HGTV Star Chip Wade Gives Tips on Installing a Vapor Barrier on Top of Concrete
High-Performance Building Materials Make All the Difference for this Mountain Getaway in North Georgia
They light up the screen, inspiring homeowners and do-it-yourselfers to learn more about the latest in construction methods and techniques, real estate, and design.
But when Chip and Pauli Wade aren’t on television on shows like HGTV’s Wise Buys, Curb Appeal, and Elbow Room, they’re practicing what they preach for their own business, Wade Works Creative. And in this case, it’s a bit of a hike to their latest project, Pinhoti Peak.
The Project: An Investment Property New Build Serves as a Gateway Fortress
Located near the end of the 330 mi. Pinhoti Trail, which stretches from Alabama to Georgia, the Wades’ new investment property is intended to generate short-term rental income and provide a weekend getaway locale for their family. The ten-acre lot just outside Ellijay, Georgia, and the home’s formidable 3,700 square foot, steel frame construction could also double as a gateway fortress to the 50,000 acres of national forest and the Appalachian Trail beyond.
“Everything I’m doing might look excessive,” said Chip Wade.
This statement was not meant as an apology. The home’s design isn’t just meant to maximize architectural material and tolerances but, like everything Wade Works Creative does, is meant to share with their audience.
“I’m focusing my attention on best-in-practice for a purpose, and trying to share that with folks, hopefully, to inspire them to make great decisions for their build,” he said.
The Challenge: Existing Slab and Floor Heating System Calls for an Unconventional Vapor Barrier Placement
As fellow admirers of best-in-practice construction materials, and methods, Pinhoti Peak caught our attention: most residential builders are only beginning to understand that generic, 6-mil polyethylene (or “visqueen”) is inadequate to protect the foundation of their home projects. Chip Wade was eager to show how high-performance homes – and even renovations – can make use of an under-slab vapor barrier, in an unconventional way.
The opportunity came around Wade’s selection of a hydronic radiant floor heating system, Warmboard.
Radiant floor heating systems heat the home from the floor up, reducing energy costs by zoning temperature room-by-room and eliminating the parasitic loss of heat and energy that is wasted when it rises up to the ceiling of a home.
“This is way more cost-effective than traditional forced heating and air,” Wade said. “There’s no air filtration, which is really nice.”
Warmboard is installed in panels as a subfloor and has an impermeable aluminum layer to protect its tubing and the floor covering meant to sit atop it. However, the oriented strand board (OSB) base of each Warmboard panel would be susceptible to the accumulation of water vapor, which is why Warmboard recommends the placement of a vapor barrier beneath their system to prevent buckling of the OSB base.
“An ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold,” he said. “I can guarantee when you’re dealing with the building envelope, there is not an excess of payment at the top end that doesn’t come back, threefold.”
The Solution: StegoHome® Below-Slab Vapor Protection Proves as a Second Chance to Do it Right
That’s when Wade contacted us about StegoHome® below-slab vapor protection. But there’s the unconventional catch: in this case, he wanted to install StegoHome atop an existing slab for the accessory dwelling unit (ADU), and directly beneath the Warmboard.
It’s a question we actually get a lot: can you install a vapor barrier on top of a concrete slab?
It’s not as uncommon as you might think. Many building material manufacturers recommend this application to protect the integrity of their products from water vapor diffusion below. The important thing to do before using StegoHome for this application is to refer to the flooring material’s documentation and installation instructions for the proper use of a vapor barrier, underlayment, or more specialized sub-membrane system.
“This is a very common application for a lot of folks that are remodeling – and 80 percent of the stuff I do across the country is remodel,” Wade said. “A lot of older homes maybe have a vapor barrier, maybe they don’t. Maybe you don’t know, right? It’s worth it to take that extra step to add some type of vapor membrane to keep vapor from coming up.”
The Result: Fast and Easy Installation of Long-Lasting Below-Slab Protection for Investment Property
And that’s how we arrived in the North Georgia mountains to see one of the fastest, flattest vapor barrier installations we’ve ever seen, on Pinhoti Peak’s ADU. For its low vapor permeance, durability, and ease of installation, StegoHome was the perfect fit.
“This is an easy process,” Wade said. “It’s intuitive and it’s obvious when it’s done right. And it’s easy to get right.”
And when a below-slab vapor barrier becomes an above-slab installation, it seems the Wades have achieved their goal again: inspiring homeowners and do-it-yourselfers to learn something new about their home’s construction or renovation – and put it to use themselves.
Written by Tom Marks
Tom Marks is the Business Development Project Manager with Stego Industries, LLC. He has been with Stego since 2007, serving many years as the Rocky Mountains Regional Manager. Now, his focus is geared toward vapor barrier solutions for new and existing homes as the Product Manager of the StegoHome and StegoCrawl brands. In addition, Tom serves as Sustainability Manager, overseeing Stego’s leadership in holistic product and corporate sustainability. Tom enjoys working with a wide range of project team members and customers to incorporate effective sub-slab vapor protection and create healthy, sustainable homes and buildings.
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