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Vapor Barriers For Crawl Spaces

Vapor Barriers For Crawl Spaces

Crawl space - Berkley Michigan Construction

Most of us don’t think about the space under some of our Berkley homes much. But the truth is that you may end up needing costly repairs if you don’t stay on top of it.

 Homeowners with crawl spaces underneath their residence need to be away of what could happen if they ignore this part of their home. The range of potential problems that can arise from trapped moisture under your home includes everything from structural damage to health problems. 

The most common solution is the installation of a vapor barrier in your crawlspace. Some of the most common advantages include:

Increased Energy Efficiency:  Vapor barriers act a form of insulation for your crawlspace, helping to both regulate temperatures and lowering heating and cooling costs in your home. This could reduce your energy bill by up to 20%.

Improved Air Quality: Because vapor barriers keep moisture out, they reduce the chances of mold growth and spreading throughout your home. This will improve the overall air quality, especially for persons who suffer from allergies and sensitivities to mold and fungus.

Eliminated Condensation:  A vapor barrier is highly effective at preventing moisture seepage inward through porous concrete and cement blocks.  As a result, this will greatly reduce humidity levels in your crawlspace. This protection keeps condensation from forming on pipes and duct work in the crawlspace which could lead to plumbing and heating issues down the road.

Increase Home Value: Encapsulating your crawlspace will also improve the value of your home since it reduces potential moisture issues such as wood rot and mold in your crawlspace. This is a plus when it comes time to sell your home.


The cost to install a vapor barrier will vary based upon several factors. First is the overall condition of the crawlspace itself. This includes the condition of the soil and the condition of the structure over the soil. The size of your crawlspace, including materials and labor, is also an important factor. Prices for a professionally installed vapor barrier may range anywhere from $2,000 up to $14,000.

 A vapor barrier is a thick plastic sheet that is laid throughout the crawlspace of the home. The plastic keeps moisture from coming up underneath the ground and getting into the area underneath your home.

Moisture is the number one enemy of your home. It can cause structural damage, mildew, and mold to appear no matter the reasons why. It is also potentially dangerous underneath your home. Most people don’t spend a lot of time in their crawl space. This leads to the all this damage, which could have been prevented goes unseen for lengthy periods of time.

Structural damage often comes in the form of wet rot but there are other ways that moisture can begin to take things down. An unprotected crawlspace is a breeding ground for a variety of micro-organisms. Oxidation processes, like rusting, can also occur in the metallic parts underneath your home. Over time it can eat through metals and create serious problems. Mildew and mold will occur anywhere that moisture can get a decent hold. Even a raised humidity level is often enough to create a problem with these pesky microorganisms.

If the crawlspace underneath your home is dirt-floored then you should have one installed as soon as possible.

There are a few different ways that you can end up with water in the crawlspace. Leaks from above can cause problems, but those will generally be handled by a plumber. If that’s happened to an extensive degree you may need the area under your home serviced even if you have a vapor barrier. 

Where vapor barriers really shine is preventing condensation and seepage. Seepage occurs when the soil around your home gets wet and the water is carried under the home. It can make the soil moist or lead to water actually ending up in the crawl space itself depending on soil conditions. A vapor barrier will prevent this rapid evaporation from causing problems.

The other big reason for moisture comes from condensation as air temperature changes. It’s less of a problem with lower humidity but water will almost always condense from the air as the local temperature changes.

First, the entire area beneath the home will need to be graded and any loose debris removed. Many companies will cut costs by skipping this step. The ability to effectively grade the soil is one of the biggest problems that an amateur faces. You need a solid, flat base in order to install a vapor barrier correctly. Without this, you’ll face clumping and other issues with the barrier that can cause serious problems.

The entire space will then need to be measured and any obstacles which may still remain have to be assessed. This is where the professional difference can really be seen. The average person doesn’t have the experience required to ensure a good layout with the poly sheeting used as a vapor barrier. 

The sheet is then prepared, with cutouts made for various elements in the space. Afterward, the plastic sheet needs to be laid down as totally tight as possible and achieve close to 100% ground cover. Any exposed areas of dirt underneath the home will lead to future problems. Finally, the barrier is installed with stainless steel, corrosion-resistant fasteners, and special buttons that reduce the risk of tearing. This overview makes this process sound quite simple. But there are many tools and techniques which come from experience insulating other spaces. 

If installed correctly, a vapor barrier is designed to last for years to come. Most people should conduct an annual inspection during the summer months. Look into the crawl space with a flashlight and take a look around. Should anything be torn, seek help to get it repaired immediately. Also, look for any signs of rot or damage to the subflooring and supports of your home. It’s just a safety precaution. The barrier will prevent most problems but situations can occur if left unchecked.


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