Rainscreen Cladding Systems: Benefits and Design Guide

By Steve Getsiv, 12/11/23

In the realm of architectural design and building longevity, rainscreen cladding systems have emerged as a fundamental component, especially in modern construction practices. Understanding what rainscreen cladding entails, how it functions, and the various pros and cons associated with it, is essential for homeowners and builders seeking to make informed decisions about their property.

What is Rainscreen Cladding?

Red Balau Rainscreen Siding

Rainscreen cladding is a protective layer that is affixed to the exterior surface of a building structure, and is designed to shield the building from the effects of weathering and moisture. It's composed of an outer weather-resistant decorative skin, a ventilation cavity, and an inner layer. It deflects the majority of water away, while the ventilation cavity allows any residual moisture to evaporate or drain away, to enhance the building's weatherproofing and insulation properties.

History of Rainscreen Cladding

Rainscreen cladding originated in the Scandinavian countries hundreds of years ago, but it was during the 1940s that science developed a better understanding of its operation. The idea was straightforward: a double-wall construction with an outer layer to block rain and an inner layer to insulate, save energy, and maintain building integrity.

Over time, this system evolved and improved with integrated advancements in material technology and design practices. The evolution of rainscreen cladding has been driven by the need for more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and aesthetically pleasing solutions in the building industry.

Today, rainscreen cladding systems are widely recognized for their ability to protect buildings from adverse weather conditions, enhance architectural appeal, and improve indoor comfort.

How Does Rainscreen Cladding Work?

Rainscreen cladding operates on a simple, but effective principle of pressure equalization. When the external pressure from wind-driven rain and the pressure in the cavity behind the cladding are equal, there is no force to drive the rain through joints in the cladding. As winds blow against a building, they create high pressure on the surface. However, the air cavity behind the rainscreen cladding allows a pressure-equalized environment that can help mitigate the force that drives the rain into the building.

Basic Components of the System

The rainscreen cladding system is made up of three essential components: the cladding, the ventilation cavity, and the inner layer.

Rainscreen Siding Clips
  • The outer layer, or cladding, provides the first shield against the weather.
  • The ventilation cavity, or air gap, ensures continuous airflow which allows any water that penetrates the cladding to be drained away and enables the wall to dry out. The air gap is maintained through the use of specially designed clips that attach to the wall and hold the siding in place.
  • The inner layer serves as a second defense line, and is commonly known as the sheathing, which provides thermal insulation and prevents excessive air leakage.

The Significance of the Air Gap

The air gap acts as a pressure-equalizing layer that prevents water from being driven into the building. The exterior layer or 'cladding' navigates rainwater away, while the air gap facilitates the drying process, to curb the chances of water infiltration that could lead to structural damage. NOVA's comprehensive guide on rainscreen siding provides further in-depth understanding of this innovative system.

The performance of this system depends significantly on the cladding's ability to resist rainwater and the air cavity's effectiveness in draining away the water to facilitate drying. The selection of materials and proper installation are critical to the system's effectiveness, and to ensure the longevity and durability of the building structure.

Advantages of Rainscreen Cladding

Opting for rainscreen cladding comes with a multitude of benefits:

  • Enhanced Durability: By preventing moisture accumulation within walls, the system protects against structural damage, fungal decay, and corrosion, thereby extending the building's lifespan.
  • Improved Thermal Efficiency: The added insulation reduces thermal bridging, to reduce the energy costs associated with heating or cooling the building.
  • Aesthetic Versatility: Available in various materials and finishes, rainscreen cladding offers numerous stylistic choices that contribute positively to the building's external appeal.
  • Low Maintenance: Given the system's durability and resistance to environmental factors, buildings with rainscreen cladding require less frequent maintenance.
  • Better Internal Air Quality: By defending against moisture, the system helps prevent mold, to enhance the building's interior air quality.

Disadvantages of Rainscreen Cladding

However, several considerations may pose challenges:

  • Initial Costs: The upfront investment for installing rainscreen cladding can be significant, by covering materials, labor, and potential modifications to existing structures.
  • Complex Installation: The process requires skilled professionals to ensure proper fitting, alignment, and compliance with building regulations, and DIY installations are not advisable.
  • Potential Repair Difficulty: While they require less maintenance, repairs, if needed, can be complicated, as accessing the inner layers may necessitate partial deconstruction of the cladding.
  • Installation of Rainscreen Cladding Systems

Pre-Installation Considerations

Before you commence the installation of a rainscreen cladding system, here are some pre-installation considerations to keep in mind:

Review the Plans and Specifications: Thoroughly inspect the plans, specifications, and associated documents to understand the project's scope and requirements. Ensure that all details comply with the local building codes.

Inspect the Materials: Confirm that all materials delivered are in accordance with the order and free from any defects. The materials should comply with the specifications outlined in NOVA's ExoClad® QuickClip® Rainscreen Siding System document.

Check the Building's Condition: Examine the building's framework. The structure should be solid, with no signs of damage or decay. Ensure the walls are clean and free from moisture.

Review the Installation Instructions: Familiarize yourself with the instructions and installation steps.

Prepare the Tools and Equipment: Gather and organize the necessary tools and safety equipment. This may include ladders, drills, screws, clips, and protective eyewear and gloves.

Weather Considerations: Avoid installation in adverse weather conditions. High winds, rain, or snow can hinder the installation process and impact the system's effectiveness.

Remember, proper planning and preparation is the key to a successful installation.

Step-By-Step Installation Process

Follow these step-by-step instructions to properly install your rainscreen cladding system:

  • 1. Preparation: Begin by applying a breathable water-resistive barrier (WRB) over the substrate to ensure that it overlaps the seams. This will help create a continuous barrier against moisture.
  • 2. Starter Track Installation: Attach the starter track at the bottom of the wall by screwing it into the wall studs. The track should be leveled correctly to prevent any drainage issues.
  • 3. Siding Clips Installation: Secure the siding clips to the wall studs using appropriate screws, and ensure that they align vertically with one another. Fasten the clips over the WRB, spaced per the clip manufacturer's instructions.
  • 4. Cor-A-Vent Installation: Add Cor-A-Vent at the perimeter of the area that is being sided. Cor-A-Vent prevents insects from getting behind your siding.
  • 5. Cladding Installation: Starting from the bottom, install the cladding panels into the siding clips. Make sure the panels are well-seated in the clips and the edges align with one another.
  • 6. Succeeding Rows: Continue installing the remaining rows, always checking for proper alignment. The overlap panel ends on different rows for the best appearance and performance.
  • 7. Finishing: Install flashing at windows, doors, and other wall penetrations to prevent any water infiltration. Once the cladding is all installed, seal any remaining gaps or voids with a high-quality sealant.
  • 8. Inspection: Upon completing the installation, conduct a comprehensive inspection to ensure that all panels are secure and properly aligned.

For a more detailed guide, please refer to the installation instructions provided by NOVA in the ExoClad® QuickClip Rainscreen Siding System Installation Guide.

Nova Blog Photo

Detailed Understanding of the Nova ExoClad® QuickClips®

The Nova ExoClad® QuickClips® are specifically designed to provide unparalleled support for the installation of rainscreen cladding systems:

  • Made from high-quality, durable material, these clips ensure a secure and lasting attachment of the cladding to the building structure.
  • They come with an intelligently designed shape that allows for an easy and swift installation, to save on time and labor costs.
  • The clips are adjustable, and provide the flexibility to handle slight irregularities in the wall surface.
  • They create a uniform and optimal gap between the cladding and wall which is crucial for enabling effective drainage and ventilation.
Nova Blog Photo

This unique feature of the QuickClips® enhances the overall efficiency of the rainscreen cladding system.

Invest in Quality and Durability with NOVA USA's Rainscreen Cladding Systems

At Nova USA Wood, we pride ourselves on our unmatched expertise and unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional quality. Our goal is to provide you with comprehensive guidance and premium materials for all of your siding needs, ensuring that your investment is not only secure but also timeless.

Contact us today and discover how our rainscreen cladding can enhance both the resilience and aesthetic appeal of your building.

By Steve Getsiv, 12/11/23

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