Restoration Guide: Introduction to Exterior Walls

Rob Sabo

Editor's Note: This is article 1 of 18 in Chapter 2: Exterior Wall Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.


This guide on exterior walls is one of a comprehensive nine-part series, produced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD Rehab Guide examines all aspects of construction rehabilitation and is designed to keep construction industry and design professionals abreast of innovations in materials, techniques and building technologies.

New processes and products too often are slow to become common practice in the construction industry. The HUD guide is written to hasten the flow of information about new methodologies and cost-saving developments, and to serve as a go-to reference for home restoration professionals, builders, architects, engineers and other construction professionals.

Construction trade shows, conferences and publications distribute some of this information, but now all areas of home renovation, and home preservation and restoration have been compiled in one easy-to-understand guide.

Exterior Walls Home Restoration Guide Overview

Written with a focus on home restoration and home preservation rather than home improvement or new construction, the Exterior Wall Guide provides a detailed examination of all aspects of exterior walls, from design and engineering to the finished, painted product.

Topics covered in this guide include:

  1. Introduction
  2. Design and Engineering
  3. Masonry and Veneer
  4. Sheathing
  5. Vapor Retarders and Air Infiltration Barriers
  6. Insulation
  7. Vinyl Siding
  8. Metal Siding
  9. Wood Shingles and Shakes
  10. Solid Wood Siding
  11. Hardboard Siding
  12. Engineered Wood Siding
  13. Plywood Panel Siding
  14. Fiber Cement Siding
  15. Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems (EIFS)and Stucco
  16. Exterior Trim
  17. Sealants and Caulking
  18. Paint and Other Finishes

Wood is the most widely-used material in framing, so rehabilitation of wood framing systems is covered thoroughly in the Exterior Wall Guide. Masonry and brick also constitute many old and historic buildings in the United States, so this guide also touches on repair and rehabilitation of brick masonry.

The section on sheathing primarily focuses on plywood panel sheathing. The material on vapor retarders discusses the main reasons and methods for installing these materials in home restoration. Insulation is essential to any well-done preservation project, and this guide examines the benefits and application of several different product types.

In the sections on siding materials (sections 7 through 14), this guide covers many ways to repair, clean and maintain the most common home cladding materials in residential construction. Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems focuses on performing repairs on EIFS-covered walls, especially areas where moisture has penetrated the material. The discussion of stucco mainly covers patching methods, while the section on exterior trim serves as a guide on repairing existing wood and other types of trim.

The Exterior Walls guide examines sealant and caulking materials, the front line of moisture defense once the body of the house has been repaired. The guide concludes with a section on maintenance and application of paint and other finishes on existing coated surfaces.

Exterior Wall Preservation Guide Sources

The content gathered in this guide was compiled from construction professionals, suppliers, manufacturers, industry reports and publications that focus on home renovation. Other sources include trade organizations and building research centers.

Some of the governing bodies that contributed information to the Exterior Wall Guide include:

  • The Engineered Wood Association
  • The Brick Industries Association
  • Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau
  • Western Wood Products Association
  • California Redwood Association

Trade/government publications include:

  • Journal of Light Construction
  • Old House Journal
  • Fine Homebuilding
  • Publications from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Publications from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Association

How to Use the HUD Exterior Wall Guide

Information on each topic is divided into easy-to-follow sections:

  • The basics
  • New approaches, materials and tools

The first part of each article is an examination of the material and its uses, followed by new techniques and materials and how to apply them. Special attention is given to areas that deal with energy efficiency, sustainability and accessible design.





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