In hot climates, radiant barriers can significantly reduce cooling costs by reflecting much of the heat that would otherwise soak into a home's interior spaces. According to its maker, foil-backed Thermostat Radiant Barrier Sheathing reflects up to 97 percent of the sun's radiant heat and can reduce cooling costs by 17 percent. Prices for the 4-foot-by-8-foot panels — which come in 1/2- and 5/8-inch nominal thicknesses — vary by region but generally run $3 to $4 more per sheet than regular plywood. Georgia-Pacific, 800/284-5347, www.gpplywood.com

Since most new homes have 9-foot ceilings on the first floor, traditional 8-foot sheathing panels just don't measure up. One solution is 1/2-inch-thick FiberBrace sheathing, which now comes in 10-foot lengths for taller walls. It satisfies building code requirements (ASTM C208) for racking resistance and costs less than plywood and OSB. Although...

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