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Basement Vapor Barriers: Why You May Need Them and How to Care for Them

Your catalog of waterproofing solutions is more vast than you might think. Even if you’re working with a space as broad as your basement, you may be able to install waterproofing measures that you’d otherwise see in smaller spaces.

Take vapor barriers, for example. Vapor barriers can serve as both waterproofing measures and aesthetic boons in your new basement, so long as you maintain them with care.

What Is A Vapor Barrier?

Vapor barriers are most frequently used to encapsulate crawl spaces. These large, plastic-like sheets are dense enough to not only keep water out of your home but to help prevent dangerous gases like radon out, as well. Some tick and durable 20-mil plastic vapor barriers also are mold and mildew-proof.

While installation time and cost will vary based on the size of your basement, it typically takes less than a day for professional contractors to fit your home with a vapor barrier. It’s best to pair a vapor barrier with an interior drainage system like BasementGutter™ so that these systems can help keep water out of your basement and away from your belongings.

When Do You Need A Vapor Barrier?

When you first purchase or build a new home, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that it stays family-friendly for years to come. This means exploring your waterproofing options early in your tenure as owner.

If you notice any signs of water damage throughout your home, you’ll want to invest in something like a vapor barrier quickly. Some of the symptoms you may want to look out for will include:

  • Inconsistent temperatures in your basement 
  • Increasing electric or heat bills 
  • Signs of basement seepage 
  • Mildew or mold 
  • Excessive moisture or high humidity throughout your home 
  • Standing water 

Can You Use A Vapor Barrier Outside of Your Crawl Space?

While vapor barriers, as mentioned, are most frequently seen in crawl spaces, you can use them elsewhere throughout your home. If you’re looking to waterproof your basement, a vapor barrier can come in handy. Not only will a vapor barrier keep water away from your structural supports and stored belongings, but it can also improve the look of your home. The white, matte appearance of a vapor barrier can cover up concrete, brick, or any water damage that you haven’t been able to get rid of. As mentioned, installation doesn’t take long at all, even in the largest of basements. These vapor barriers are also tear-proof, making them the perfect long-term waterproofing measures to use in even the rainiest of places.

Vapor Barrier Maintenance

That said, most vapor barriers won’t last forever. You will need to conduct annual maintenance on your vapor barrier to ensure that it’s still working as it should.

If you’re conducting an inspection on your own, you’ll want to look over the whole of your vapor barrier. Start by looking for tears around the corners of your barrier. Then, move inward. If your vapor barrier is unexpectedly damp, the material may be wearing thin. Alternatively, there may be a crack in the wall that your vapor barrier is protecting. Finally, be sure to check the fasteners or other installation measures that are keeping your vapor barrier in place. If any of these have begun to slip, it may explain any increased humidity or water damage in your home.

If you don’t feel comfortable inspecting your vapor barrier on your own, you can always reach out to one of the foundation and basement repair professionals in your area for a home inspection. If anything’s gone wrong with your barrier or home, these professionals can provide you with a free quote on any repairs or services you may need.

Vapor Barriers Versus Waterproof Insulation

There are other basement waterproofing measures available to you besides vapor barriers. The most comparable may be basement insulation. This insulation typically bears thermal properties that’ll help you control the temperature in your home. When paired with an internal drainage system, waterproof insulation will keep water away from your belongings and redirect it accordingly.

Vapor barriers, in comparison, don’t provide you with as much insulation as traditional insulation does. However, waterproof insulation does tend to fail faster than a vapor barrier does. If left unchecked, your insulation may rapidly become a home for the mold and mildew particles you were trying to keep out of your home.

If you’re not sure which waterproofing measures may suit your best, talk to one of the professionals working in the Charlotte, NC, area. A professional can walk you through the benefits of vapor barriers as well as the installation process. These professionals will also be able to conduct your yearly home inspection and help you stay on top of any damage that may arise.