innovative group construction logo

Building Better: Unveiling the Advantages of ZIP Sheathing in Residential Construction (with Cost Comparison)

zip system sheathing

For decades, builders have relied on traditional sheathing materials like plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) to form the structural core of walls and roofs. While these options serve their purpose, they often fall short in terms of moisture resistance, air sealing, and thermal performance. Enter ZIP System® sheathing, a revolutionary product that streamlines construction and elevates building envelopes to a whole new level.

What is ZIP Sheathing?

Manufactured by Huber Engineered Woods, ZIP Sheathing is an all-in-one structural panel that combines several critical functions into a single, easy-to-install solution. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Engineered wood core: Provides structural strength and stability for walls and roofs.
  • Integrated water-resistive barrier (WRB): Eliminates the need for separate house wrap, offering superior moisture protection.
  • Continuous air barrier: When properly taped, ZIP Sheathing creates a virtually airtight envelope, minimizing air infiltration and exfiltration.
  • Optional exterior insulation (ZIP System R-sheathing): Enhances thermal performance for improved energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Benefits of Building with ZIP Sheathing:

  • Enhanced weather protection: The integrated WRB safeguards against rain, snow, and wind-driven moisture, reducing the risk of water damage and mold growth.
  • Improved energy efficiency: The continuous air barrier and optional insulation minimize thermal bridging, leading to lower energy bills and a more comfortable living environment.
  • Streamlined construction: By combining multiple functions into one, ZIP Sheathing reduces installation steps and saves valuable time on the job site.
  • Durability and warranty: Backed by a 30-year limited warranty, ZIP Sheathing offers long-lasting performance and peace of mind for homeowners.

Cost Comparison:

Let’s address the elephant in the room: cost. ZIP Sheathing typically comes with a higher upfront cost compared to traditional sheathing like OSB or plywood. However, it’s crucial to consider the total cost of ownership, which factors in long-term benefits and potential savings. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Initial cost:
    • OSB: $10-$25 per sheet
    • Plywood: $16-$24 per sheet
    • ZIP Sheathing: $16-$26 per sheet (plus tape and flashing)
  • Additional costs with traditional sheathing:
    • House wrap: $0.50-$1.50 per square foot
    • Taping labor: $0.25-$0.50 per square foot
    • Potential air leakage penalties (depending on building code): Varies
  • Potential savings with ZIP Sheathing:
  • Reduced heating and cooling costs due to improved energy efficiency: Varies depending on location and climate
  • Faster construction due to streamlined installation: Saves labor costs
  • Reduced risk of water damage and mold growth: Saves on potential repair costs

Addressing Thermal Bridging:

Traditional sheathing materials, like wood studs, create thermal bridges, where heat readily transfers through, reducing energy efficiency. ZIP Sheathing mitigates this issue in two ways:

  • Continuous air barrier: By minimizing air infiltration, ZIP Sheathing reduces convective heat transfer within the wall cavity.
  • Optional exterior insulation: ZIP System R-sheathing incorporates rigid polystyrene insulation directly into the panel, providing a continuous layer of insulation that eliminates thermal bridges through studs.

Traditional Sheathing vs. ZIP Sheathing: Installation Methods Compared

While both ZIP Sheathing and traditional sheathing materials like OSB and plywood form the structural core of walls and roofs, their installation methods differ in key aspects. Let’s delve into the specifics:

Traditional Sheathing (OSB/Plywood):

  • Preparation: Requires separate installation of house wrap and flashing tapes for weather protection and air sealing.
  • Fastening: Secured using nails or screws driven through the sheathing, potentially compromising the air barrier if not meticulously sealed.
  • Seams: Overlapping panels require additional sealing with house wrap tapes to prevent air and moisture infiltration.
  • Penetrations: Window and door openings necessitate careful flashing details to maintain the air barrier integrity.
  • Labor: Installation process is generally more time-consuming due to multiple steps and potential rework for sealing air leaks.

ZIP Sheathing:

  • Preparation: Eliminates the need for separate house wrap and flashing tapes, streamlining the process.
  • Fastening: Utilizes specific nails or screws designed for the integrated WRB, ensuring air barrier integrity.
  • Seams: Panels interlock with integrated grooves and are sealed with specially designed tape, creating a continuous air barrier.
  • Penetrations: Dedicated flashing components seamlessly integrate with ZIP Sheathing for comprehensive weather protection.
  • Labor: Installation is generally faster and more efficient due to fewer steps and a more robust air barrier system.

Key Differences:

  • Complexity: ZIP Sheathing offers a simplified, one-step approach compared to the multi-step process of traditional sheathing.
  • Air Barrier Integrity: The integrated WRB and specific fastening methods in ZIP Sheathing create a more continuous and reliable air barrier than traditional methods.
  • Weather Protection: Eliminating separate house wrap simplifies weatherproofing and reduces potential installation errors.
  • Skill Level: While both methods require proper training, ZIP Sheathing’s pre-integrated features may be easier for less experienced crews to install correctly.

Remember: Proper installation is crucial for maximizing the benefits of ZIP Sheathing. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult with qualified professionals for complex projects.

Additional Notes:

  • ZIP Sheathing panels might be heavier and larger than traditional sheathing, requiring proper lifting equipment and handling techniques.
  • Taping all panel seams and penetrations meticulously is essential for maintaining the continuous air barrier in ZIP Sheathing.
  • Consider seeking training or certification specific to ZIP Sheathing installation for optimal results.

By understanding the installation differences and considering the long-term benefits, builders can make informed decisions about incorporating ZIP Sheathing into their projects, potentially saving time, enhancing performance, and building better structures.


ZIP Sheathing represents a significant advancement in residential construction, offering a compelling combination of weather protection, energy efficiency, and streamlined installation. While the initial cost may be slightly higher than traditional options, the long-term benefits in terms of durability, performance, occupant comfort, and potential cost savings make it a compelling choice for builders and homeowners alike. If you’re looking to elevate your next project and build better, consider exploring the possibilities of ZIP Sheathing.

ZIP System Products: A Comprehensive List with Descriptions

The ZIP System by Huber Engineered Woods offers a range of integrated building envelope solutions to enhance weather protection, improve energy efficiency, and streamline construction. Here’s a breakdown of their key products:

Sheathing Products:

  • ZIP Sheathing: The core product, featuring an integrated water-resistive barrier (WRB) and continuous air barrier for weather-resistant and energy-efficient walls and roofs.
  • ZIP System R-sheathing: Integrates rigid polystyrene insulation directly into the panel, offering improved thermal performance and reducing thermal bridging. Available in various R-values for different climate zones.
  • ZIP System Rainscreen: An exterior rainscreen solution with drainage channels and a ventilated cavity to protect walls from moisture intrusion and improve drying potential.

Flashing and Tapes:

  • ZIP System Flashing Tape: High-performance, self-adhered tape for various flashing applications, including windows, doors, roof valleys, and corners. Available in different widths and strengths for diverse needs.
  • ZIP System Peel and Stick Underlayment: Self-adhered rubberized asphalt membrane for critical areas like eaves, valleys, and entire roof applications, providing additional waterproofing and ice dam protection.
  • ZIP System Linered Stretch Flashing Tape: Stretchable flashing tape with a built-in liner for easy installation around curves and complex geometries.
Zip Systems Stretch Tape


  • ZIP System Tape Roller: Handheld tool for efficient application of ZIP System Flashing Tape, ensuring proper pressure and adhesion.
  • ZIP System Fasteners: Specifically designed nails and screws compatible with the integrated WRB of ZIP Sheathing, maintaining the air barrier integrity.
  • ZIP System Drainage Mat: Non-woven fabric placed behind rain screen panels to manage water drainage and prevent wind-driven moisture infiltration.

Additional Resources:

Remember, this is a general overview. Specific product details and applications may vary. Always refer to the manufacturer’s website and technical resources for the latest information and guidance.

Have A Question?

What Have People been saying?

Quick Question?

Feel free to ask Us!

Built on Integrity

"I work diligently day in and day out to be extremely detail-oriented over every task I oversee, in order to provide our clients with their project on-time and on-budget."
Jeremy Goodmurphy