properly encapsulated crawlspace

Exploring the Differences: Vapor Barrier vs. Encapsulation vs. Sealing


Mold can be found everywhere around us, but it is not dangerous until it starts spreading and growing, especially in a closed space, in your home. I assume that you already know the dangers of mold and that it can cause a huge impact on the health of anyone living in your household. Fighting against it is also a problem because it is a complicated process. This is why it is recommended to do everything you can to prevent it. These days, one of the best ways to avoid this problem is with a vapor barrier and encapsulation.

These terms might be entirely new to you. That is normal because most people have not heard about these methods of protection against mold. Vapor barriers and encapsulation are specifically focused on sealing crawl spaces in all kinds of homes. These methods are also useful for other smaller spaces in buildings. Most commonly, it is the space under a house that provides you with access to piping and main supporting pillars of the building.

However, this dark and damp place is the perfect breeding ground for mold. If you do not do anything to prevent that from happening, you will have some serious problems.

To help you decide what type of protection is best for your home, here are the differences between vapor barrier, encapsulation, and sealing.

Vapor barrier

vapor barrier

This is not the most popular method of preventing mold, but it is definitely very effective and there are several benefits that come with it. I am sure that in the next few years or in the next decade, we will see this become the more popular option.

So, how does it work? Well, usually, in crawl spaces, people prefer to fill the entire space with insulation material, but that is definitely not the most cost-friendly or efficient way of dealing with a problem. This is why the vapor barrier exists. It is a very thin black piece of plastic that is layered all over the space under your house. The layer can be anywhere between 5 mm and up to 8 mm.

The benefits of vapor barriers is the fact that it does entirely seal the crawl space. Vents and other openings might be left open to let air circulate under the house. If you close those off do, you will then need to install a dehumidifier to ensure that the humidity in the air will not rise too much. Because if it does, mold will start growing. And that is something that you do not want to happen, especially after investing in this kind of protection.

Since there will be air circulating, there is also no need for a sump pump. Water will not collect over the plastic, so there is no need for anything to pump it away.

The most obvious benefit of a vapor barrier is the fact that it is an affordable choice that provides you with protection against mold, keeps your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter and even allows you to use the crawl space for storage. However, if it is not your main priority to make that space under your house a storage unit, you should go for another option.


Wake Forest crawlspace encapsulation 1

If you want to successfully seal your crawl space, you will have to take all the necessary steps and ensure that everything is done by the book.

First, you will need to layer the vapor barrier on the floor and then attach it on different points to make sure that it cannot be easily removed. Attach it to multiple points across the room such as the walls, floor, beams, pillars, etc.

Once that is done, the next steps is to seal vents and any other opening. Basically, close off everything that could let air in. This includes any visible cracks or gaps in the floor or walls.
By following these standards, you will ensure that your crawl space has been properly sealed.

Crawl Space Encapsulation

crawl space encapsulation

This is another very popular method that is very effective. In fact, some experts claim that it works much better than the vapor barrier, but obviously, there are some downsides to it. But, we will get to those, first, we need to talk about how this thing works.

Instead of a thin layer of black plastic, a thicker 12-14mm plastic is used. But, the difference is not only in the thickness. The main difference is that everything will be sealed when you use this method. Much more plastic will be used and all the vents and openings will be closed. In other words, with this method of crawl space sealing, air circulation will be entirely closed off.

Crawl space sealing – a good idea?

Right now, you might be asking yourself, is it a good idea to have your crawl space entirely sealed? Well, it depends on your needs. It is good because mold will have a very hard time growing in a space that has been entirely sealed. With proper crawl space sealing, rodents will be unable to enter the area under your house. Of course, certain rodents will be able to bite through the plastic and enter. But, even then, there is not enough air down there to survive.

Keep in mind, there will also be a little bit of space left for storage. Although, you will have less room for storage compared to a vapor barrier. There are also a few downsides. The main downside is that you also have to invest in a sump pump and a dehumidifier. Without these two very important devices into much humidity, moisture will start to build up quite quickly. In a few days, you will find water inside of the sealed chamber. To prevent that from happening, a dehumidifier is installed which prevents humidity from rising. The sump pump is more like a safety feature in case water does build up. It will pump the water away from your home.

Obviously, this is also the more expensive option, but it is definitely more reliable and provides much better protection.

Which one do you need?

After reading through the different benefits of a vapor barrier, sealing and crawl space encapsulation, your question on which one you need is probably still unanswered. The truth is that the answer depends on your requirements and needs. It also depends on where your home is located. If you have to regularly deal with high humidity, moisture, and mold, entire crawl space sealing might be the better and more reliable option. However, if you have not had any problems with humidity and mold before, maybe the vapor barrier is more than enough for your home. This way, you will also be able to save a bit of money.

In the end, any of these are very effective and a great option compared to anything else. So, whichever you choose, it will be a good decision.