How to Install Foil-Backed Plywood Sheathing


Summer heat takes a big toll on your energy budget, so you need all the help you can get. Radiant barriers such as foil-backed plywood sheathing can make a difference in your utility bill, especially in hot, sunny climates. They work by preventing the heat in a roof or wall from radiating into the interior of the building. Although it's not necessarily worth tearing your house apart to retrofit, if a new roof, room addition or remodel is in the plans, foil-backed sheathing is just as easy to install.

Things You'll Need

  • Level or straightedge
  • Shims (optional)
  • Hammer
  • 8d ring shank nails
  • 10d common nails
  • Use a level or straightedge placed across the rafters or wall studs to make sure the mounting surface is reasonably even. Shim if necessary.

  • Inspect the foil backing for damage. Clean the face of each panel prior to installation. Install roof and attic gable-wall sheathing with the foil facing in toward the interior of the building. Install living space wall sheathing with the foil facing out toward the exterior of the building.

  • Attach the sheathing using 8d ring shank nails. Drive a nail every 6 inches on each edge of the sheathing, and every 12 inches on the studs or rafters in between. Leave a 1/8-inch space between each of the panels where they meet at the edges and ends. The 10d common nails make convenient 1/8-inch spacers.

  • Install roofing felt or shingle underlayment over roof sheathing as soon as possible to protect the sheathing from moisture. Consult the manufacturer when installing siding over foil-backed sheathing. In general, furring strips should be used to provide an air space between radiant barrier sheathing and siding.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check the manufacturer's data sheet to make sure the type and thickness of sheathing you use is rated for your application and installed to proper specifications.
  • Foil-backed plywood sheathing is not intended as a vapor barrier or a replacement for house wrap.

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