Waterproofing Your Home: Vapor Barriers, Thermal Insulation, or Both?

crawl space insulation and vapor barriers

Researching waterproofing solutions can be stressful, especially if you have an active leak in your house. How can you tell, though, whether one solution is better than another? Take vapor barriers and thermal insulation, for example. Both solutions are perfectly viable – so which do you choose?

Thermal Insulation: The Benefits

Thermal insulation pulls double-duty inside your home, serving as a hydrophobic barrier (if you choose the right materials) and a temperature aid.

When it comes to choosing a type of thermal insulation, you’ll be able to choose from: 

Not only does this type of insulation create a physical barrier between precipitation and your home’s supports, but it also keeps your crawl space or basement at a consistent temperature.

Why is this important? Because if the materials making up your crawl space or basement fluctuate in temperature too frequently, stress starts to build up. That stress causes your home’s support structure to expand and contract. This constant change can, in turn, result in cracks and leaks throughout the below-grade levels of your home.

Vapor Barriers: The Benefits

Comparatively, you’re more likely to find vapor barriers in your crawl space than you are in the bulk of your basement. That said, if you find it appropriate, you can use a vapor barrier to help overcome a leak regardless of where it is in your home.

Vapor barriers are large plastic-like sheets designed to keep water from entering your home. The density of these sheets is so high that they not only keep liquid water out but gaseous water, too. These barriers are excellent waterproofing solutions for smaller spaces and can easily help you overcome minor to medium leaks. If you have more substantial leaks to deal with, however, it’s often best to stack a vapor barrier with other waterproofing solutions like interior drainage and a sump pump.

Comparing The Installation Processes

There’s a bit of overlap, as you can see, between vapor barriers and thermal insulation. After all, both are effective waterproofing solutions that are perfect for homes that experience minor leaks at the changing of the seasons.

What’s the difference between the solutions’ installation processes, though? Will one take longer than the other? Let’s break these processes down so you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

When installing thermal insulation, you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Measure the spot you want to insulate to determine its surface area.
  2. Place soffit baffles over your vents.
  3. Prepare the insulation.
  4. Place the rigid insulation panels on the walls and secure it in place with special fasteners, leaving essential features unimpeded.

Comparatively, installing a vapor barrier requires you to do the following:

  1. Dry out your crawl space or a section of your basement.
  2. Find the leak in your home.
  3. Seal the leak with professional guidance.
  4. Remove any old or damaged insulation that may impede the barrier.
  5. Cut the barrier materials.
  6. Place the materials along your floor and walls, only leaving gaps for electrical equipment.

Both installation processes can take between one and two days if done by a professional. As you can see, though, you’ll already be removing your old insulation when installing a vapor barrier. If you want to, you can easily bring these two waterproofing solutions together to stack their benefits.

Stacking Waterproofing Solutions

“Stacking” isn’t a term that originated among foundation repair professionals, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its industry applications. When you stack two or more waterproofing solutions together, you use the benefits of both to better preserve your home.

Is there a real benefit, then, to stacking your vapor barrier with thermal insulation? In a word, yes. Thermal insulation can help you control the temperature of your home more effectively and will prevent some water from reaching your sensitive support materials. Vapor barriers will then be able to keep any water your insulation missed from reaching your belongings inside your home. Not only that but by bringing these solutions together, you ensure a longer life for each.

Ready to get started with your home waterproofing job? Reach out to a foundation or basement repair professional in Kansas City, MO, today for a free inspection and estimate.


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