Basement Wall Vapor Barrier: Functions, Benefits & Installation

Do you need a vapor barrier on the basement concrete wall?

When building a basement, extra steps are taken to guard against moisture. It’s easy to see why. When it comes to construction, moisture is considered an enemy.

It causes all sorts of structural problems with thousands of dollars spent to rectify such. To keep vapor out, innovations such as the use of barriers have been brought about.

Here is a complete guide on basement waterproofing.

Why Vapor Barrier For Basement Wall

By nature, a basement is either partly or entirely below ground level. Now, this creates a unique problem because the moisture from the soil can easily seep into basement walls.

This is a situation every homeowner dreads. So, rather than forgoing the need for a basement, the solution is to have a vapor or moisture barrier installed.

Consider the vapor barrier as insulation or membrane that’s used for damp-proofing a basement. The vapor barrier consists of a sheet of plastic or foil that’s impermeable to moisture.

This effectively seals up a basement wall making it moisture-proof.

With this installed, you get to avoid all moisture-related problems common to basement areas. This gives your property the much-needed protection it needs from moisture presence.

All Basement Walls Should Include A Vapor Barrier

Sometimes, in a bid to cut down on cost or speed up basement construction, homeowners make the mistake of leaving out basement insulation.

The implications of this action are felt much later as moisture easily seeps through your basement wall.

Such a situation can be avoided by doing the right thing.

First off, basement construction should never be handled by a novice. The benefits derived by hiring a pro include getting all the right advice necessary for the proper construction of your basement.

Here, the right procedures are followed including the installation of the right type of vapor barrier.

Concrete is Like a Sponge

On the surface, concrete structures may look solid and impermeable to water. However, this is far from the truth.

As a matter of fact, concrete acts like a sponge that easily wicks in water from the soil into your home. Without a moisture barrier in place, moisture problems are bound to develop.

Moisture and Mold

To better appreciate moisture or vapor barrier functions, you’ll need to consider what it helps prevent. It’s easy to see that moisture is the common denominator when it comes to the use of a vapor barrier.

However, one other thing that’s common with moisture presence but often left out of conversations is mold.

Mold and mildew appear wherever moisture is abundant. While mold themselves won’t cause damage to timber, they create or produce tons of spores, which may affect persons with allergies. Plus, your basement wall is defaced.

Now, the easy thing to do is have the basement mold cleaned, but such an action will do little (if anything at all) to solve the problem. Rather than focusing on the effects, it is best to eliminate the causes first.

In other words, get rid of moisture, and you have zero mold issues. This goes a long way to save your property.

Installing Moisture Barrier in Basement Wall

A vapor barrier is either installed during the construction of a new home or when remodeling a basement space.

This is an important piece of information especially for homeowners seeking to fix moisture problems for walls without vapor barrier protection.

For new construction, it’s best to have a structural engineer perform all necessary checks on the suitability of the soil. Also, such a wall must be fitted with all necessary moisture protection such as the use of polyurethane sheeting.

How to Install Vapor Barrier In Basement Wall

Where do you put vapor barriers in basement walls?

Vapor barrier installation in basement walls must respect the laws of physics. It’s common knowledge that below-ground structures like basement present greater challenges than those built above ground.

For those above ground, moisture doesn’t present much of a problem as such can be dried easily dried from the outside.

An understanding of moisture movements is crucial. You’ll need to seek expert advice from building scientists or structural engineers. To install a vapor barrier, you’ll need to choose from several impermeable materials.

These include rigid foam (sealed with spray foam), Tyvek, or polyurethane sheets.

A wood strip is used to hang these impermeable materials with space left between the product and basement wall.

These impermeable materials should overlap. However, it shouldn’t be installed in a way that prevents wood and concrete walls from breathing.

Moisture barriers for basement walls need to be installed first before framing. Asides from keeping out moisture, vapor barriers also serve to insulate your basement, thus keeping it warm.

Are Moisture and Vapor Barriers the Same?

Are vapor and moisture barriers the same? These two terms are often used interchangeably and all refer to the same impermeable barrier (sheet of plastic) used to keep out moisture.

You’ll need these to properly damp-proof your basement wall.

While these perform similar functions, where they’re installed within a basement wall differs. For vapor barriers, the warm side of a basement wall (that is, the area behind the drywall and in front of the insulation) is used for placement.

On the other hand, moisture barriers are installed behind a basement wall’s framing and insulation. This membrane goes against the basement wall.

When to Install Vapor Barrier in Basement Walls

For new basement constructions, vapor barriers will be required for all the walls.

In other words, you’ll need this protective layer in your walls right from the start of construction. However, the truth is, not all basement walls have moisture barriers. As such, remodeling may be necessary.

Here, we’re simply trying to point to the fact that vapor barriers will need to be installed in basement walls. For walls built without one, remodeling may be necessary.

Have an Expert Handle Vapor Barrier Installation in Basement Wall

For vapor barriers to have any protective effect, proper installation will be necessary.

Avoid cutting corners through the adoption of DIY installation techniques especially when you aren’t skilled enough. With the help of a skilled technician, the job is properly done and your basement walls become impermeable to moisture.

So far, we’ve seen the many benefits of a vapor barrier in basement walls. This protective layer is best installed at the start of construction. However, basement walls not fitted with a vapor barrier can still be reworked.

In other words, a vapor barrier can be installed in existing basement walls through a remodeling process.

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