How to install and use a vapor barrier in a crawl space
Moisture control is an issue every homeowner has. Especially, homes built over crawl spaces deal with moisture, causing indoor air quality problems, which affects water heater durability, efficiency and HVAC ductwork.
The moisture in your crawl space also creates the perfect environment for wood destroying organisms. That could affect the effectiveness of your insulation and promote wood rot.
How do you know if you have moisture problems?
Easy, look to see if you have water collecting on the pipes or concrete walls in your crawlspace. If the answer is yes, then you’re experiencing a common problem and you should fix it as soon as possible.
Adding a high quality and permanent vapor barrier is one fairly easy solution that will correct your crawl space problem. A vapor barrier is a thin layer of impermeable material, included in building construction to prevent moisture from damaging the fabric of the building.
Installing a vapor barrier is not a complicated or expensive project, it can be completely DIY.
Here are a few tips that you should know before:
- It is really helpful to have at least one helper to pass items through the crawl space door and to help roll out the plastic, taping the seams, so ask someone to assist during the process.
- Make sure to have a good light to work safely and efficiently in the cramped space below the house.
- Locate your crawl space entrance properly. The entry hatch to crawl space is not always easy to find. It is sometimes located outdoors or along the perimeter wall. Make sure to locate them properly to avoid mistakes.
- Dry out the crawl space and leave it as dry as possible. Attack and stop all drainage and combustion problems. To do that, start using a dehumidifier, set up fans, remove wet materials, and use a pump to discharge any standing water.
- Clean the crawl space. Remove all debris, especially anything sharp that might puncture the plastic. Make sure to remove all the mold and mildew within the area, if applicable.
- Prepare your plastic sheets. Roll them out and cut them. Beginning at one side of the crawl space, lay down the plastic over the entire place. Cut the sheets to the proper size, allowing 12 inches or more along the walls.
- Attach plastic sheets to walls and piers. The goal is to provide a solid barrier against the ground. Where necessary, you can cut additional small pieces of plastic to seal any gaps and ensure a full barrier.
- The experts recommend extending the vapor barrier up the wall, 6 to 12 inches above outside grade. In either case, the vapor barrier needs to be permanently attached and sealed to the foundation wall, so make sure to extend the plastic sheets about 12 inches up the walls around the perimeter of your crawl space.
- Finally, improve ventilation. The vapor barrier will prevent most water from getting into your crawlspace, but you should definitely improve cross ventilation as an additional method. That will help prevent any residual moisture from being trapped in the space. The EPA and the Department of Energy recommend using the existing HVAC system at a rate of one cubic foot per minute of conditioned air; per fifty square feet of crawl space area. That’s a small fraction of the conditioned air it takes to condition a typical bedroom. When HVAC ducts are in the attics, the best choice is to add a crawl space dehumidifier.
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