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Crawlspace Moisture Barrier Installation Tips

When purchasing my house, my inspector suggested adding a moisture barrier to the floor of my crawlspace. Looking around, there are many different thicknesses to choose from. How thick does a typical crawlspace moisture barrier need to be? Also, does it have to be rolled out as one large sheet, or could it be just as effective if it was made up of several smaller sections?

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Your inspector was very smart to recommend a vapor barrier in the crawlspace. Moisture that is allowed to evaporate up into the floor structure can cause the insulation to become ineffective, and allow it to rot and mold. Moisture gets into a crawlspace A vapor barrier is essentially a plastic sheet that lays across the floor of the crawl space. Before you start this project, it's important that you clean out anything on the crawlspace floor that could pierce the plastic barrier like rocks or wood.

When choosing the plastic barrier, many folks will use polyethylene sheeting, but a better option is to use cross-laminated sheeting. It's about six millimeters thick, making it much stronger and less likely to let moisture pass through. A reinforced cross-laminated product like Tu-Tuf #4 would be best. It will be more expensive, but worth it. This is the kind of project you want to do once, you want to do right, and not have to do again for a long time. 

When you lay down the plastic, you want to do so with as few seams as possible. You can purchase special tape that will allow you to seal the seams together, or you can overlap the seams by as much as four feet. Make sure you go end-to-end or inside-to-inside on the foundation wall so you have continuous coverage. In addition to the crawlspace vapor barrier, if you want to reduce moisture in that space you really should pay attention to a few more things.

Starting on the outside of the house, the most important thing to maintain is the grading and the gutters. We wrote an article with more on that here. The gutters must be clean, free-flowing, and the downspout should charge at least four to six feet from the house. The grading, or angle of soil around the house, should also slope away. It should drop about 4 inches over the first 6 feet, and it shouldn't be soil that will absorb and hold a lot of water. For example, topsoil is a bad idea because it's so organic it's like laying sponges around your house. You'd be better off improving the grade with clean fill-dirt, then once the grade is established, cover it with topsoil, mulch, stone, or whatever type of material you choose. Just make sure the grade is established first, and don't put any landscape edging at the outside edge of it that could hold water toward the house. That would be like building a moat around your building, which is something you definitely don't want to do. Combining these efforts together, you will have a crawlspace that will remain dry for many years to come!


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Refaced Cabinets Coming Loose – What Should I Do?

I had my cabinets refaced about 8 years ago and now the glue has come loose. I've talked with new cabinet refacing companies who claim refacing has been improved and this won't happen again. (The contractor through Home Depot only guarantees them for 5 years.) Would you recommend refacing or is there a better option?

Our Answer

Refacing cabinets is a process that is often half the cost of replacing your cabinets. Not only that, but you're stuck with your current layout; if you ever want to add cabinets, they will have to be built from scratch and then refaced to match the others. For this reason, we usually recommend looking into other options that give you a great look but are not as pricey. 

You'll first have to take a look at your cabinets. If they were installed in the 70's or later, they were likely installed with solid fronts and paper-thin veneers that you won't be able to sand or stain. Your best option there will be painting, which can be done using these helpful tips!

Painting is a great option even for older, solid-wood cabinets. You'll want to clean them out and remove all doors/drawers/hardware. Then, prepare them further by sanding. You can do this by hand or with a liquid sandpaper product. Then, prime the surfaces with an oil-based primer and get started on painting! In order to provide a better wear protection, we recommend painting with an oil-based glossy paint for the finish coat.

Overall, the fact that the veneer is not sticking is unusual. If you decide to go with refacing, make sure you carefully research the contractor. Ask if he will supply a list of past clients, and spend time talking to customers he worked with years ago to see how the cabinets held up. If he will not supply a list, it might be a good sign you should move down the list.

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Soundproofing: Masonry Wall vs Wood/MLV Fence

We recently moved into a house next to a road that produces more noise than we expected and  I'm considering putting something up to help with the noise. One option considered is a masonry wall.  It's attractive, low-maintenance, and likely the most effective against noise but it's also (roughly) triple the cost of the fence option. The fence would be a tongue and groove double sided privacy fence with a layer of mass loaded vinyl (MLV) hung between the facing panels to help with sound attenuation.  I'd never heard of MLV before I started looking into this, and the only material I can find on is from the guys who sell it, who obviously claim it's the bee's knees. My question is whether the MLV sandwich fence is going to do a "good enough job" with the road noise to make it a viable option against masonry.  Or is the fence without the MLV going to be effective enough?

Our Answer

As the saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Whether an MLV fence will be quiet enough for you is dependent on your tolerance. However, MLV is a very high-tech product that's had a great success record of quieting machines, road noise, and even the occasional garage band! (Here's more information on MLV and its uses.)

To make it effective, however, it has to float. It cannot be stapled directly to the inside of the fence with no way for the material to move back and forth. This is because when those sound waves hit it, they need the flexibility to diffuse. It's kind of like when you throw a rock into the lake. The lake initially absorbs the force of the rock, but then the waves diffuse the force that follows. If you were to make this MLV so tight that it couldn't flex, it wouldn't have as strong of an ability to diffuse that sound. The best approach would be to hang it loosely between the sections of the fence. As to whether or not this will be "good enough," the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You may find that it's fine. Or, if you have a low tolerance for noise, you may find that it's not. Given the fact that it's one-third of the cost of a concrete barrier, it is certainly worth an effort.

Another thing you could do is to add landscaping on the roadside of the wood fence. This would also help break up the sounds before it gets to the fence, making the MLV assembly even more effective. As this article says, adding a water fountain could be a good idea as well. Good luck with your project and send us a photo when you're done!

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