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Vapor Barriers: Ins and Outs of Crawl Space Waterproofing

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How Vapor Barriers help in Crawl Spaces

Do you think your crawl space may be leaking? Given Colombia, South Carolina’s precipitation history, everyone’s crawl space may fall victim to a bit of dampness now and then. If you want to keep your belongings safe, though, there are certain steps you can take to keep the water out.

Vapor barriers, for example, are easy-to-install solutions to crawl space dampness and standing water. An essential part of the encapsulation process, vapor barriers, when coupled with perimeter drainage and a sump pump, will help redirect any leaking water. What precisely is a vapor barrier, though, and when should you think about installing one?

What is a Vapor Barrier?

Vapor barriers are made out of white plastic-esque material with little to no porous relief. That means that most gases, let alone water, won’t be able to make it through the barrier that this material forms. As a result, the water that would have otherwise damaged your belongings will be redirected out toward your lawn.

Encapsulating your crawl space is a permanent solution that will properly seal the area from the earth. If you integrate other waterproofing solutions into your space, like French drains or sump pumps, you’ll be able to rely on your barrier for much longer.

When Should You Use a Vapor Barrier?

While pre-emptively installing a vapor barrier isn’t going to hurt anyone, you’re not going to want to undertake this process unless you know your space is leaking. What are the signs that you should be on the lookout for?

You’ll be able to tell if your crawl space is leaking if you spot the following:

Installing a Vapor Barrier

With a better idea of what a vapor barrier is and when it can come in handy, are you ready to install yours? The process of installing a vapor barrier – which is recommended through a contractor —  typically involves the following steps:

  1. Make sure there’s no water in your crawl space. You can’t effectively waterproof your crawl space through any means if there’s still water inside of it. As such, you’ll need to work with your contractor to remove any standing water or dampness from your crawl space prior to the encapsulation process. This may mean installing a French drain and a sump pump system to pump out the water. It’s also recommended that you use a dehumidifier to pull water vapor out of the air.
  2. Find old and new leaks. Standing water is only good for one reason: it’ll help you find the source of your leak more quickly than damp walls will. After you’ve cleaned out your crawl space, do what you can to find the source of your leak. Leaks in your joints and walls should be fairly easy to spot. If you’re not able to identify where your leak is coming from, though, you may need to reach out to a contractor. It’s possible that water may be coming up through the foundation of your home. If this is the case, you’re going to need to attend to that damage before moving forward with your encapsulation process.
  3. Remove damaged insulation. With your leaks sealed off, you can start preparing your crawl space for its new vapor barrier. To begin, you’re going to need to remove any old or damaged insulation from the space. While in some cases this material could be preserved and re-used, you shouldn’t when trying to keep your crawl space dry. Not only is damaged insulation less effective than new insulation, but it can release pathogens into the air when it’s been exposed to water. The last thing you want to do when installing a vapor barrier is to give mold particles a place to grow. You can, however, install new insulation before putting up your vapor barrier if you so choose.
  4. Install your vapor barrier. With old insulation removed, you can work with a contractor to install a vapor barrier. As you do, make sure to cut out holes for any pipes, electrical circuits, or other outcroppings you want to be able to access once the installation is complete.
  5. Install additional waterproofing measures. Finally, consider talking to your contractor about the additional waterproofing solutions you can stack with your vapor barrier. You may want to consider installing a dehumidifier in the long-term if you think your crawl space may still be prone to dampness.
  6. Living in Columbia, SC, doesn’t have to be a struggle against coastal precipitation. Talk to your contractor about encapsulation and crawl space waterproofing measures during a free inspection and estimate.

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