Red Barn Renovation: What The Heck Is Tyvek?

If you’ve ever driven by a residential construction site (or resided in one), chances are you’ve seen a house covered with Tyvek. As our builders began wrapping the barn’s exterior walls, I began to wonder — what exactly is this Tyvek stuff made of and why is it so commonly used?

Tyvek is a synthetic weatherproofing barrier first developed by the DuPont company in 1955. Its high-density polyethylene fibers protect against air and water intrusion, while remaining breathable enough to prevent moisture damage such as mold, mildew and rot. It’s said the material greatly improves a building’s energy-efficiency too — not only does it block drafts and other air leakage, it keeps insulation dry and effective. Or as DuPont aptly describes the overall benefit, it’s like “putting a windbreaker over a sweater.”

As for wrapping up the red barn, there was a bit of prep work involved. Using a reciprocating saw and brute force, the builders removed the 65-year-old red siding. Then, with an air compressor and spray nozzle, they cleaned out a half century of dust, hornets’ nests and animal droppings. After expertly cutting and installing the ½ inch plywood sheathing above the window line, the Tyvek was cut to size and simply stapled to the exterior. At last, the barn had that windbreaker it had been asking for since 1944!

FYI, if you’re curious what Tyvek feels like, look no further than your neighborhood post office — the USPS uses the versatile material for its Priority and Express mail envelopes.