Horizontal exterior sidings like wood clapboards, vinyl, and fiber cement have traditionally been nailed directly to the underlying sheathing, typically over a water-resistant underlayment of asphalt felt or some sort of housewrap. That’s still common practice, but over the past few decades, a more labor-intensive technique known as rain-screen siding has been steadily gaining ground.

Reportedly first recommended by Canada’s National Research Council in the early 1960s, the rain-screen approach involves fastening the siding to vertical furring strips, which are usually spaced to correspond with the wall studs. The resulting vertical channels are usually covered with insect screening at top and bottom but are otherwise left...

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