The Crawlspace Contractor’s Business Advantage
Between the struggling economy and business competition in general, the margins for crawlspace vapor barrier and crawlspace encapsulation installers have been cut to the bone. Reputable crawlspace contractors everywhere are trying to find materials and method that will give them a competitive edge by increasing efficiency and maximizing margins without sacrificing quality installations. If you listen to any of the building science experts at the DOE, EPA, Advanced Energy, Saturn Resource Management, or the individual state energy offices, they all agree on one thing: when installing a simple vapor barrier or doing a full encapsulation, the seams need to be sealed and the vapor barrier needs to be firmly attached and sealed to the wall. The DOE standard states, “A continuous vapor retarding ground cover or vapor barrier shall be installed in all enclosed, accessible crawlspaces beneath conditioned space to prevent the diffusion of soil moisture into the dwelling or building materials.” The standard specifies that the vapor barrier be at least 6 mils thick, non-translucent, extend up the walls and piers a minimum of six inches, and be firmly attached and sealed to the perimeter walls and piers.
At Your Crawlspace, Inc., a pioneer in southeastern crawlspace improvements, one of biggest challenges was finding a way to attach and seal the vapor barrier to the foundation wall. Over the past ten years we tried a wide variety of adhesives and caulks in combination with furring strips, concrete nails, Hilti guns, Ramset nailers, Tapcon screws, and plastic anchors pressed into pre-drilled holes. All were successful to varying degrees and all were extremely time consuming, adding hours (sometimes days) to a typical installation. Furthermore, some of the techniques actually damaged a concrete block foundation.
The owner of Your Crawlspace, Inc. took a different approach. Instead of looking for a different fastener or adhesive or caulk, he looked at the vapor barrier itself and asked himself how it could be re-engineered to ease its installation. After four years of experimentation and testing, he patented the Crawl Curtain, a Class I vapor barrier that can be attached to any foundation wall in a single simple step. The material was tested in-house and was field tested in several of the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s test houses, in numerous Habitat for Humanity’s System Vision houses, and in hundreds of private residences.
The Crawl Curtain is 8.5 mils thick, flexible enough to follow the contours and irregularities of a foundation wall, but strong enough to last the life of the home. The Crawl Curtain is a polyethylene coated polypropylene and polyester fabric. It is a true Class I vapor barrier.
The Crawl Curtain is installed using a low VOC polyurethane adhesive so it is safe for installation contractors, homeowners, and their pets. Polyurethane cures like concrete rather than dries, so it off-gasses only harmless CO. Since no additional mechanical fasteners are necessary, it will not damage the foundation wall. And since water is a catalyst for polyurethane to cure, it will adhere to any foundation wall, even a water saturated wall. It is the ideal adhesive for a potentially damp crawlspace. And the bond is so strong it will support the weight of a concrete block!
Most importantly, the Crawl Curtain will cut hours from a typical crawlspace installation. Using the Crawl Curtain, attaching a vapor barrier and sealing the foundation wall and piers, a process that once took two men one or two days, can be accomplished in just a few hours. And the hours saved translate directly to a greater margin for the crawlspace contractor. In this economy, contractors need any competitive advantage they can find.