.

DuPont™ FlexWrap™ NF

This heavy-duty butyl flashing is amazing stuff to work with. It is stretchy and sticky enough to go around the corners of windows and doors to create an air- and water-tight seal. The "NF" in the name stands for "no fasteners." You just stick it on, stretch it around the corners, and it stays in place without any nails or screws. We used this in combination with DuPont StraightFlash flashing tape for the heads and jambs of our windows and doors. We didn't LEED certification, but using these products would have earned us points if we had. 

 Rusted steel siding installed on rain-screen system over Tyvek Commercial D house wrap.

Rusted steel siding installed on rain-screen system over Tyvek Commercial D house wrap.

Other weather barriers

In addition to the Tyvek products we are testing out, we also incorporated the following materials and features into our design:

  • Metal roof: Our standing-seam metal roof provides long-lasting protection in areas like ours with heavy snowfall. Our roofer created custom fascia panels with a drip edge for our 12" SIPS roof. Snow brakes keep snow from sliding off on areas people walk.
  • Triple-pane windows: Our vinyl windows and patio doors have specially coated glass to minimize heat loss and tight air gaskets to keep cold air from entering the house.
  • Steel and cement: Siding made of pre-painted fiber-cement with rusted steel accents are fire- and weather-resistant. Custom steel support columns for the carport and porch are equally tough.
  • Roof overhangs: Larger-than-average roof overhangs protect the siding from the elements and block hot summer sun, while allowing in sunshine during the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky.

How are our weather barriers working?

It's been a year and eight months since we dried in the house, and so far our building envelope is performing extremely well. We haven't experienced any water leaking in, and the house feels cozy and remains totally free of drafts, even when the wind howls. Because we are not here every day to check on the house, all of these extra measures provide some extra peace of mind.