Laminate Flooring Crawl Space Considerations
Crawl space conditions are an important consideration when installing laminate flooring, engineered or solid wood floor. A crawl spaces must have a proper vapor retarder ground cover spread over the soil. A crawl space must also have proper cross ventilation and no dead air spaces. Without the appropriate vapor barrier and cross ventilation, crawl space moisture will attack the underside of a subfloor and enter into the laminate flooring core. Excessive crawl space moisture may result in cupping, bulging, or swelling of the planks or blistering at the surface of the plank.
For the crawl space and other site related standards, laminate manufacturers will often refer to NWFA guidelines. The National Wood Flooring Association. These guidelines are excellent for both wood and laminate floors. A manufactures own guidelines always take precedence over industry guidelines.
Regarding Crawl Space, NWFA guidelines state:
Crawl space should be a minimum of 18” (457mm) from ground to underside of joists.
Crawl space earth (or thin concrete slab) should be covered 100 percent by a vapor retarder of black polyethylene (minimum 6 mil) or any recommended puncture-resistant membrane, such as Class C, meeting ASTM D-1745. See figure 1-1.
Crawl Space Conditions
a. Where a proper ground covering is in place and when venting is required by local building codes, the crawl space should have perimeter venting equal to a minimum of 1.5 square feet per 100 square feet of crawl space square footage, unless local building codes differ from this specification. Note: Local-building codes may differ. Follow local building codes.
b. For crawl spaces without ventilation openings, vapor retarder joints must overlap a minimum of 6 inches and be sealed or taped. The vapor retarder should also extend at least 6 inches up the stem wall and be attached and sealed to the stem wall. Continuously operated mechanical exhaust and perimeter wall insulation or conditioned air supply and insulation must be provided.
What’s the Difference Between a Vapor Retarder and Vapor Barrier
It conversation you as well as much of the industry literature you will encounter the term “Vapor Barrier”. The most recent standards for these products now use the term “Vapor Retarder”. While the best products available may be close to that of a barrier, all have a permeance rating and all will pass a measurable amount of moisture vapor. Even the term vapor barrier is somewhat misleading as it will not totally prevent the transmission of water vapor. A vapor barrier is actually a vapor-resistant membrane, and therefore the change to the term “vapor retarder.”
For our purpose a vapor retarder is a specially thin plastic sheeting though some specialty treated papers and low permeance paint that prevents condensation of water vapor are available for other purposes.
The vapor retarder must have a vapor permeance (the rate that moisture can pass through materials) of not more than 1.0 perm. The test procedure for classifying vapor retarders is ASTM E-96 Test Method A – the desiccant or dry cup method.
Classes Test procedure for determining vapor permeance class is ASTM E-96 Test Method A-the desiccant or dry cup method.
§ Class I: Materials that have a permeance of 0.1 perm or less (Note: this is the definition of a “vapor barrier”.)
§ Class II: Materials that have a permeance of 1.0 perm or less and greater than 0.1 perm (Note: This is the definition of a “vapor retarder”.)
A vapor retarder is a material that has a permeance of 1.0 perm or less and greater than 0.1 perm. A vapor retarder is a material that is vapor semi-impermeable. A vapor retarder is a Class II vapor control layer.