Vapor Barrier


A ground vapor barrier is a very accepted approach to minimize moisture and vapor that can migrate up from the soil in the open earth environment of a crawl space. It is usually necessary to make sure that the crawl space does not have an overt ground water problem (standing water and/or seepage) before installing the barrier. Such a problem would need to be remedied before you can enjoy the benefits of a vapor barrier.

Through a process called convection, warm air will always move toward colder air, meaning that during the winter the air inside your home is always trying to escape the house and move toward the cold air outside. Warm air also expands, and therefore has the capacity to hold more moisture than cold air — moisture that is picked up naturally from inside your house. As the air cools, it contracts and loses some of its capacity, so the moisture is given off to cooler surrounding surfaces.

The result of all this is that warm, moisture-laden air is constantly on the move from inside to outside. As it leaves the warm interior of the house and enters the walls, attic, and crawl space, it cools off and gives up its moisture, which in turn can saturate the insulation and framing. The more moisture there is in the air and the more differential there is between the inside and outside temperatures, the worse the problem can become — in the more extreme cases, the insulation is rendered virtually useless and severe rot can take place in structural members.

It is the purpose of the vapor barrier to prevent that movement or penetration of moisture from one area to another. Placed between the inside of the house and the insulation, the vapor barrier acts as a physical shield to repel the moisture and keep it from entering enclosed cavities where it can do serious damage.

Moisture ruins houses by providing a hospitable environment for the fungi, mold and insects that destroy wood framing. Moisture in a crawl space affects not only the floor system directly above it but also the entire house. The natural airflow in a house is from bottom to top, drawing the moist air and everything in it up into the living areas of the home. Mold spores, odors, humidity and insects create a very unhealthy environment for people to live in. Many people have allergies and experience a host of symptoms not realizing that the condition of their crawl space may be affecting their health.

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