What Is a Rainscreen, and Do I Need One for My Home?

Justine Harrington
Updated April 12, 2022
A senior couple sitting on their house’s porch
Photo: Johnny Greig / E+ / Getty Images


  • Rainscreens manage moisture by allowing for drainage and airflow 

  • They protect your home from UV degradation 

  • Composed of cladding, a cavity, and an air-vapor barrier

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If you want to protect your home from the elements—like snow, ice, rain, and harmful UV light—you may want to invest in a rainscreen. Rainscreens keep its structural facade as dry as possible by allowing for drainage and evaporation. Here’s everything you need to know about these handy systems.

What Is a Rainscreen?

A rainscreen is a system that protects a structural wall from nature’s elements, thereby increasing the wall’s drying capacity. It creates a gap between the siding and a water-resistive barrier. Because a rainscreen acts as a shield against snow, rain, and ice, it reduces the chance of water finding its way into your wall (and causing mold, rot, or other damage) and helps effectively manage any moisture by allowing for good drainage and airflow. Rainscreens typically feature outer cladding, a cavity, and an air and vapor barrier. 

What Are the Different Parts of a Rainscreen?

A worker installing a rainscreen
Photo: Natali_ua / Adobe Stock

A rainscreen is made up of three main parts: cladding, a ventilation cavity, and an air and vapor barrier.


Cladding is a material used to cover a structure’s exterior. With a rainscreen system, this is the primary feature that protects the wall assembly from water. It also protects against other weather and provides shading and ultraviolet protection. Cladding can be made from metal sheeting like copper, zinc, stainless steel, or aluminum.   

Ventilation Cavity

A rainscreen isn’t effective without a ventilation cavity. The cavity allows for optimal airflow and drainage of any water that penetrates the cladding. 

Air and Vapor Barrier

In addition to deflecting rain and other elements, rainscreens protect against harmful UV light. The air and vapor barrier is essentially the last line of defense against any residual amounts of water, as well as UV light, which can lead to eventual degradation.  

What Should I Know Before Installing a Rainscreen?

Before you begin the installation process, here are some important things to consider:

  • Use cladding that’s compatible with your rainscreen 

  • Flashing should extend behind the water-resistant barrier 

  • If you live in a fire-prone region of the country, you should check with your code official before installing a rainscreen; a thicker rainscreen gap may be restricted

  • Not recommended for vinyl siding—standard vinyl siding basically already contains its own water management feature

What are Some Rainscreen Pros and Cons?

Rainscreen Pros

There are several benefits to installing a rainscreen:

Rainscreen Cons

Of course, a rainscreen may not be the right choice for every homeowner. Here are a couple of drawbacks to consider:

  • You have to be diligent about inspecting the sealing joints and flashing components of your rainscreen after a storm—if you fail to do so, your screen may not operate correctly.

  • If you live in an arid climate, a rainscreen might not be worth the effort or additional cost since you don’t need the extra moisture protection. 

What Is the Average Cost of a Rainscreen?

According to HomeAdvisor, rainscreen installation generally costs 50% more than traditional lap siding styles like shiplap and clapboard. This is because rainscreen siding uses a complex layout. Contact a siding installation professional in your area for an exact quote.

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