There are a few questions that can quickly showcase whether you have a crawl space vapor barrier issue. If your answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” you should schedule an inspection as soon as possible.
Is the Crawl Space Vapor Barrier Torn?
The first question you should ask is whether you can see any tears in the crawl space vapor barrier. This is especially common in very thin vapor barriers, like the required minimum 6-mil vapor barrier, because it can tear as easily as a plastic bag in many cases. Though it’s the minimum requirement, you should never choose a 6-mil vapor barrier.
If you see any tears in the barrier, the barrier is obviously no longer working. Water and air will find its way through any crack, no matter how slim. Even if you don’t see any tears in the barrier, it’s possible that there are tears you simply can’t see. Keep asking questions to see whether you’re having any other crawl space vapor barrier problems.
Are There Puddles on the Vapor Barrier?
Next, ask whether you can see any puddles of water on the vapor barrier. If you can see physical puddles of water, it means there’s some kind of issue with the vapor barrier that’s permitting water to collect. That inherently means your vapor barrier isn’t working properly because it’s not keeping water out.
Water vapor barriers can form a great place for water to collect if it’s not working properly. The plastic may form small pockets that are easy for water to collect in. However, that just means it’s easier for you to see if your vapor barrier is broken in some way or another because you’ll note these recesses of water.
Do You Still Have a Problem with High Indoor Humidity?
This is perhaps the most telling sign you’re dealing with a vapor barrier issue. If you have a vapor barrier in your crawl space, but you’re still dealing with high indoor humidity, at least one thing is true: either the vapor barrier is not effective or there’s another entrance for water in your crawl space somewhere, likely in the walls.
High indoor humidity can happen if you have an effective water vapor barrier. However, it typically won’t happen at a rate that’s higher than the outside humidity if you have effective crawl space encapsulation. Regardless of the reason for the high indoor humidity, it’s a good idea to get a crawl space repair expert to make sure the vapor barrier isn’t the issue.
Has It Been More Than One Year Since Your Last Inspection?
It’s a good idea to have an inspection every year on your crawl space, including your crawl space vapor barrier. You probably wouldn’t drive a car that hadn’t been inspected in the proper amount of time, so why would you have a crawl space vapor barrier that you haven’t paid enough attention to every year since you’ve first installed it?
Many things can cause problems for crawl space vapor barriers, from the constant water vapor pressing on it to potential issues with pests, insects and mold. Ideally, the vapor barrier should be able to protect against it, especially if it’s a super-thick barrier. However, it’s possible that you could have an issue, and that’s the best argument for a yearly inspection.