Understanding Vapor Barriers

Understanding Vapor Barriers

In our line of work, we come across many “interesting” insulation jobs. But, before you start any project, understanding vapor barriers is a must. Then, the insulation will be installed correctly.

We see work completed by the homeowner who wants to save money. Additionally, we come across some that were completed by licensed professionals who haven’t been educated on proper installation. Similarly, the biggest mistake we see is people installing a double vapor barrier—installing a covering (usually plastic) over an already existing vapor barrier.

Understanding vapor barriers

In the first place, “the function of a vapor barrier is to retard the migration of water vapor. Furthermore, vapor barriers are not typically intended to retard the migration of air. That is the function of air barriers.”[1]

Moreover, a vapor barrier is any material used for damp proofing, typically a plastic or foil sheet. Additionally, these sheets resists diffusion of moisture through the wall, floor, ceiling, or roof assemblies of buildings.[2]

What does a vapor barrier do?

Vapor barriers are installed along, in, or around walls, ceilings, and floors. Of course this is done to prevent moisture from spreading and potentially causing water damage. Additionally, a true vapor barrier is one that completely prevents moisture from passing through its material, as measured by the “moisture vapor transmission rate.” If the material has any porousness, but the barrier still provides protection from moisture, it is called a vapor diffusion retarder.[3] Furthermore, vapor retarders also are commonly referred to simply as vapor barriers. The barrier terminology is less accurate because, in most cases, the products don’t completely barricade the vapor.

What can I use as a vapor barrier?

There are a wide number of materials available to create effective vapor barriers, including:

  • Elastomeric coatings
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper-backed aluminum
  • Polyethylene plastic sheet
  • Asphalt-coated Kraft paper
  • Metallized film
  • Vapor retarder paints
  • Extruded polystyrene or foil-faced foam board insulation
  • Exterior grade plywood
  • Sheet-type roofing membranes
  • Glass and metal sheets[4]

Map of US weather zones for green cocoon insulation

Photo courtesy of energy.gov

Where do I need a vapor barrier?

The IRC divides North America into eight climate areas. This is done for the purposes of determining when a vapor barrier might be needed in a building. Additionally, the IRC recommends builders install a Class-I or -II vapor barrier on the interior side of homes in climate zones 5 and above, and in the Marine 4 zone. However, if you air condition your house in the summer, you might trap condensation in your roof or walls for part of the year. If this is the case, be sure to use a Class-II vapor barrier on the interior of the wall. Moreover, you can use a Class-III vapor barrier on the interior. Pair that with spray foam insulation on the interior of the wall or roof. Furthermore, when building in hot, humid climates (zones 1 to 3), you should not have a vapor barrier on the interior side of the wall.[5]

Major Problem

Incorrect use of vapor barriers is leading to an increase in moisture-related problems. Vapor barriers were originally intended to prevent assemblies from getting wet. However, they often prevent assemblies from drying. In like manor, vapor barriers installed on the interior of assemblies prevent assemblies from drying inward. This can be a problem in any air-conditioned enclosure, below grade space, or a vapor barrier on the exterior. Additionally, a problem can occur where brick is installed over building paper and vapor permeable sheathing.[6]

Building in a Cold Climate While Adhering to Building Codes

Is a vapor barrier required in New England? Yes! Not to mention that as a builder your first step is to consult your local and state building codes. In many colder North American climates, vapor barriers are a required part of building construction.

You may find that vapor barriers are often not required in warmer climates. And, if installed in the wrong climate or on the wrong side of building materials, a vapor barrier can cause more harm than good. By the same token, this circumstance may prevent water vapor from drying, which in turn can cause rot and mold.[7]

If you don’t know the building requirements for your area, ask an expert!

Double Vapor Barrier – Don’t Do It!

What is a double vapor barrier? The insulation in Photo A was installed by an inexperienced insulation installer. Additionally, the brown paper on the fiberglass is a vapor barrier. By putting poly plastic over everything, the installers created a double vapor barrier. Not to mention that this type of installation creates future moisture, mold, and rot problems.  Moreover, in Photo B the cellulose netting is not strapped and it is starting to sag. Furthermore, the staples are ripping out and the ceiling could come down at any time!

An example of a double vapor barrier

The Green Cocoon shows an example of a double vapor barrier

In conclusion, if you need insulation don’t wonder what type you need. Let us do the thinking for you. Call us today!

[1] Building Science (2011). BSD-106: Understanding Vapor Barriers. Retrieved from buildingscience.com.
[2] Wikipedia (2019). Vapor Barrier. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org.
[3] Energy.gov (2019). Vapor Barriers or Vapor Diffusion Retarders. Retrieved from energy.gov.
[4] Energy.gov. Vapor Barrier
[5] Fine Home Building (2009). How It Works: Vapor Drive. Retrieved from finehomebuilding.com.
[6] Building Science, BSD-106.
[7] IKO Commercial, (2019). An Introduction to Vapour Barriers and Vapour Retarders. Retrieved from iko.com.

The Green Cocoon Receives HomeAdvisor’s Elite Service Professional Badge

Elite Service Award WinnerThe Green Cocoon, LLC. (TGC) is excited to announce that it was awarded HomeAdvisor’s “Elite Service Professional” badge. HomeAdvisor gave TGC the award for having a minimum of five reviews with a 5-star rating, among other criteria listed below.

“We are so excited to receive this award and right on the heels of receiving the Top-Rated Professional badge last month,” said Jim Materkowski, President and owner of TGC. “Thank you to our incredible team and wonderful customers.”

What Must a Business Do to Merit a “Elite Service Professional” Badge?

HomeAdvisor lays out a specific set of guidelines that a business must meet to receive permission to display a badge. Moreover, how does a business earn the title “Elite Service Professional”? HomeAdvisor requires that a business have:

  • Have a minimum of five reviews with a 5-star rating
  • Overall customer service rating of 4.5 or better
  • No homeowner complaints in the last six months
  • Reviews from homeowners you’ve done work for

Customers’ Feedback Is Important

In summary, TGC is constantly striving to bring its customers the fastest, most efficient, and friendliest service. The team at TGC pays close attention to customers’ feedback. Furthermore, badges like these show us that the company is headed in the right direction.

View TGC’s HomeAdvisor profile and reviews.

Contact us for fast, efficient, and friendly insulation services you can trust!

The Green Cocoon Receives HomeAdvisor’s Top-Rated Professional Badge

The Green Cocoon receives HomeAdvisor's Top Rated Professional BadgeThe Green Cocoon, LLC. (TGC) is excited to announce that it was awarded HomeAdvisor’s “Top-Rated Professional” badge. HomeAdvisor gave TGC the award for having a 4.9 out of 5-star rating, among other criteria below.

“Thank you to our incredible team and wonderful customers,” said Jim Materkowski, President and owner of TGC. “These badges aren’t given out to just any company. Not to mention you must meet certain criteria to receive this award.”

What Must a Business Do to Merit a “Top Rated Professional” Badge?

HomeAdvisor lays out a specific set of guidelines that a business must meet to receive permission to display a badge. Moreover, how does a business earn the title “Top Rated Professional?” HomeAdvisor requires that a business have:

  • A minimum of five reviews
  • A minimum overall rating of 4.0 or better (we have a 4.9 rating!)
  • More than 90% of homeowners that leave you a review would recommend you
  • No homeowner complaints
  • Reviews only from homeowners you’ve done work for

Customers’ Feedback Is Important

In summary, The Green Cocoon is constantly striving to bring its customers the fastest, most efficient, and friendliest service. The team at TGC pays close attention to customers’ feedback. Furthermore, badges like these show us that the company is headed in the right direction.

View TGC’s HomeAdvisor profile and reviews.

Contact us for fast, efficient, and friendly insulation services you can trust!

Insulate Your Home and Save Money

Insulate Your Home and Save Money

The fall has officially arrived in New England and winter is approaching quickly! With temperatures already slipping below freezing in some areas, the thought of high heating costs is on our minds. Insulate your home and save money. By adding or upgrading your insulation can save money on heating costs, thus making your home more energy efficient. By using Efficiency Maine, you can save up to $3,000 by upgrading the insulation in your home!

The Green Cocoon is located just over the border in Massachusetts, but we also service our sister states like Maine. Maine is known for its diverse landscapes, lighthouses, and its delicious bounty from the sea. However, it is also known for its harsh winters. And, that has many homeowners bracing themselves for indoor drafts, cold floors, and hard-to-heat rooms. What if you didn’t have to put up with these home comfort pains this winter?

Why Upgrade My Home’s Insulation?

Many Maine homeowners don’t realize just how effective insulation can be at making their homes more comfortable and efficient. Insulation in key areas like the attic, basement, and exterior walls slows heat transfer into and out of the home. This means that in the winter, that valuable heat you’ve paid for stays inside your home, right where you want it. Cellulose and spray foam insulation are especially effective insulation materials (which is why we install them in homes here in Maine!)

With the right insulation upgrades, you can expect benefits like:

  • Fewer drafts and cold spots
  • Warmer floors
  • Lower annual heating/cooling costs
  • Enhanced overall comfort
  • Greater home energy efficiency
  • Reduced outside noise

When insulation is paired with proper air sealing to eliminate air leaks, the benefits go even further!

Insulate & Save up to $3,800 with Efficiency Maine Rebates

While an insulation upgrade does have an upfront investment, there are valuable local incentives available through Efficiency Maine to offset that cost. As a matter of fact, upgraded insulation helps you save money on your heating bills over time, and insulation has a remarkably short payback period.

Currently, you can receive up to $3,000 on an insulation rebate, $400 on an energy assessment and another $400 when you air seal troubled spots.  The Department of Energy graphic below has a useful cross-section diagram illustrating the most common air leakage spots.

Take Advantage of Efficiency Maine Rebates with The Green Cocoon

As a Residential Registered Vendor with Efficiency Maine, we’re here to help homeowners on the southern coast of Maine save on their next insulation project. In addition to assessing the unique insulation needs of your home, we’ll help you determine the rebates for which you qualify.

The Green Cocoon would love to help you. We are just a phone call away at (978) 462-0082.

5 Easy Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency and Save Money

Home losing heat through roof, windows and doorsWith winter approaching, The Green Cocoon has five easy ways that homeowners can use to increase energy efficiency and save money, besides using our fabulous spray foam insulation! As the weather gets cooler, your furnace will start to come on and that means you’ll be using more energy. Consequently, your heating bills will increase. Try these five easy DIY (do-it-yourself) projects to help cut down on energy loss and expenses.

Replace worn weather-stripping around doors and windows

Did you know that worn weather-stripping can create drafts and let cold air in? This puts a high demand on your furnace and takes away your comfort. Replacing it takes little time and is a low-cost, high-impact solution.

Caulk around windows to increase energy efficiency

Cracks and crevices are a source of heat loss. They can also be an entryway for water/moisture, as well as for undesired insects. Preventative maintenance, such as caulking, can improve energy efficiency and prevent costly repairs.

Change your furnace filter

A dirty furnace filter means less efficiency and that costs money! Check your furnace filter monthly and if it’s dirty, change it or have it changed. Moreover, have a technician come in and inspect the entire furnace at least once per year.

Update light bulbs to LEDs to save money

LED is a highly energy efficient lighting technology, and has the potential to fundamentally change the future of lighting in the United States. Residential LEDs—especially ENERGY STAR rated products—use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.1

An automatic thermostat increases energy efficiency and saves money

You can save money and increase energy efficiency on your heating and cooling bills by simply resetting your thermostat when you are asleep or away from home. You can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.

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1 Department of Energy (2019). LED Lighting. Retrieved from energy.gov.

Farmers’ Almanac Says Get Ready for a “Polar Coaster” Winter

Farmers’ Almanac Says Get Ready for a “Polar Coaster” Winter

According to Farmers’ Almanac (Almanac), we are in for a “Polar Coaster” winter. The term was inspired by the ups and downs that are predicted on the thermometer. Consequently, we may not be able to get off “the ride” until April!  Moreover, now is a great time to start thinking about saving money by making your home more energy-efficient with The Green Cocoon’s eco-friendly building insulation.

Saving Money

How do you save money with The Green Cocoon? Let us explain.

In our blog post, “Invest in Insulation,” we analyzed the average heating and electricity bills in Massachusetts (where we are located). Furthermore, we wanted to give our readers an estimate of how much money they would save by investing in insulation. And, the answer is approximately $1,284 annually!

Additionally, here’s what you can do with $1,284:

  1. You can buy an average of three months’ worth of groceries for a family of four.
  2. You and your significant other could take a one-week cruise to the southern Caribbean from Boston.
  3. Fill the gas tank in your car for almost one year. Of course, this depends on car size and miles travelled.
  4. Invest it every year and after 30 years you would have over $100,000!

New Hampshire Known for Crazy Weather

If you live in New Hampshire, you are no stranger to crazy winter weather. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, the coldest temperature on record in New Hampshire  (-50°F) was on January 22, 1885. That was at the summit of Mount Washington. Likewise, many winters in New Hampshire bring snow, rain, ice, and chilly temps, which many of us enjoy! If you are an outdoor enthusiast, it means a lot of exciting outdoor winter activities.

Almanac’s editor Peter Geiger, said “Our extended forecast is calling for yet another freezing, frigid, and frosty winter for two-thirds of the country.” What does that mean for us this winter? We will experience colder than normal temperatures, and significant precipitation.

Use Eco-Friendly Building Insulation

In conclusion, don’t keep throwing your money out the window. The Green Cocoon has eco-friendly building insulation that comes in various forms. Contact us to learn more!