While homes are made to get wet occasionally, excessive amounts of water, such as during rainy seasons, can cause problems if it seeps past the home’s siding and vapor wrap. Once it makes it’s way past the water barriers, it can be absorbed into the wooden framing of your home.

Because, traditionally, a home’s siding is installed flush against the framing, the structure is unable to breathe, meaning it can’t dry properly. This trapped water can lead to problems such as mold, mildew, rot and decay. Once these issues take hold of a home’s structure, repairs become more costly and time-consuming. 

Instead, you should take preventative measures to ensure that when your home encounters excessive moisture, it’s able to dry properly. The most effective preventative measure you can take is to forego regular siding and instead install a rainscreen siding system.

What Is Rainscreen Siding?

A rainscreen siding system is a unique method for installing and fastening wood siding to a home or other structure. Unlike the normal installation process, which presses siding directly against a home, rainscreen siding leaves a 3/4” gap that allows the home to breathe and dry better. 

While it may sound like a new idea, this method of construction and installation has been around for centuries. There are even 12th-century structures from Norway, made entirely of wood, that are still standing. That gap between the structures and siding are what has allowed it to last so long without suffering severe damage. 

Because of this, using a rainscreen siding and, even more specifically, a rainscreen wood siding system is highly recommended for homes. 

Importance of Rainscreen Siding

Although the walls and other materials used to build a home can handle some moisture, the issue is that when they get wet, it’s important that they have a way to dry. Otherwise, they will remain wet, leading to issues like mold, mildew and rot and causing serious safety problems within the home. 

The materials commonly used in regular walls don’t dry quickly due to the insulation that prevents ventilation from occurring. So water stays there, unable to dry, creating issues like mold.

This is where ipe rainscreen siding comes into play. This siding system is designed in a unique way that keeps the siding from being flush against the house. As a result, both the siding and cladding can breathe and receive some much-need continuous ventilation. That way, when walls get wet, they can dry more quickly without losing any insulation benefits.

Benefits of a Rainscreen Wood Siding System

When people think wood, they usually think ‘flammable,’ but that’s not always the case. There are hardwood options that offer a Class A Fire Rating. This is the highest fire-resistance rating building materials can receive, meaning they are also some of the safest and most durable. Having a Class A Fire Rating also means these products are approved for use in states like California where wildfires are a serious issue. 

Besides being fire resistant, wood rainscreen siding is also naturally insect- and rot-resistant, so there is no need to worry about bugs or rot damaging the siding. Additionally, by staining the rainscreen on both sides, there will be an additional layer of protection from insects and rot.

Another common misconception about wood is that it requires a lot of maintenance. However, hardwood rainscreen siding systems like the Ipe rainscreen system don’t require much maintenance at all. The level of maintenance depends on the desired color of the wood. 

To maintain the original color of the wood, the siding will require restaining every few years; otherwise, the siding can age to a beautiful gray tone. The only other required maintenance is cleaning the siding periodically, the same as with any other siding option. 

The biggest issue with the normal method of installing siding is that the cladding of the home is unable to breathe and, therefore, dry. By choosing a rainscreen system, there is a gap between the siding and the actual home, allowing for ventilation. This lets the siding and cladding dry more quickly and prevents the growth of mold or the possibility of rot.

Rainscreen siding has a long life span, which means should a homeowner ever choose to sell their home, the rainscreen system will still be in great shape. This results in an increase in home value and provides a great return on investment, making it well worth the installation cost. 

Choosing a Wood Rainscreen System

Although rainscreen siding can come in materials like PVC, composites or other plastic materials, they are not necessarily the most stable materials to use. These siding options can experience significant movement as temperatures fluctuate, with typical movement measuring around 1/4” in 12’ on average. 

By contrast, a wood rainscreen system doesn’t experience much movement during temperature changes. Instead, it experiences the most movement when changes in moisture content occur—a common occurrence— so going with a hardwood rainscreen siding is the ideal option, due to the hardwood’s strength and durability.

Installing a Rainscreen Siding System

Regardless of if you choose an Ipe rainscreen system or another type of rainscreen wood siding, the modern installation process is done the same way.

Today’s wood rainscreen systems use clips that are screwed into the home’s cladding and create the necessary gap that goes between the ipe rainscreen and the actual structure. The unique design of these clips takes the seasonal expansion and contraction of wood into account and moves with the panels to better accommodate the changes. 

Boards can then snap into place on the clips easily without the need for extra screws, leaving the siding completely clean of marks.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

However, it’s crucial to remember to stain the boards on the front AND back to further protect them and preserve their beautiful appearance.

Nova also offers a tung oil-based stain called ExoShield, available in several different colors, that provides the siding with added protection from things like rain and sun. 

Rainscreen Siding: A Worthwhile Investment

When it comes to the different types of siding and methods of installation, options like Ipe rainscreen siding stand out as the best. By going with a rainscreen system, the home will be able to breathe better without sacrificing the level of insulation of the home’s structure. Once fully installed, the rainscreen will not be noticeable, and the siding will have the much-needed ventilation it requires so it can stay dry and in top shape. 

Editorial Contributors
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Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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Roxanne Downer


Roxanne Downer is a commerce editor at Today’s Homeowner, where she tackles everything from foundation repair to solar panel installation. She brings more than 15 years of writing and editing experience to bear in her meticulous approach to ensuring accurate, up-to-date, and engaging content. She’s previously edited for outlets including MSN, Architectural Digest, and Better Homes & Gardens. An alumna of the University of Pennsylvania, Roxanne is now an Oklahoma homeowner, DIY enthusiast, and the proud parent of a playful pug.

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