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What Is a Crawl Space Vapor Barrier & How Does It Help Your Home

Monday, December 23rd, 2019


Hurricane season in Orlando, FL, varies from year to year. As a result, you may not know whether or not your crawl space is prone to flooding until the weather takes a turn for the worse.

If you’ve already invested in the standard insulation process, you may wonder: what else can be done to protect the belongings you’ve stored in your crawl space? When it comes down to it, you may need to install a vapor barrier.

What is a vapor barrier, though, and what circumstances make one necessary?

What Are the Signs of a Leaking Crawl Space?

Before you undertake any kind of waterproofing, you’ll need to be certain your crawl space is consistently leaking. Signs of a leaky crawl space include:

  • Cooler temperatures – Your crawl space is already going to be cooler than the rest of your home, as it’s located underground. However, if you notice the temperature dropping rapidly in your crawl space, you may have a leak. Why? Because the excess dampness that results from a leak will make it more difficult to temperature control your crawl space. As a result, the temperature will drop.
  • Water damaged belongings – If the belongings in your crawl space are starting to warp or disintegrate, you can assume water has been reaching them after a bad storm.
  • Bad smells – If you leave your crawl space damp for an extended period of time, the whole of it is going to start to stink. That scent will likely make its way up into the rest of your home, offering you concrete evidence that your crawl space is leaking.
  • Warping wood – Long-term exposure to dampness or standing water will also cause any wooden supports visible in your crawl space to start warping. If you have trouble, then, getting the door to your crawl space open, it may have become damaged as a result of a leak.
  • MoldMold thrives in dark, damp places. If, when re-organizing your crawl space, you notice mold clusters near the joints of your crawl space, you definitely have a leak. You’ll want to treat these clusters as soon as possible so that they don’t release pathogens into the rest of your home.
  • Standing water – Naturally, if you’re having to remove water by the bucket out of your crawl space, you’re dealing with a pretty severe leak. This is the kind of leak that will benefit from a multitude of waterproofing solutions stacked on one another, including a vapor barrier. 

How to Waterproof a Crawl Space

If you believe your crawl space is leaking, you’re going to need to speak to a contractor about the various waterproofing solutions you have available to you. In general, the process involves the following:

  1. Cleaning up – Before getting started, you’re going to need to remove the standing water or existing dampness from your crawl space
  2. Finding the leak – Leaks in your walls or joints should be relatively easy to find, as you’ll be able to follow the flow of water through your crawl space. However, if the leak is coming up through your foundation, the waterproofing process you’ll have to undergo will be more intensive than expected.
  3. Plugging the leak – With the help of a contractor, you’ll need to plug the leak in your crawl space before moving forward with other waterproofing solutions.
  4. Removing old insulation – Insulation that’s been damaged by standing water or exposure to dampness can release pathogens or allergens into the rest of your home. You’ll need to have it removed to preserve the health of your home
  5. Install a vapor barrier – These barriers, usually made of a white, plastic-like material. Coupled with perimeter drainage and a sump pump system, it will help redirect flood waters and precipitation away from your crawl space
  6. Install a dehumidifier – Optionally, you can ask your contractor to install a dehumidifier and protect your crawl space from additional dampness 

This process, known as the encapsulation process, is designed to keep your crawl space safe from leaks in the walls as well as leaks that would come up through your foundation.

What is a Crawl Space Vapor Barrier?

You know how the process works, then, but what exactly is a vapor barrier? Vapor barriers are, as mentioned, thick, plastic-like sheets that cannot be permeated by air or most types of gas. This means that installing one in your crawl space will keep the space from breathing or taking in air from the surrounding environment. By limiting your space’s exposure to damp air, a crawl space vapor barrier prevents rust, rot and moisture from reaching the belongings you’ve stored in your space.

To encapsulate your crawl space by installing a vapor barrier, you’re going to need to take exact measurements of your crawl space. This includes:

  • The length of your foundation walls
  • The height of your foundation walls
  • The lowest points in your crawl space
  • Your crawl space’s access point (and its size)
  • The location of any foundation vents 

You’re also going to need to make cuts to allow for any vents, electrical circuits or pipes you have exposed in the space.

Vapor barriers like the one installed by our experts will permanently isolate your crawl space from the earth to properly seal it from outside air, water and pests. You also can pair a vapor barrier with other waterproofing solutions, like a dehumidifier or a sump pump, to help it remain functional.

Don’t lose your crawl space to Orlando’s weather. Use a vapor barrier to protect your belongings and to take back your crawl space. Contact a local crawl space expert today for a free inspection and estimate for beneficial repairs.

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  • What Is a Crawl Space Vapor Barrier & How Does It Help Your Home
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