Vapor barriers are used on construction projects to provide an effective and economical method for limiting water vapors from traveling upward through a concrete slab. This vapor prevention helps to eliminate excessive moisture build-up that causes structural damage. These damages include breakdown of flooring adhesion, warping or peeling, rotting of carpet, buckling and decaying of wood, and offensive odors or fungi growth. When selecting the optimum vapor barrier, there are several facts to be aware of.
Fact 1: Not All Vapor Barriers Are Made Equal
It’s crucial that the material you choose is manufactured from high-grade raw materials consistent in quality. Construction grade films are not ideal for full protection. Traditional construction grades of 4, 6, or 10 mil are typically very low-quality polyethylene resin, and a high percentage of them are post-consumer recycled materials. Recycled materials tend to have inconsistencies in physical strength and permeability as a result of the numerous heat cycles used during the manufacturing process. Although construction-grade materials can be used in temporary construction or agricultural projects, it is not ideal for long term full protection from unwanted moisture and can result in devastating decay.
Fact 2: Vapor Barriers Must Have a Long Lifespan
Many projects that use vapor barriers and retarders require lifetime guarantees. Installation of flooring and carpeting in homes, for example, must withstand decades of use. That is why it’s crucial for vapor barriers to resist a lifetime of decay, moisture build-up, pests, and chemicals. Both post-consumer recycled resins and paper laminates will not hold up to this lifelong challenge, for these materials are severely affected by chemicals in the soil and heavy moisture presence.
Fact 3: Moisture Problems Are Due to Punctures or Tears
Unreliable materials can rip during installation due to basic construction traffic. These tears can wreak havoc on your project and prevent your vapor barrier from fully functioning. It’s important to select a barrier that is manufactured for high puncture resistance and tensile strength, along with low-moisture vapor permeability.
Fact 4: Vapor Barrier Suppliers Must Meet ASTM Standard
ASTM E-1745-11 requires that minimum tensile strength and puncture resistance values are met along with the maximum allowable water vapor permeance. Ensure your materials are designed for use under concrete slab applications and adhere to the ASTM standards.
Vapor barriers are a crucial part of many projects. Throughout the next few articles in our three-part series, we will talk about selecting the right barrier for your project and how to properly install these materials.
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Americover is the smart source for plastic and polyethylene sheeting. Trusted by contractors and distributors across construction and agriculture industries, our American-made products combine reliability with quality and innovation. Before using vapor barriers for flooring projects we recommend you check your flooring manufacturer’s warranty requirements.
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