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Show Highlights

You can tell when Graham starts to miss Ashkahn when he makes a soundboard made up of sound clips from previous episodes just to have Ashkahn do another intro.

Jake and Graham break down barriers in this episode. Vapor barriers, that is. These tools are a little confusing in the construction world and their efficacy is hotly debated in just regular construction, never mind the demands that a float center has, especially in regards to moisture protection. Fortunately, Graham and Jake know a thing or two about a thing or two and explain what vapor barriers are, how they work, and what the source of contention is.

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Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: All right. Hello, everybody. That was entirely recorded without Ashkahn in the studio. We just sampled some songs using from past. It was actually pretty fun to put together. My name is Graham.

Jake: My name is Jake.

Graham: We are still winding our way through some of your construction questions you’ve sent in.

Jake: Meandering our way.

Graham: In a lot of cases it’s had sort of a meander.

Jake: More like a saunter.

Graham: A light saunter.

Jake: I’m big into the saunter, I’ll say.

Graham: Today’s question is, “What is a vapor barrier? Blocking moisture from the outside, or blocking moisture from the showers inside, or dot dot dot, Is this something that has special needs in a float center?”

Jake: Yes. First and foremost-

Graham: Yes to all of this?

Jake: Yes to all of those things. Yes.

Graham: All right. Well, thanks. If you guys have questions of your own-

Jake: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, send them in. Float Tank Solutions. No, we can break it down a little bit. All right. A vapor barrier. We’re trying to stop moisture passing from one space to another space. That’s done in a couple different types of spaces. The exterior, like you’ve seen houses wrapped in vapor barriers before. Semi-permeable. The moisture only really moves one way, so that the house can evaporate in case any moisture gets in there. It’s toward the outside.

Graham: For reference, too, if you’re driving by a house and you see the-

Jake: Giant wrap that they’re putting on the outside.

Graham: Yeah. The siding, side paneling hasn’t been on. Often, that’s insulation and then covered by a vapor barrier is what you’re looking at there.

Jake: Yeah. They’ll put an exterior-grade insulation. Yeah. Alright. Then the other one there was on the interior, trying to keep that humidity from damaging your building materials. Okay, so we have a vapor barrier there. Well, okay. Let’s step back here. I’m always getting ahead of myself.

Graham: Big step back, yeah.

Jake: Yeah. There is a lot of debate about this topic out there. Building scientists disagree on vapor barriers. Some of them believe that in all but the coldest climates, they have the potential to do more damage than good. How could that possibly happen? Well, it’s that you could moisture stuck inside of your walls. If moisture is moving either through diffusion or through some kind of puncture in your wall, like around junction boxes, for example. This is why we really like airtight junction boxes. If that humid air gets into the wall cavity, and then it instantly starts to cool down, condensation starts to form inside there. That’s food for mold and mildew and everything like that. Then if that condensation doesn’t have a way to evaporate, you get what’s called a sick building syndrome. This is why you’ll see some vents under eaves of some houses, and stuff like that, so that you have this evaporation of this moisture.

Graham: It’s kind of like a cage can keep a dangerous animal in, so it can’t hurt people. You could put a shark in a cage, or a cage could keep dangerous animals away from you, like putting humans in a cage when they’re going to look at sharks. In a similar way, yeah, although you’re trying to stop moisture from getting inside somewhere. If the vapor barrier isn’t properly installed, all of the sudden, you’re making things so much worse. Kind of like you’re trapping the shark in with the human. It’s like the opposite of what you wanted.

Jake: Yes. Totally a possibility there. I would argue, for float rooms, this is pretty important for us, actually, to keep all that humidity within a space and only getting it evacuated via the exhaust system or via the HVAC system. I don’t want that moving through my drywall, into my framing, into those open air cavities. In a worst case scenario, that moisture is moving through my drywall, and then stops at that moisture barrier. We use three mil and six mil poly-Visqueen, basically a plastic. We just adhere to the face of the studs before we put up our drywall.  

Again, worst case scenario, if I do have a penetration in, say, my waterproofing wall panels, one of the seams breaks, which happens. Again, they’re only heat welds then that moisture’s only damaging just that drywall, not getting into the cavity in between all my walls, because we utilized double stud walls at Float On.

Graham: Yeah, it’s also, We have this extra level of issue of problem that comes up with a float center, because we’re using such impermeable solutions on the exterior, like to protect against the salt water that’s inside the rooms. Oftentimes, in regular shower setups, the idea is that if things get we, they don’t penetrate that deeply. They evaporate off. Oftentimes, you’ll have this cementitious grout that lets a little water pass through.

Jake: Which we don’t use in float centers.

Graham: Which we don’t use in float centers. We use epoxy grout.

Jake: Yep.

Graham: That’ll have a cement backer board behind it, which we also don’t use in float centers.

Jake: Right.

Graham: Then that’ll have a vapor barrier behind there. You kind of have these layers of permeability that the water is expected to get into, evaporate out of, and if they make it too far, they hit this vapor barrier. That’s really standard. Then in float center construction, we have really thick, waterproof walls.

Jake: Plus, our showers are going all the time. You don’t just have a few people shower in the morning, maybe at night. Ours are going every single transition.

Graham: I don’t know. It’s always made me afraid that with the vapor barrier, I mean, you just choose the levels of risk, right?

Jake: Yep.

Graham: This is that whole, “Experts disagree about what the proper thing to do is here.” Of course, we don’t really know exactly what the proper thing to do is, and certainly none of the even disagreeing experts have documented any this for a float center. We’re at the edge of human knowledge here. But, I am worried about having this really extensive waterproofing on the outside of the drywall, and then having a vapor barrier on the other inside of the drywall. Now you’ve kind of created a little, If moisture does start to get in there-

Jake: I do worry about it.

Graham: -it’s like a little moisture sandwich where you’re trapping it only in the drywall.

Jake: It’s those exterior walls that we’ve seen the most damage. Again, that temperature fluctuation, like if your room is butting up to an exterior wall, that’s where you can’t have these crazy, different temperatures causing moisture to condensate getting that water inside there. Extra-special care on those exterior walls, for sure.

Graham: I would say when I’ve been looking into it, too, one of the number one reasons that a lot of people are distrustful of vapor barriers, is actually just installation.

Jake: Absolutely.

Graham: A lot of people are like, “Hey, if this is installed perfectly, great, it’ll do its work.” But, what are the chances that your installers are going to install a vapor barrier with absolutely no punctures?

Jake: Dude, that’s always the question with a float center.

Graham: How are you attaching it with studs? Are you stapling it on there? Because, those staple holes are a little bit of a hole.

Jake: Right. Yep. Did you cover those?

Graham: Are you nailing it? Are you gluing it? What are you doing to make sure there’s absolutely no penetration in your vapor barrier? Then they’re dealing with hourly contractors who never love your space as much as you do. They’re not going to be in here 10, 15 years from now when that vapor barrier really starts causing serious problems. If not sooner.

Jake: Yeah.

Graham: As soon as I said, “10 to 15 years,” I’m like, “Or, like, three years.”

Jake: I’m like, “A year.” If there’s a problem, they’re going to see it pretty quick.

Graham: All right. This is going to be one of those episodes where people finish listening, and they’re like, “What was my takeaway supposed to be? Just the running of float center is really hard?”

Jake: Nobody agrees on this one. I will make a stance. I will say that I think it does more good than harm in a float center, because we’ve got this recording studio that’s basically a steam room. I want to keep all that steam inside there. If I’m going to have damage, I want it only to the surface. I don’t want it getting into my walls. I’m willing to take the risk. That’s where I’m at on that one.

Graham: Nice. Then what we would do for the vapor barrier is, again, the three mil, five mil, some kind of plastic that we’re hanging up in there.

Jake: Right, so more of a moisture barrier on the interior of the float rooms.

Graham: Yep.

Jake: Yeah. All right.

Graham: Cool. Well, thanks for listening to that. I do like leaving people with more questions than they came in with.

Jake: Thanks for walking along with us there.

Graham: Okay. I know we answered the question. We’re about to go out, but I’m going to give you a little philosophy. Some Graham philosophy along with this, too. Which is all this stuff is really, we’ve been doing this and consulting for a long time. Again, you can go and actually talk to experts who will tell you opposite things about how you’re supposed to just, not even in a float center construction, but a real space, do things like vapor barriers. Same thing for how you handle drains, and same thing for all these different subjects.

They’re not easy, so if you’re coming away from this feeling confused and like you just had a lot of jargon tossed at you. And, maybe again, like we didn’t answer as many things as we could have, that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a really good lesson to learn early, is be prepared for frustration that there aren’t concrete ways to do all of this. There isn’t just a set best way to build a float center, because there’s definitely not. Everything is questions-

Jake: Things are improving. Things are improving.

Graham: Yep. Things are always getting better. Yeah. At some point, a lot of these questions do come down to you’ve done your homework, you have some options, you talk to your contractor, who hopefully you vetted out really well, and then you roll some dice and hope that it works out, you know? Fortunately, our guesses keep getting better and better as more and more centers contribute to our knowledge base. Just so you know, there’s uncertainty at every level other game. If we seem uncertain, it’s not because we’re dumb. In fact, we’re very smart. It’s just that the information is not out there. A man’s only so good as the tools that he has, is what I’m trying to say here.

Jake: Blaming the tools, huh?

Graham: All right. Anyway. If you have questions of your own that you want to-

Jake: All right. Shoddy, shoddy, shoddy. All right. Thank you.

Graham: Go over to FloatTankSolutions.com/podcast.

Jake: Yeah.

Graham: Alright.

Jake: Alright.

Graham: Thanks.

Jake: Yeah.

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