How to Lay a Plastic Sheeting Vapor Barrier

Written by steve sloane
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How to Lay a Plastic Sheeting Vapor Barrier
Use a staple gun to install the sheeting against the wall studs. (heavy duty stapler image by Christopher Dodge from

Plastic sheeting water vapour barriers (usually made of polythene sheets between 4 and 6mm thick) prevent water or vapour from reaching wood studs or joists in areas in your home where vapour exists (such as crawlspaces and attics). As of 2011, new home constructions include the installation of vapour barriers to the outside of the wall studs before the application of siding; the installers then cover the seams with special vapour barrier tape. The installation process is simple and not time consuming.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Scissors (optional)
  • Utility knife
  • 1/2-inch staples
  • Staple gun
  • Rolls of vapour barrier tape

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  1. 1

    Measure the area of the stud wall using a tape measure. Cut a section from a sheet of plastic vapour barrier sheeting measuring 8 inches longer than the measurement you took. Use scissors or a utility knife to make the cut. Starting at one side of the wall, position the sheet vertically in place so that four inches covers the floor at the bottom, and four inches covers the ceiling area at the top.

  2. 2

    Install 1/2-inch staples through the sheet and into the wall studs every 12 inches using a staple gun. Hang the next sheet section in place as before, but overlap the first sheet with the second to a width of 12 inches (the two sheets will parallel each other). Attach the sheet to the wall studs with the staple gun. Continue in like fashion until you have covered all stud walls and the ceiling with vapour barrier and stapled it into place.

  3. 3

    Cut out holes in the installed sheeting for any receptacle or switch boxes with a utility knife by pushing the knife's blade through the sheet around the inside perimeter of each box. Seal all sheet seams by applying vapour barrier tape so the seam runs down the middle of the tape. Also tape the sheeting around each power receptacle and switch box.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not use regular duct tape to seal the sheet sections together, as it will not have the correct properties to retard moisture.
  • Apply the retarder sheeting after installing all plumbing pipes and electrical cables and before you apply any drywall to the walls.

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