There is much debate over the role and merit (as well as need) for vapor barriers within varied sects of the construction industry—however, there is a simple truth no matter what side of the discussion you happen to find yourself on.
Ultimately, the systems under your building and above the concrete slab need protection, too, and simply leaving HVAC systems, wiring and plumbing, or the framework itself exposed offers far too much room for error—and seriously tempts Murphy’s Law. There is no sense in leaving the fate of your building up to chance, because let’s face it—damage can occur above the slab by moisture found in the soil. This risk is eliminated when you make the decision to employ a vapor barrier.
Still not convinced? We invite you to consider these five reasons why your building will benefit through the utilization of a vapor barrier beneath the slab.
- Problems Begin When Moisture is Present: Moisture needs to and should remain in the soil and depending on the climate where you happen to be building, this can sometimes be a hard reality to attain. Certain areas of the United States, for instance, like the Pacific Northwest or the somewhat swamp-like Southeast can present considerable challenges to builders. With that being said, proper precautions must be put in place in order to combat against the ravages that can come if moisture has the ability to seep from the soil.
A vapor barrier provides the opportunity to create a barrier between the ground and the building structure itself. When it is applied in a uniform sort of fashion on the soil and under the concrete foundation as well as part way up the walls of the base of the building, moisture will remain in the soil and not find its way into your building. A vapor barrier acts as a first line of defense—a veritable waterproofing mechanism to your building.
- Metal and Water Do Not Mix: It’s likely that considerable HVAC ductwork is located at or in the base of the building, installed in the basement or utility centers of the structure. As such, it’s important to recognize that metal can be significantly compromised by rust and corrosion when exposed to water and moisture. In turn, a damaged HVAC can pose other significant issues outside of the inability to control heating and cooling—does anyone ever want to have to deal with burst pipes or inefficient water lines, after all?
As the answer to that question is likely no, it is through the installation of a vapor barrier where construction professionals have the opportunity to protect the considerable investment that has been made in the systems of a building. What’s more, you must know that even if the metal ductwork is comprised of galvanized, stainless, and coated components, they can still be damaged by moisture. Making the investment in a vapor barrier effectively eliminates this risk.
- And for That Matter—Metal, Water, and Electricity Really Do Not Mix: As we have already addressed the hazard presented when metal and water get together, let’s also add the presence of electricity, just for good measure. Outside of the ductwork that is under a building, the fact that electrical systems are usually housed here as well is present. Yes, the wiring in this area will be protected typically by conduit or via plastic sheathing; however, there are points of entry for moisture where joints or connections are present, for instance, with a junction box. If moisture were to impact these areas, your building, in turn, ends up with big electrical problems.
- Moisture Creates Health Issues: Let’s face it, we have all been in a building or structure at some point where everything felt “off.” There was the presence of humidity, even when colder temperatures were existing outside; the air smelled musty and thick, and condensation formed on the inside of windows. However, this situation is likely caused by what is going on underneath the building—moisture is compromising the surrounding materials through absorption, and the framework and foundation are taking the brunt of the damage.
When the inside environment of a building is impacted by the presence of moisture, it’s not just about the feelings of dampness or issues with temperature regulation. Instead, moisture promotes the growth of mold and mildew, which leads to allergies and health problems for the people who use the building day in and day out. By implementing a vapor barrier, you are taking the first step in ensuring that your building offers a drier place for the individuals who will ultimately be using it once it is built.
- Toxic Gases and Chemicals Are Also Barred: Moisture is not the only enemy that needs to be combatted against; toxic and harmful chemicals can also seep into the building from the ground. Ultimately, there are many naturally occurring gases, such as radon, methane, gasoline, solvents, oils, and hydrocarbons that can easily migrate through the ground and into a concrete slab of a building.
A for instance here with radon. This gas, specifically, has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer—and it’s naturally occurring. And then there is methane, which is produced from the decomposition of organic material from natural sources and human activities. When this is not addressed appropriately, methane can cause asphyxiation—and in higher concentrations can be combustible.
Additionally, construction that specifically occurs in brownfield areas must be protected against hydrocarbons that seep up from the soil. Gas vapor barriers allow these issues to be addressed, protecting both the integrity of the building as well as the health of the future occupants.
In closing, vapor barriers are one of the most effective and proactive ways of protecting a building against the harmful effects of moisture, gases, and toxic substances. What’s more is that vapor barriers, like those produced by W. R. Meadows, are proven to withstand and endure the rigors of construction, which protects their long-term viability.
W. R. Meadows invites you to learn more about how vapor barriers can benefit your business and protect the integrity of the buildings you construct. For over 70 years, we have been recognized as the trusted name in vapor retarder/barrier protection. And after having installed millions of square feet of our varied products, we welcome the chance to show you how we can also help you. Kindly contact us today, and a representative of our company will be happy to assist you with any questions that you may have.
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