Why Rainscreen Facades are Generally Superior to Barrier Walls

There are a few options out there when it comes to protecting a building from the elements while maintaining great aesthetics, and two that are often compared to each other are barrier wall systems and rainscreen facades. Both of these will provide protection from vapor, water, air and even UV rays, but both have their own share of properties that could dictate which is chosen for a given building.

At QC Facades, we offer a wide range of aluminum honeycomb, glass and composite rainscreen façade materials for you to browse. Let’s look at barrier wall systems and how they compare to rainscreen facades, plus some potential issues you may run into if you choose the former over the latter.

rainscreen facades superior barrier walls

Barrier Wall System

A barrier wall system is one that’s designed to prevent air, water and vapor from intruding upon the exterior of a building. It can also be called several alternative names, such as single-line barrier, perfect walls, or zero-tolerance wall systems.

The goal with a barrier wall is to keep the building envelope in great condition. Common formats include single-skin wall panels, metal wall cladding, concrete panels and insulated metal panels. Installers have to consider matching a barrier wall system with the proper cladding material, and also have to pay attention to climate – the amount of rainfall will dictate which precise materials are chosen.

Possible Barrier Concerns

While barrier wall systems generally come with a low initial cost, there’s a trade-off here. Barrier wall systems are sealed off, meaning they don’t “breathe” in the same way a ventilated rainscreen façade does – this means that any moisture that happens to penetrate the area has nowhere to go, and will instead linger and potentially create issues.

In these cases, there is generally no backup system in place to keep the envelope moisture-free. Over time, continued exposure here will degrade the system’s seal, making it virtually useless for the purpose it was installed for.

Rainscreen Facades

Rainscreen facades, on the other hand, are a stronger moisture management system than a barrier wall in most cases. They don’t just seal off moisture – they actually control and direct it, providing ventilation as well in case any moisture does happen to make its way in.

While it’s true that rainscreen facades might be more expensive than barrier wall systems up front (though not always), the benefits associated with this reality are many. Rainscreen facades require far less maintenance, as no sealants or gaskets are required – this also makes installation a breeze. It’s also very easy to incorporate insulation into any façade system. Finally, rainscreen facades are better for wetter or humid areas, or those that have regular high winds to deal with.

For more on why rainscreen facades are generally the better choice for your building over barrier walls, or to learn more about any of our facades or rainscreen panels, speak to the team at QC Facades today.

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