One feature that is often overlooked but provides huge benefits is a rainscreen system. You're probably wondering what on earth a 'rain-screen' is and why your new home needs one. Well, let me tell you.

A rain screen is an exterior cladding system that creates an air gap between the cladding and the waterproof membrane of the building. This space allows for drainage and evaporation of any moisture that gets behind the outer surface. Not only does a rain-screen system help prevent rot, mould and water damage to the structure of your home, but it also improves energy efficiency and lowers utility bills. So why do most residential home builders not include this in their standard builds? Cost is often cited as a limiting factor, but with rising energy prices, rain screens can save you money in the long run.

What Is a Rainscreen and How Does It Work?

What Is a Rainscreen and How Does It Work?

A rain screen is a multi-layered wall system that protects your home from the elements. It has an exterior layer of cladding, like metal panels or tiles, spaced off the actual wall. This creates an air gap that allows water and moisture to drain away, preventing it from seeping into the wall cavity.

The rain screen system shields your home in two ways:

  • The cladding, which could be stone, brick, wood or metal, acts as the first line of defence against wind, rain and UV radiation. Any water that gets behind the cladding flows down into the air gap, where it drains out the bottom of the wall.
  • An air barrier, like house wrap, seals all cracks and holes in the wall and ties into your roof and foundation barriers. This reinforced barrier stops any remaining air or moisture from penetrating into the wall cavity.

The air gap, typically 25mm to 50mm deep, allows for circulation so heat and moisture can escape. Insulation, like mineral wool or fibreglass, fits snugly between the studs in the wall. This combo keeps the temperature inside consistent and your energy bills in check.

Rainscreens may cost a bit more upfront but can save you money over the lifetime of your home. They reduce heating and cooling costs, prevent damage from water and moisture, and increase the longevity of your home. Your architect or builder can help determine if a rain-screen system is right for your new construction or renovation project. When done properly, a rainscreen helps create an impenetrable building envelope so you can enjoy the comfort of your home for years to come.

The Benefits of Rainscreens for Energy Efficiency

When choosing a home builder, insisting on a rain-screen system for your new house is one of the smartest moves you can make. Rainscreens provide so many benefits that ultimately lead to lower energy bills and a more comfortable living environment.

Energy Efficiency

A rain screen allows for insulation within the wall cavity, reducing heat transfer into and out of your home. According to building code requirements, the rain screen design can incorporate fire-rated foam board insulation to optimise energy efficiency. With rising energy prices, the long-term savings in heating and cooling costs make the initial investment well worth it.

Moisture Management

It's inevitable that some moisture will get behind the exterior cladding, but a rain screen is designed to manage it properly. An air barrier stops any water that does get in, allowing it to drain out the bottom of the wall or evaporate. This protects your home from water damage and prevents mould growth within the walls.


High-quality materials like galvanised steel, aluminium, zinc or copper provide an attractive, durable exterior that stands up well to weathering. These metals are corrosion-resistant and long-lasting, reducing maintenance costs over the lifetime of your home.


A rainscreen incorporates an air gap between the cladding and the wall structure, allowing for ventilation. This airflow helps regulate temperature and humidity within the wall cavity, contributing to the efficiency and durability of the system. Proper ventilation is key.

While a rainscreen system may cost slightly more upfront, the benefits to energy efficiency, moisture management, durability and ventilation provide significant long term value. For the best in home construction, a rainscreen should not be an optional upgrade but an essential part of the building envelope. Your new house will be better protected and more comfortable, giving you peace of mind for years to come.

Photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Why Aren't Rainscreens Used More Often in Residential Construction?

As a homeowner, you should expect builders to use modern technology and best practices to create an efficient, durable home. Surprisingly, rainscreens, which meet these criteria, are rarely used in Australian residential projects. Builders often cite cost as the main issue, claiming clients won't pay for it. However, I disagree. Builders can transparently include these system costs, explain their benefits, and let clients decide. Not offering this choice suggests a reluctance to change and a preference for the status quo.

Higher Upfront Costs

While rainscreens save money in the long run through energy efficiency and lower maintenance, they do cost more upfront. Materials like specialised cladding, insulation, and ventilation components add to initial budgets. Builders may see rainscreens as an unnecessary expense, even though homeowners would recoup costs over time.

Lack of Understanding

Many builders don’t fully understand rain-screen design or see its benefits. They continue using traditional wall assemblies that don’t properly manage heat, air, and moisture. Rainscreens represent a shift in thinking that some builders are hesitant to make. Additional training and education for builders and contractors on rain-screen advantages could help address this issue.

Perceived as Unnecessary

Some residential builders don’t think rain screens suit home construction and see them as overkill. While commercial buildings clearly benefit from rain-screen technology, residential homes may not seem to require the same level of performance. However, as homes become tighter and more energy efficient, rainscreens are increasingly important for occupant health, safety, and energy savings.

Satisfied With the Status Quo

The building industry can be slow to adopt new methods and materials. Builders tend to stick with familiar details and products rather than invest in new systems, even if they have significant advantages. The status quo is comfortable, so rain screens are overlooked in favour of more traditional options, even if they're inferior. It often takes consumer demand to motivate an industry shift.

While upfront costs are higher, residential rainscreens make sense for their energy efficiency, durability, and performance. As material costs decrease over time, rain screen benefits become more obvious, and homeowners recognise their value, builders will likely make them a standard part of home construction. The question is whether the building industry will change fast enough.

green plant in clear glass vase
Photo by micheile henderson / Unsplash

How Much Does Adding a Rainscreen Really Cost?

How Much Does Adding a Rainscreen Really Cost?

Adding a rainscreen to a new home may seem unnecessary, but it can save you money in the long run. A rainscreen protects the structure of your home by preventing water damage and increasing energy efficiency. The initial cost of a rain-screen system depends on the materials used, but it typically adds between 5 to 15 percent to the total wall cost of a home.

When calculating the cost of a rainscreen, you'll want to consider several factors. The exterior cladding material, like metal, stone or composite panels, will make up the bulk of the expense. More premium cladding materials like zinc or copper will be on the higher end of the cost spectrum. The ventilation cavity and framing system also need to be included. Proper insulation and an air barrier are essential components to maximise energy savings.

While a rainscreen system requires an upfront investment, it can lower utility bills by up to 30 percent annually through improved insulation and reduced air leakage. A rainscreen also extends the lifespan of a home by protecting structural components from water damage and weathering. When damage does occur, repairs tend to be less extensive and less costly. Over the lifetime of a home, the savings in energy and maintenance costs often outweigh the initial investment in a rainscreen.

For new home builders and owners alike, a rainscreen is a system worth considering. Although it may seem like an unnecessary add-on, a rainscreen provides protection and energy efficiency that lasts for the life of a home. The savings in annual utility costs and major repairs down the road frequently make up for the marginal increase in initial wall costs. A rainscreen helps ensure a home is built to last, keeping owners comfortable and secure for years to come.

Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Questions to Ask Your Builder About Incorporating a Rainscreen

When meeting with your builder to discuss incorporating a rainscreen into the design of your new home, here are some key questions you should ask:

What are the benefits of a rainscreen?

A rainscreen provides an effective moisture management system for homes. It creates an air gap between the exterior cladding and the structural wall that allows for ventilation and drainage. This helps prevent water damage and promotes energy efficiency. Discuss the specific benefits for your climate and how it can lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of your home.

What materials will be used?

The materials used for the rainscreen components greatly impact its performance and longevity. High quality, corrosion-resistant metal panels, durable air barriers and insulation that meets building code requirements for fire safety are best. Ask about the properties and life expectancy of the proposed materials.

How will it be installed?

Proper installation is essential for an effective rainscreen. All components must be securely installed and integrated to effectively manage air flow and moisture. Inquire about the installation process, and ask to see examples of details for windows, doors, rooflines and foundations. Attention to detail is critical.

Will it affect the appearance or design?

Rainscreens can enhance the appearance of a home through the use of attractive metal cladding options. However, the overall thickness may affect the design. A rainscreen adds layers to a wall assembly, so the builder will need to compensate for this in the plans. Discuss how it may change the appearance and any design modifications needed.

What is the cost versus the benefits?

While rainscreens do add to construction costs, the long term benefits in energy efficiency, lower maintenance and enhanced durability can offset these expenses over the lifetime of the home. Ask your builder to provide an estimate of additional costs versus projected savings to determine if a rainscreen system makes financial sense for your new home.

The right rainscreen design and installation can provide moisture protection and energy efficiency for your home. By asking the right questions, you can make an informed decision on whether incorporating this advanced wall system into your new home construction is worth the investment.


So there you have it, the compelling case for why your new home absolutely needs a rainscreen. Don't settle for anything less just to save a few quid. The long-term benefits to your wallet, health and comfort are well worth the investment. Demand the best from your builder and hold out for a rainscreen—your future self will thank you for it. When the next storm hits or energy prices rise again, you'll be sitting pretty in your snug new home without a care. While your neighbours battle leaks, drafts and sky-high utility bills, you'll be warm as toast and paying a fraction of the cost. A rainscreen really is a no-brainer if you want a home that's fit for the challenges of this century. Make it a non-negotiable part of your new build and you'll never look back. The future is rainscreens, so why not get ahead of the curve? Your new home is worth it.