When your crawl space starts to leak, you’re going to want to get rid of the water – and fast. If you don’t, you risk damaging the belongings you’ve so carefully stored away.
The good news is that there are several waterproofing solutions at your disposal, including a vapor barrier coupled with drainage and sump pump systems. What is a vapor barrier, though, and when is it time to think about installing one? Let’s dive into the details so you can determine for yourself whether or not a crawl space vapor barrier is the solution for you.
Signs of a Leaking Crawl Space
Prevention may be the best medicine when it comes to a crawl space leak, but you don’t want to spend money on a solution you don’t need. Before you install your vapor barrier, make sure your crawl space is actually leaking. Some of the symptoms to look out for include:
- Falling temperatures
- Water damage
- Wet walls or puddles
- Mold clusters
- Bad smells
Vapor Barriers: The Basics
Vapor barriers are near-impermeable plastic-like sheets you can install in your crawl space. Not only will these sheets keep most of the water out of your crawl space, but they’ll also prevent most gases from getting in and out of the space as well.
Encapsulating your crawl space is a permanent solution that will properly seal the area from the earth. You also can make your vapor barrier last longer if you, for example, install a French drain and sump pump at the same time as your barrier installation.
How to Use a Vapor Barrier In Your Crawl Space
If you’ve decided you need to install a vapor barrier in your crawl space, never fear. The installation process, which is best left to a professional contractor, is usually fairly straightforward. Just keep an eye out for bumps in the road along the way!
In general, installing a vapor barrier as part of the encapsulation process requires the following steps:
- Dry out your crawl space. It’s not easy to waterproof a crawl space that’s still damp from the last North Carolina rainstorm. Do what you can to get water out of your space. You may need to install a dehumidifier, French drain, or sump pump if you need help pumping the water out of your home.
- Find and seal your leak. Once you’ve removed any standing water or dampness, you can start sealing off the leaks that let the moisture into your home in the first place. The good news is that it’s easier to find leaks that result in standing water than it is to find leaks that just result in dampness. If you can’t find the location of a leak on your own, you’re going to want to reach out to a contractor. It’s possible that water may be getting into your crawl space via your foundation. In these situations, you’re going to need to attend to any foundation cracks or other damage before moving on with the installation process.
- Clear away old or damaged insulation. Under most circumstances, you can use insulation to further waterproof your crawl space. However, you’re going to want to remove any old or damaged insulation from your crawl space prior to installing your vapor barrier. Why? Because old and damaged insulation provides the perfect bed for mold particles. The last thing you want to deal with after you’ve installed your vapor barrier is mold clusters. You can, of course, install new insulation where the old material once was. Just be sure to have it replaced at the same time you replace your new vapor barrier.
- Install your vapor barrier. Once the stage is set, you can move to start laying your vapor barrier. During this process, be sure to cut holes so you can continue to access any pipes or physical structures you may need to at a later date.
- Implement additional waterproofing solutions. With the installation complete, consider stacking your vapor barrier with other waterproofing solutions. Permanently installing a dehumidifier, for example, will help your barrier last longer.
Crawl spaces are excellent hideaways for the belongings you want to put into storage. Don’t let North Carolina’s rain keep you from using yours. If you want to install a vapor barrier, reach out to a contractor to learn about your options ASAP.