How to Install a Basement Vapor Barrier

A vapor barrier is useful for keeping moisture from making its way into a basement, keeping mold and water damage at bay. Get the inside scoop on these moisture barriers and find out how they can help protect your basement.

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By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik
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Basements in Depth

Solve common problems and turn unused square footage into new, functional areas for gathering.

A basement vapor or moisture barrier is installed during the new construction of a home or the remodeling of a basement.

Polyurethane sheeting is a typical vapor barrier that contractors use to prevent moisture from penetrating the walls of a basement. The material is stapled to the frame of a basement wall before it is finished with plaster or drywall. A vapor barrier is also helpful to keeping a basement insulated and warm.

Basement Remodeling Ideas from TV

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AFTER: Guest Suite Fireplace

As seen on HGTV's Elbow Room, this basement was renovated by licensed contractor Chip Wade to include a new guest suite for visitors, home beer-brewing area and entertaining space for the whole family. This is the suite's modern lounging area with a deep fireplace. The space has clean, modern feel that is warmed up by the wood accent walls.

Photo By: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Before: Guest Suite Fireplace

Before, the unfinished basement was uninviting and mainly used for storage and the homeowner's makeshift beer-brewing area.

Photo By: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Before: Living Room Area

As seen on HGTV's Renovation Raiders, the seating arrangement in this basement was awkward, forcing people to sit at opposite sides of the room to watch television.

After: Living Room Area

A new seating arrangement allows for the family to sit together with the flagstone fireplace and TV as the focal point in the room.

Before: Desk Area

The basement is a nice size, but wasted space that is rarely used. This dingy old desk looks neglected and very plain against mustard yellow walls.

After: Desk Area

The sleek new desk rolls easily to make for additional space and fits the style of the library area. The color of the built-in bookshelves breaks up the yellow.

Before: Bookshelf

The bookshelf is a similar shade to the mustard walls and does nothing for the space.

After: Bookcase

The color is a vast improvement, but the real upgrade is the super-cool secret passageway from the bookshelf.

Before: Under the Stairs

As seen on HGTV's Cousins Undercover, the basement of this home was damaged during a flood, making it unsafe. It was partly gutted and used for storage. This space needs a full overhaul.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

After: Under the Stairs

Post-makeover, the basement is once again a family hub full of modern cottage style. The new staircase provides an open wall that separates the living room from the dining room. The stairs are stained to create a warm contrast between the two rooms.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

Before: Staircase

The original stairs were damaged by water and were too weak. Since they were a hazard, they needed to be rebuilt.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

After: Staircase

The custom open stairs are a bold and strong addition to the basement. Not only are they a wonderful design element, but they also serve a as room divider for the living room and dining room.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

Before: Family Room Area

Boxes of assorted storage items took up all the available space, but even if they didn't, the water damage from the flooding made this an unsafe space.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

After: Family Room Area

Once the basement was cleared, a family room area was placed next to the new staircase. There's a great open flow to the space and the soft palette and lighting bring out the brightness of the room.

Photo By: Chris Amaral

While a vapor barrier won't stop moisture from making its way between the foundation walls and the actual barrier, it will help prevent water from coming into the basement. This, of course, helps to dissipate moisture and mold – two things that no one wants to see in a basement.

You may also want to consider choosing insulation that comes enclosed in a vapor barrier. This option is popular among homeowners because it also encloses the fiberglass material from which insulation is typically made.

Ideas for Your Basement Remodel

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