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How much to rely on tape?

We’ve all had some experiences with “Duct” tape haven’t we? You can buy it for $5 a roll or $20 a roll but in all cases it eventually seems to fail on me. Now let’s say we use that tape to seal up a window on the outside of your house, how long would you expect that tape to last? 1 year? 20 years?

I don’t like to do posts about poor construction techniques but this one in particular has been bugging me for a long time. I won’t name any names here but this product I think is an accident (read: problem) waiting to happen. This product is a OSB 4×8 sheet with a weather barrier adhered to the outside. The framers install it just like the traditional plywood sheathing except there’s no need to add a second layer of Tyvek on top. The frame carpenters tape the seams with a special tape and voila the house is weatherproof! I have several problems with this system.
#1 Gravity is relentless. Think about this, there is no way to overlap any of the joints with this system. If water gets behind the cladding (brick, stucco, siding, whatever) then runs down the wall it’ll hit a tape joint and the tenacity of the tape is the only thing keeping the water out of the building. I’m sure this is awesome tape but the “shingling” system where you lap the piece above over the piece below has worked since the beginning of time. I think that gravity and water will eventually find a way past that tape.
#2 Perfect Install. Any system that relies on a perfect install is going to have problems. If you get one wrinkle in this tape you’ve let water in. This system is too dependent on a perfect install. Sunny weather, good tape adhesion, no wrinkles, etc.
#3 What about penetrations? Windows, Plumbing stub outs, wires, HVAC lines, all these things coming out of the building poke holes in this fragile system and require a killer caulking job. Look at these photo’s below, all these pentrations need caulked on the outside to ensure no water gets in. Plus, if any water gets in above it has an easy path into the house.
In my opinion this is a set up for failure. Last comment, I’m sure someone will say “Don’t you rely on tape in a Tyvek system too”. Yes and No. A housewrap system invariably relies on tape to some degree but it’s a belt & suspenders approach. All your Tyvek seams overlap in a shingle fashion so even if the tape fails gravity will still keep the building dry. All penetrations need a way to shingle into the housewrap too. I’m a big fan of QuickFlash blue flashing boots for all the different types of penetrations (plumbing pipes, HVAC pipes, Electrical boxes, etc). Lastly, all windows NEED a head flashing that can slip under the housewrap and direct water out from the top of the window and MUST have a sill pan to direct water out of the building. From now on only positive posts! -Matt Risinger

How do you seal these up?