What is a Crawl Space Vapor Barrier?
A crawl space vapor barrier is installed in areas of buildings such as basements to protect the base of a residential building from the moisture that comes from the ground, from excessive rainwater, and the water in the air.
Crawl space vapor barriers can be installed on the interior or exterior of a crawl space, depending on the climate where the structure is located. The temperature and humidity of the climate will also determine plastic sheeting specifications and installation.
The installation of a vapor barrier depends on the material, build, and size of the crawl space. Typically, it is secured with a two-sided, airtight tape, overlapped to prevent leakages and then secured to the ground with stakes or fasteners.
Read more: Crawl Space resources.
How Long Does a Crawl Space Vapor Barrier Last?
Crawl space vapor barriers are meant to last many years. The amount of moisture, sunlight, and debris that they encounter might have an impact on the life of the plastic sheeting.
Pests and insects, especially those attracted to water, can slowly wear down your sheeting. If you live in a particularly harsh weather environment, it may be beneficial to inspect your crawl space or basement every so often to catch problems before they arise.
When to Replace Your Crawl Space Vapor Barrier
Builders and homeowners should look for these signs indicating it may be time to replace their crawl space vapor barrier.
Mold, Mildew, or Rot
Vapor barriers keep moisture out while being permeable enough to allow the crawl space to dry if water should get in. A rotting crawl space is a sign that there is no vapor barrier or that the barrier is not doing its job, and should be replaced.
Standing water can be devastating for a building structure. If there is continuous water in the crawl space area that is not properly drained, the vapor barrier may need to be replaced. If the leakage or water problem is coming from inside the building, it should be resolved before replacing the sheeting.
Animals and Pests
If insects like termites have infested your crawl space, they may be attracted to the moisture. Bigger wildlife may nest in the crawl space if there are breaches in the plastic. Infestations should be terminated before installing new plastic sheeting.
What Plastic Sheeting Do I Need?
Because builders and homeowners want to let moisture out, as well as keep moisture from getting in, it is important to not just choose the lowest permeability, but to choose a plastic sheeting with permeability that matches the appropriate climate. Dryer climates prefer ultra low permeability, like VaporBlock® Vapor Barrier, while humid climates will need slightly higher permeability, like in Americover’s PRO Crawl Barrier.
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