If you live in Warrenton, Bealeton, Marshall, VA, or any of the surrounding areas of northern Virginia, you may be familiar with a wet basement. The addition of a vapor barrier for your crawlspace can save your home from crumbling from the ground up. Let’s dive into the ins and outs of vapor barriers to get a closer look at what is going on beneath the surface.
If a basement wall system is designed and built to keep an interior space dry, then interior vapor barriers should be avoided regardless of where the insulation is located. If the basement is not properly insulated, hot basement air can seep into the foundation. For this reason, your basement requires special insulation techniques. For example, in a basement, if you have sheet pile insulation, you may need waterproofing. If you have foam insulation, you don’t need basement waterproofing.
Once the basement is adequately waterproofed, insulation will help prevent condensation from forming. A moisture barrier in the basement is a big advantage as it helps prevent moisture from entering the basement at any time and causing unnecessary damage to the building. When building a new house or repairing a basement, it is most effective to run a moisture barrier directly in the structure. It is best to place vapor barriers on foundation walls in basements before installing posts and doing primary insulation. Installing a moisture barrier will help keep moisture in the basement and prevent it from seeping into the walls and floors, leaving no room for mold.
Once groundwater is under control, proper use of basement insulation, moisture barriers, and wall sealants can help keep your basement dry and safe. You shouldn’t rely on an airtight basement to protect against moisture. The reality is that moisture in one form or another will always be present in the basement of a modern home. Water in the ground (no landscape can stop it all), condensation, dampness, even moisture from the stove or shower count! It’s a silly notion to deny that the water vapor that surrounds us all day will not make its way into our basements.
Water vapor can pass through the concrete from the subsurface or from indoor air that comes into contact with the concrete. Water vapor can condense if it passes through walls, ceilings or other obstructions and comes into contact with any surface or material below the dew point. A vapor barrier is a material used to prevent water vapor from penetrating a wall, ceiling, or floor during a cold winter. The intelligent vapor barrier adapts to wick moisture away from the wall, whether the humidity level is higher outside the wall (winter) or inside (summer). Drywall or green foil is not resistant to moisture trapped in the barrier.
Polyethylene plastic used in the basement is often called waterproofing, but there is some controversy here. Water that forms on the polyethylene barrier penetrates the barrier and promotes mold growth. Moisture from the warm, moist outside air that fills the cavity in the wall begins to condense on the cool outer surface of the vapor barrier (assuming it is an insulating structure) and forms mold. This complies with regulations, allowing moisture that enters the walls to escape into the heated room. This can cause condensation to form in the cavity walls, which can damage the building material and cause mold to grow.
If the basement walls are insulated from the outside, a vapor barrier is not required. Otherwise, it can be dangerous as it can trap moisture in moisture-vulnerable areas. However, the focus here is on how moisture, in the form of water vapor, leaves the foundation walls and migrates into the basement or outside above ground level. The water vapor inside will then condense on the inside surfaces of the foundation walls, providing moisture for mold growth and other problems.
Regardless of various conditions, an identifiable common problem is that moisture tends to condense on concrete walls. First, you need to imagine a concrete (or block) wall as a giant sponge that absorbs moisture (water vapor). Moisture in your home or basement can cause some form of wobble, which you will need to correct by using a damp barrier made from moisture-resistant material. Polyurethane sheeting is the best and most common form of waterproofing that most people use to prevent moisture from entering their homes through basement walls. Not to be confused with a vapor barrier, which is located on the warm side of the wall in front of the insulation and behind the drywall.
The vapor barrier goes into the basement wall, behind the insulation and the frame. The purpose of the waterproofing layer is to remove moisture from the walls to protect the insulation. If you have installed insulation in your basement, there are three types of waterproofing you can use to keep the space dry. Historically, layers of drainage, waterproofing, and vapor barriers have been laid outside the perimeter of basement walls, overlying rubble layers, and under concrete slabs. The principle of operation was to prevent liquids, steam, and capillary water from entering the structure.
Moisture barriers can dry out in the basement, an area where moisture can be removed through ventilation or dehumidification. It is recommended to avoid rigid foam or spray foam systems as they allow drying, are less susceptible to moisture damage and do not promote mold growth. These are important characteristics of materials that come in contact with basement walls and basement floors. Building walls with studs, insulating the resulting cavities, and covering the interior with a plastic moisture barrier is a common mistake that often leads to odor, mold, rot, and corrosion problems! If you’re placing a polyethylene vapor barrier behind a drywall-covered drywall-framed wall, it may be time to seek the help of a local professional waterproofing expert.
Condensation in a finished basement can accumulate in wood framing, insulation, or even in pools on the floor behind drywall. Another potential problem is that water condensation on the polyethylene can land on wood windowsills and cause mold and rot. Experts like our team here at Basement Masters Waterproofing can prevent such incidents from happening and repair preexisting problems to remove any resulting damage.
Call us at (571) 371-0960 or visit our website to learn more about how a vapor barrier can benefit your basement in many ways. Professional installation makes sure everything works correctly and saves you time, money, and hassle. Contact us today for a hassle-free estimate!