What Is a Moisture Barrier, and Do I Need One?
When picking out flooring or redoing the walls in your home, waterproofing is probably not the first thing on your mind. However, it’s more important than many people realize to make sure your home has the right water protection. You need a moisture barrier to prevent water from entering the spaces under your floors and inside your walls. While water vapor from humidity may not seem like a big deal, it can cause pretty serious damage to the underlying structure of your home. It doesn’t take much moisture to create the perfect breeding ground for mold. Rot and mold are challenging to deal with unless you have professional experience and equipment. It’s always easier to prevent moisture problems before they happen than to deal with water damage after it occurs.
How do I Know if I Need a Moisture Barrier?
When installing your home’s walls or flooring, you may be wondering if or when you need to install a moisture barrier. A moisture barrier is designed to prevent moisture damage to your home’s building materials since many of them are susceptible to mold and water damage.
While you might think that moisture barriers are only needed in areas with hot, humid climates, even homes in cooler climates can benefit from them. The environment you live in will impact both what kind of barrier you need and how to install it. The most important thing to know is whether it needs to go on the inside or outside of the insulation.
The key to ideal moisture barrier placement depends mainly on the climate surrounding your home: will heat and humidity most often emanate from inside, or out? If you live in a colder climate, you’ll be heating your home from the inside to keep the frigid weather at bay. That means most of the humidity will be generated from within, so the barrier should be installed between the drywall and the insulation. The opposite applies if you live in a hot, humid climate, where it makes sense to put the moisture barrier between your exterior wall and the insulation to keep it dry.
A moisture barrier can also help protect against destructive insects like termites and carpenter ants. These pests are attracted to moisture, hard to get rid of, and can cause severe damage to your home. In severe cases, they can break down your wood framing to the point that the damage causes the entire structure to collapse.
Regardless of your environment, you should consider using a moisture barrier in basements and crawlspaces as well as beneath flooring and behind the drywall in high-moisture places like kitchens and bathrooms. It’s better to be safe than sorry when moisture damage could put your home’s structural integrity at risk.
Moisture Barriers vs. Vapor Barriers
In the home construction industry, the terms moisture barrier and vapor barrier are often used interchangeably. So are they the same?
Both are designed to keep moisture out of your home and can be made from various materials.But there are a few key differences, the most apparent being that moisture barriers are better at keeping out liquids, and vapor barriers are better at keeping out water in its gaseous state.
The materials you can use for a moisture barrier fall into three categories based on their permeability rating, defined by the International Residential Code. The first category, Class 1, covers the vapor barriers with the lowest permeability — things like metal, glass, polyethylene sheets, or other highly effective materials. Class 2 covers materials like extruded polystyrene and plywood. Lastly, Class 3 comprises materials like gypsum board, concrete blocks, house wrap, and more.
While it’s best to do whatever you can to prevent mold infestations and moisture damage before they happen, sometimes it’s already too late. No prevention method is 100% effective and disasters can occur at any moment. If your home has sustained water damage and it’s past the point of a simple fix, don’t attempt to address it yourself. If water has already entered your home or if you see evidence of a mold infestation, such as visible dark spots or musty odors, it’s likely already severe. Mold infestations almost always start inside porous materials and often don’t spread to places you can see until a sizable mold colony is established.
Time is of the essence if your home is afflicted with mold or water damage. The longer it goes untreated, the more difficult it will be to resolve. Call the professionals at AdvantaClean at 877.800.2382 and our experts will help save your home from water damage with moisture barriers and other measures.