Does Your Crawl Space Need a Vapor Barrier?

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Blog, Crawl Space

Dirt floor crawl spaces don’t win many popularity contests. If you’ve got one, you’ve likely heard all the warnings, and maybe you’ve seen some of the problems first-hand. 

First of all, let’s note: having a dirt floor crawl space is not a travesty. It’s not a home-purchase deal-breaker and the challenges you’ll face can all be resolved. 

But there are some common issues that homeowners with dirt floor crawl spaces encounter. These include:

  • Rodents and other pests crawling up through the dirt floor and nesting in the crawl space
  • Vapor accumulation caused by high humidity or rainfall
  • Mold or rot caused by prolonged moisture damage
  • Heat and humidity coming up from the crawl space into the rest of the house, making the indoor environment less comfortable and driving up cooling costs
  • Heat leaving the house in the wintertime, raising heating costs
  • Wet or cold floors, making walking around the home an unpleasant experience

If the surfaces and objects in your crawl space are wet to the touch, that’s a clear sign that there’s too much moisture down there. 

The key to preventing moisture-related problems: adding a barrier that completely seals off the crawl space. 

Installing a Vapor Barrier in a Dirt Floor Crawl Space

A vapor barrier is a protective layer for your dirt floor crawl space, keeping out ground moisture and other hazards. The barrier is made of a durable plastic material that’s applied in overlapping sheets. 

Vapor barriers provide complete encapsulation of the crawl space against its dirt floor. Encapsulation refers to the process of sealing off the entire crawl space against moisture by adding a floor barrier, sealing vents, and dehumidifying the air. 

An airtight space is created—leaving the great (and wet) outdoors outside of the confines of your home. 

Some homeowners might attempt to install a vapor barrier on their own. But for most, the best choice is to hire a professional. Since the goal is to completely seal off an area, the job needs to be done perfectly in order to be effective. 

Installation Steps for Vapor Barriers

Your installer will arrive at your home, inspect the crawl space and its surroundings, and take measurements. If a vapor barrier is recommended, they’ll provide an estimate. 

For best results, some pre-install steps might be required or advised. If there are drainage issues around your foundation, water may be flowing or seeping into your crawlspace. That will need to be addressed. 

You may need to inspect the crawl space for the presence of mold. Mold is common in dirt floor crawl spaces thanks to high levels of heat and humidity. Check around the HVAC equipment and floor joists. Deal with mold problems before working on encapsulation. 

When you proceed with the install, your vapor barrier is added throughout the entirety of the crawl space. Stakes are used to secure the barrier into the dirt floor and hold it in place. This often involves first smoothing and flattening the dirt floor to enable tight, level coverage. 

Moisture-proof insulation material is installed over all exposed parts of your home’s foundation to prevent any dampness from reaching your crawl space. Your installer may also recommend regularly running a dehumidifier to keep the crawl space as dry as possible. 

The entire vapor barrier installation process can usually be completed in one day. 

Moisture Damage Prevention for Maryland Homeowners

Once you’ve had your crawl space professionally encapsulated with a vapor barrier, this portion of your home ceases to be an eyesore and a headache. 

Adding a vapor barrier makes your crawl space and home less susceptible to nasty problems such as mold, rot, and pest infestations. 

Your home will also have better temperature control. Less heat and humidity will enter through the crawl space in the summertime, and less heat will escape in the wintertime.  

If you’re a homeowner in Maryland considering a vapor barrier for your dirt floor crawl space, contact Dry-Tek Environmental for assistance. 

We provide moisture damage prevention services to homeowners, specializing in crawl spaces and basements. Our comprehensive, evidence-based reports, assessments, and estimates help lead you towards safer, drier, and healthier indoor living environments.