Prevent Dampness in your Basement with Vapor Retarders
When water evaporates, it goes to where it is warm. This happens because warm air has the ability to hold more water vapor than cool air. The same thing happens in houses. If you visit a house that was built before World War II, try going to the basement. Chances are, the basement will feel damp.
The dampness can be explained by the lack of vapor retarders built in the basements of old houses. Vapor retarders weren’t used until the mid 1960s. Unless the house is located in an area in the US where the soil is extremely dry, water constantly leaves the soil and evaporates through the walls of its basement. For the water in the soil, the warm air in the basement functions as one big magnet.
The water vapor will penetrate wood flooring, carpeting, insulation, and more. It will do most anything to get to the warm air of any living space. When it gets there, it will bring along with it a musty odor. To prevent this from happening, building contractors use vapor retarders.
Vapor retarders are high performance materials made of polyethylene. To make them, two high density polyethylene sheets are cross-laminated. This means the two sheets are fused together at a 90°angle using a hot-melt resin. This process mimics the way standard plywood is made. The result is a sturdy plastic sheet with no pinholes and a heavy duty material that can resist water vapor transmission.
Vapor retarders can be used in any part of the home where you wish to stop water vapor transmission. You can and should use vapor retarders made of heavy duty plastic beneath the concrete wall or flooring in basements and garages. It can even be used on the exterior wall or on the foundations of your home if ever water vapor is present there.
Vapor retarders are generally a one-shot deal: You only have to install them once and forget about them. However, there are poor-quality vapor retarders in the market. High quality vapor retarders may be considerably expensive (often five times more expensive than the cheaper alternative). However, with vapor retarders made of heavy duty plastic, you are assured of having no dampness or musty smells in your home.
Aside from being used in walls, vapor retarders may also be used to line crawl spaces. These heavy duty plastic sheets may even be used to cover the walls of a home during construction. You can learn more about vapor retarders on this website: askthebuilder.com/category/qa/new-construction/vapor-barrier/.
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