What is a vapor barrier?

What is a vapor barrier, you may ask? Being close to the ocean and cooler climates means homes are vulnerable to moisture control issues. Poorly controlled moisture and indoor humidity levels lead to problems, ranging from condensation on the windows to structural rot and mold infestations. Vapor barriers work in tandem with insulation and ventilation systems to keep interior moisture levels to a minimum, enhancing whole-home comfort, energy efficiency, and air quality.

What Is A Vapor Barrier?

Vapor barriers, also called vapor retarders, can be used as part of a residential roofing system in conjunction with insulation inside exterior walls and crawl spaces with exposed earth. A vapor barrier is a kind of material that’s used to resist moisture from entering through the wall, ceiling, and even the floor. Water-water resistant materials come in sheets and are installed as per manufacturers’ instructions.

The ultimate goal of a vapor barrier is to prevent moisture accumulation (condensation) from migrating to the home’s interior. Therefore, there is no set standard as to how a vapor barrier is applied. However, in cooler, damper climates, we typically attach vapor barriers on the inside of exterior wall surfaces, mitigating the transfer of moisture that accumulates there via condensation – when the warmer interior air meets the cooler exterior surface of the walls.

In a warmer, humid climate, contractors typically apply vapor barriers to the exterior of the walls, underneath the siding, to mitigate moisture transfer that would seep from the exterior to the interior otherwise.

Improve interior air quality

Have a family member who is prone to asthma attacks or respiratory problems? If so, you’ll definitely benefit from ensuring whole-home humidity (via updated insulation, vapor barriers, and ventilation are in place) and that supports

In a warmer, humid climate, contractors typically apply vapor barriers to the exterior of the walls, underneath the siding, to mitigate moisture transfer that would seep from the exterior to the interior otherwise.

Eliminate the chance of mold/mildew & pest infestations

By the time your home’s humidity level creeps above 55%, or so, mold becomes a very happy camper. Mold and mildew spores need three things to thrive: humidity, warmer temperatures, and something to eat. Your interior walls, spaces, attics, blow-the-sink cupboards all offer exactly what these spores are looking for.

Unfortunately, mold and mildew cause structural rot, leading to costly repairs if it isn’t caught early enough. Those infestations make your house smell musty or “old” and they cause unsightly stains once they make their way into more visible locations.

As if that weren’t enough, other pests like cockroaches, silverfish, earwigs, mosquitoes, and centipedes also prefer humidity levels above 55%, so getting moisture levels under control supports pest control, too.

Professional Installation Is A Must

Here is the problem with vapor barriers: when they are needed, they make a difference. When they are not needed or if a vapor barrier is installed incorrectly, they wind up causing moisture issues. Always make sure you’re working with a licensed contractor before deciding to install vapor barriers so you can trust their judgment.

Why You Should Use Vapor barriers To Reduce Interior Moisture Levels

So, what’s the big idea about a little indoor humidity from time to time? The experts agree that ideal interior humidity levels are between 35% and 50%. You can purchase a humidity testing device online or at your local hardware store. If you are due for your annual HVAC maintenance appointment, ask the technician to test your humidity levels for you.

Reducing interior humidity levels to within that span has multiple benefits.

Increase energy efficiency

Damp makes hotter temperatures feel hotter and cooler temperatures feel colder. As a result, elevated interior moisture and humidity levels cause your HVAC system to work harder to meet the demands of your thermostat. Once your humidity levels are back under control, you’ll notice a decrease in energy spending related to home heating and cooling.

Your Building Code May Require It

Any uninsulated crawlspace within your home or property can present a severe disadvantage for your cooling and heating system. The damp soil within a crawlspace can often lead to cooler air rising through the house as well as odors making their way up into your property. This can often lead to unpleasant smells and issues with temperature control over time.

If you know you have bare earth and there is no vapor barrier in place, it’s time to contact an insulation contractor and schedule an inspection. Once vapor retardants are in place, you’ll notice a distinct difference in reducing HVAC demands, which directly translates to utility savings. In addition, if interior humidity, mold, or window condensation has been an issue in the past, you may notice these situations improve as well.

Contact Neo Attic Solutions to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We can look into your attic and crawl spaces to identify what if anything would make a difference for your comfort and peace of mind.

Schedule a FREE INSPECTION today!