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How to Know Your Vapor Barrier Needs Replacing

inside of a crawl space with a bad vapor barrier that needs replacing

Vapor barriers are an essential part of the crawl space encapsulation process. They effectively seal the crawl space so that moisture cannot get inside. That helps decrease your chances of water damage and other problems such as mold, mildew, and wood rot. Unfortunately, low-quality barriers are not a permanent solution, and even if they are maintained often, eventually, they will need to be replaced. 

At Mount Valley Foundation Services, we understand that moisture inside your crawl space can lead to significant issues such as mold growth, pest infestations, and high energy bills. That is why you need to have your vapor barrier replaced at the first sign of damage. The vapor barrier will help protect the dark, damp, and susceptible area located underneath your home and protect your overall structure from the many different types of water damage.

Does Your Crawl Space Vapor Barrier Need Replacing? Ask Yourself These Questions

If you think your vapor barrier needs to be replaced but you aren’t sure, you should ask yourself the following questions. 

  • Is the Vapor Barrier Torn? 

The first thing you should do while inspecting the vapor barrier is looking for any tears. It is quite common for thin vapor barriers to develop tears over time. In most cases, the 6-mil vapor barrier can tear as easily as a plastic bag. If you do find a tear, the barrier is no longer functional. Water and air are capable of getting inside even if the tear is minimal. You must also consider that even if you can’t see any tears, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Therefore contacting a professional to inspect the space for you will help you determine if you have an issue with your barrier or not. 

  • Are There Puddles Inside the Vapor Barrier? 

Do you see any standing water anywhere? If you can see actual puddles of water, that means there is an issue with your vapor barrier, allowing water to get inside. The plastic of the barrier could form a small pocket that makes it easy for water to collect and get inside. These pockets of water can be much easier to spot than small tears in the material. If any exist, it is clear you need to replace your vapor barrier. 

  • Is There a Problem with High Humidity? 

Perhaps the most significant indication that you have a failing vapor barrier is a high humidity level in the crawl space. A functional barrier is designed to decrease the amount of humidity inside your crawl space, and in turn, it prevents other issues such as mold growth or condensation. 

  • How Long Has it Been Since Your Last Inspection? 

It is recommended that homeowners have their vapor barrier inspected once a year to ensure it is working correctly. Several things can cause issues with your vapor barrier, such as the constant pressure it endures from the water vapor pressing against it. Pests, rodents, and insect infestations can also cause issues with your barrier. 

Keeping up with your annual inspections for your crawl space vapor barrier can help you prevent issues with a bad barrier because you will know that you should replace it long before it starts causing serious problems. Ensuring that your vapor barrier is properly sealed will also help avoid these more serious problems. Be sure to contact a professional for assistance when installing a vapor barrier in order to ensure that it is sealed properly. 

Why A Vapor Barrier is Important for your Crawl Space 

Crawl space vapor barriers play an essential role in protecting your crawl space.  

Here are a few of the benefits you can experience from installing a vapor barrier. 

  • Saving Energy by Controlling the Temperature 

When increased moisture is present, it can impact the humidity level of your crawl space and your entire home. Higher humidity can cause your home to be hotter or cooler than you prefer. That will lead to your HVAC system working much harder than it usually does. Suppose your air conditioner or heater is constantly running to fight against the humidity levels and keep your home at the right temperature. In that case, that will cause your electricity bill to go up. By replacing your old vapor barrier, you will effectively reduce your energy costs and help reduce the wear and tear on your HVAC system. 

  • Decrease Moisture and Dampness 

If there is any way for moisture and water to get inside your home, you can be sure it will find a way. Water can seep through the walls and enter through the dirt floors of your crawl space. As dampness and humidity continue to build up inside the small and dark environment of the crawl space, it helps promote the growth of mold and mildew. Dampness and excessive moisture will also attract several pests such as termites, who can do severe damage to the wood in your home’s foundation. 

  • Eliminate Many Health Concerns 

Placing a high-quality vapor barrier inside your crawl space can help to decrease the chances of you and your family having severe health complications. Moisture and humidity inside a crawl space can promote the growth of mold and mildew. If you or anyone in your household has asthma, allergies, or any other breathing issues, being around mold and mildew will cause their symptoms to get worse. Mold is a fungus that grows quickly in dark areas that are rich in moisture. 

  • Preserves the Value of your Home 

Mold can damage your home in more ways than one and affect its resale value. If you plan to resell your home, buyers may request that you lower your asking price because of mold damage. That’s why it is best to do what you can to remove the mold the right way the first time by trusting a team of professionals to do the job for you.  

  • Reduces Wood Rot 

Vapor barriers help ensure the structural integrity of your home by reducing the amount of moisture present in the air. When wooden structures are subject to too much moisture, they become subject to rot, which can damage the structural integrity of your home. 

How Mount Valley Foundation Services Can Help with Replacing Your Bad Vapor Barrier 

Our foundation repair experts at Mount Valley Foundation Services work hard to eliminate all issues with your crawl space to keep your home and your family safe. A vapor barrier is extremely useful in preventing moisture from entering the crawl space and causing severe damage. But these barriers need to be maintained and are not designed to last forever. 

When you notice your vapor barrier shows signs of wear and tear, it is time to get in touch with our team. We will do what it takes to prevent further damages to your home and help preserve the overall structural integrity of your investment. Then contact the professionals at Mount Valley Foundation Services to schedule a free inspection. 

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Vapor Barrier Replacement FAQs

If you take a look online for instructions on how to fix your crawl space vapor barrier, you will find there are many DIY tutorials available. Many homeowners think installing a vapor barrier will not take long and won’t be too complicated. After all, it is possible to purchase all the materials you need to do it yourself at your local expert supply store. 

At Mount Valley Foundation Services, we have installed many crawl space vapor barriers over the years. We can tell you that this is not an easy task, and it is not something that many people can figure out just by watching an online tutorial. If anything goes wrong or you make a mistake, you will still have to contact a professional to complete the task. Therefore it is best to contact our team and have your new vapor barrier installed by members of the oldest foundation services companies in all of South Carolina. 

If you are wondering if you have moisture or water problems with your crawl space, here are a few problem signs you should look for. 

Open Crawl Space Vents 

Crawl space vents were once believed to help circulate the air in a crawl space and prevent mold growth. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Open crawl space vents have been the primary cause of moisture problems and mold growth for many of our customers. Venting your crawl space allows moisture inside. Anytime moisture enters the area, you can expect problems to arise. That’s because the moisture mixed with the humidity and dark environment makes your crawl space the ideal place for mold, mildew, and other issues. 

Loose Crawl Space Door 

Crawl space doors are often flimsy and not durable. They are usually not designed to seal shut, making it easy for air, water, and unwanted pests to get inside.  

High Indoor Humidity 

Does it seem warmer inside your home than it really should be with the air conditioner running? Humidity coming from the crawl space could be an issue. As air is circulated throughout your home, it brings along with it the same air from the crawl space. And as the moisture rises, it will go through your structure’s floor joists, subflooring, and insulation as it makes its way into the upper level of your home. 

High Electric Bills 

If you are experiencing higher than average electricity bills the cause could be due to issues with your crawl space. When your HVAC system struggles to keep up and constantly runs to cool the house down, it costs you extra money that you wouldn’t have to pay if you had your crawl space repaired

Crawl Space Water Problems 

The main issue with water in your crawl space is the humidity it causes. When the water down below becomes humid, it doesn’t stay put in your crawl space. Instead, It makes its way up to your home, altering the temperature there and causing your HVAC system to run more than it should. Also, if water problems are not taken care of, the moisture will settle with the organic materials, and mold will begin to grow. 

Crawl Space Mold 

Perhaps the most challenging issue caused by moisture in your crawl space is mold growth. That’s because mold can have a bad effect on your health. As mold grows, tiny particles from it get into the air that we breathe. These particles can make it difficult for people with respiratory issues to breathe. But even if you do not have any health problems, it’s possible for mold to still cause you issues such as sneezing or wheezing. 

Several things could be the cause of your crawl space barrier no longer working as it should. Here are some of the most common reasons why homeowners need a replacement vapor barrier. 

  • The Barrier is Too Thin 

If the material used for the crawl space barrier is too thin, it will not function correctly. Or if it functions, it will not last long. The minimum requirement for the thickness of a vapor barrier is 6-mil. But if you are serious about protecting your home and your crawl space, it would be worth looking into a thicker vapor barrier. If a barrier is too thin, it will be more likely to tear, And it may not be as efficient in blocking out moisture as a thicker barrier would. 

  • The Old Barrier Was Installed Incorrectly 

You may have attempted to install your old vapor barrier on your own, or you hired an expert who didn’t have the necessary training and experience to get the job done correctly. If the crawl space barrier is not installed precisely right, it will not provide you with protection from moisture and water damage. 

The only way to resolve this problem is to remove all the old vapor barrier material and replace it with a brand new barrier. It’s highly likely that the barrier already has tears and debris build up if another company installed it incorrectly. It is recommended that you hire an expert who will remove all the old barrier material from your crawl space and replace it with a newer, thicker, and more efficient barrier. 

  • Too Much Humidity 

If you installed a vapor barrier without considering the condition of your crawl space beforehand, you might still have high humidity inside the area. One way to fix this problem is by getting a crawl space dehumidifier and running it before installing a new barrier. That will help ensure you have removed all the excess moisture from the area and the environment will be in the best possible condition for installing a new vapor barrier. 

  • Debris in the Crawl Space 

Some companies will cut corners and will not take the time to remove all the debris from the crawl space floor before they get started with the installation. While it can save the customer some money because the installation will take less time to complete, it will not save them anything in the long run when they have another barrier installed sooner than usual. Often, debris like large rocks and sticks will be the leading cause of tears in the vapor barrier. Even if the debris seems minimal, it doesn’t take much to change how the vapor barrier will fall. If there is too much debris on the floor, it could place additional pressure and stress on the barrier and impact the lifespan. 

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher is the Content Lead at Groundworks, helping us to answer all of our customers biggest questions about foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete lifting. In his free time, Michael enjoys collecting vinyl records, watching Formula 1 Racing, and reading philosophy. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge.

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