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  1. #1
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    Default Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Hello all,
    I received an inspection report with the following description:
    The flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed.
    Insulation.jpg

    As the buyer, I am a little skeptical if this is an issue or not. I need to get back to the realtor and sellers tomorrow, so I would appreciate any responses.

    The house is in North Alabama, built roughly around 2005. The inspector noted that the vapor barrier of the insulation in the attic is exposed and is a flammable hazard. First, I think that if there is a fire in the attic, none of this matters. Second, I think that this is installed correctly for the environment (high humidity, hot temperatures). If not installed correctly, is there a recommendation on how to remedy this issue? The sellers are pretty much in a non-negotiating position, but we really like the property.

    Thanks in advance!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Harrison View Post
    As the buyer, I am a little skeptical if this is an issue or not.
    See those blue ink labels?

    Did the inspector include a photo of them with the report?

    Those likely state:
    WARNING RISK OF FIRE! Do not leave facing exposed! Facing is to be in substantial contact with gypsum board or other approved building material.

    Or something like that.

    You want us to tell you that the manufacturer is nuts?

    There is a reason manufactures put those warnings on there.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post

    There is a reason manufactures put those warnings on there.
    The reason the manufacture puts those warnings on there, is to cover there butt.
    Using the report reasoning, the whole house is a fire hazard. The house appears to be constructed of WOOD!
    It is likely, if you ask a seller to remedy this, the only thing going up in smoke is your deal!

    If you want to reduce the fire hazard... Don't smoke in that space.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Based on the photo, this appears to be an attic space. There are certain conditions in most "codes" for exceptions to such installations. As an example there's a big difference between a living space versus a concealed space such as an attic or crawl space where the material would typically not be exposed to day-to-day living conditions.

    Again, just another view based on my experience and code studies.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob R View Post
    The reason the manufacture puts those warnings on there, is to cover there butt.
    The reason manufacturer's put those warnings on there is because THOSE FACINGS WILL BURN ... and they do not want to be held responsible for someone else's STUPID ACTS of leaving that facing exposed, it catching fire, burning the house down, and potentially someone dying in the fire ... Yeah, that tries to help cover the manufacturer's butt ... but shouldn't the STUPID PERSON who left the facing exposed be the one held responsible anyway? If so, there would be no reason to have to 'cover one's butt'.

    Using the report reasoning, the whole house is a fire hazard. The house appears to be constructed of WOOD!
    And wood does not catch fire as easily as those PAPER facings, does it? When you go to start a WOOD fire, what do you use to help start it, something which catches more easily and helps start the wood on fire, and PAPER is often used as that kindling as it catches fire quite easily.

    It is likely, if you ask a seller to remedy this, the only thing going up in smoke is your deal!
    And that might be a good thing if that happens. Of if that does not happen, then at least the buyer knows that THE CONDITION NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

    If you want to reduce the fire hazard... Don't smoke in that space.
    I don't know what got up your butt, but your logic says that if you don't want to die ... don't be born. Sheesh!

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    This is an area in the attic that is meant to be a storage space. It is accessed from a small door in the upstairs bedrooms. From what I have researched, it seems acceptable to place the vapor barrier toward the heated side, which means that this is a correct installation in this case. It is not exposed to day-to-day living conditions. I'm leaning toward disregarding this issue, since the seller is pushing back on it.

    Could this be covered in Tyvek or something like that?


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Harrison View Post
    This is an area in the attic that is meant to be a storage space. It is accessed from a small door in the upstairs bedrooms. From what I have researched, it seems acceptable to place the vapor barrier toward the heated side, which means that this is a correct installation in this case. It is not exposed to day-to-day living conditions. I'm leaning toward disregarding this issue, since the seller is pushing back on it.

    Could this be covered in Tyvek or something like that?
    There is a Tyvek product called "Firecurb" that increases fire resistance.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Harrison View Post
    Could this be covered in Tyvek or something like that?
    Not unless approved by the local AHJ (building department) as they are the ones who have the authority "approve" the material/products other than what is specified in the warning label (the material/product typically specified is gypsum board, i.e., "drywall").

    The end result is that, using the material specified in the warning or a material which is "approved" ... (most labels state 'gypsum board or other approved material', and the code allows the AHJ to "approve" alternate materials and methods) ... if there is a fire and it spreads quickly across that facing, you are no longer a culpable party as you did as the manufacturer stated or as the AHJ "approved" - and the AHJ approval is always in writing, keep that with your house file.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    - The insulation is supposed to be covered, duh. Says so right on it.
    - As much as I find Bob R's post 'unhelpful' I have to agree that if you ask the Seller to remediate chances are the deal will die.
    - From a more day to day perspective, are they lights in the space, what kind of bulbs do they have, do you have kids? I can tell you, a lot of kids like to make a space like this into their own private club house that the parents don't think about. Some candles, some incense, a lava lamp; never mind that was the 70's.

    www.aic-chicago.com
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    To me, it's not a deal killer to ask the seller to address it ... just be aware that the easiest way to address it is to pull the paper facing off and support the insulation with some insulation supports like used for floors at crawlspaces, or ductwork straps stapled to the rafters.

    Sure, the vapor retarder is gone, but the problem presented to the seller is gone.

    Hopefully, that section of the attic is not vented ... what a waste if it is ... letting all that hot or cold outside air in UNDER the insulation (I presume that attic space is "under" the insulation with no living space on the other side of it).

    I'm feeling okay, there was no need to bury a comment like that in code, it was so far off base that I'd have had to throw my entire code collection at it to extinguish it.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Harrison View Post
    This is an area in the attic that is meant to be a storage space. It is accessed from a small door in the upstairs bedrooms. From what I have researched, it seems acceptable to place the vapor barrier toward the heated side, which means that this is a correct installation in this case. It is not exposed to day-to-day living conditions. I'm leaning toward disregarding this issue, since the seller is pushing back on it.

    Could this be covered in Tyvek or something like that?
    You asked if this is a problem. We answered, Yes it is technically a problem because it is written on the very paper it is not to be exposed. The two most obvious solutions are to remove the paper or cover it with a fire resistant material per the instructions printed on the paper. The most common and proper product is 1/2 inch drywall.

    You don't seem to like the correct response so are fishing for alternatives. Remove the paper or cover it with an approved fire resistant material.

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    You asked if this is a problem. We answered, Yes it is technically a problem because it is written on the very paper it is not to be exposed. The two most obvious solutions are to remove the paper or cover it with a fire resistant material per the instructions printed on the paper. The most common and proper product is 1/2 inch drywall.

    You don't seem to like the correct response so are fishing for alternatives. Remove the paper or cover it with an approved fire resistant material.
    Thanks for all the replies. Some was helpful (Jerry), some not so much. The condescending tone of several of the replies was irritating and begs the question of whether or not that person truly knows what they are talking about or if they are just "keyboard warriors". Caveat emptor!

    Moderators, if there is a way to turn off further replies, I would appreciate it.


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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Harrison View Post
    Thanks for all the replies. Some was helpful (Jerry), some not so much. The condescending tone of several of the replies was irritating and begs the question of whether or not that person truly knows what they are talking about or if they are just "keyboard warriors". Caveat emptor!

    Moderators, if there is a way to turn off further replies, I would appreciate it.
    Sorry, Bob, et al. I removed my pervious post. Client had me distracted.

    I concur with Mr. Ramsey last sentence. Easy fix.

    As well, I am sure the moderator has better things to do.


    As for your caveat emptor remark.

    Happily for the many home buyers in your neck of the woods that you are not a home inspector. But you did say you are skeptical. Not easily convinced or having doubts or reservations can be circumvented by understanding a given situation.

    Read up on dew point condensation, how materials wick moisture, Plus how glass fiber batt insulation should be installed in wall & ceiling assemblies. Might help you understand what other are saying.

    Poor way to walk around life if you ask me.
    Too bad.
    So, sad.





    Last edited by ROBERT YOUNG; 08-12-2017 at 04:51 AM.
    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Not to belabor this topic, having taken another look at the photo - is the wall on the right side of the photo forming the interior finished living space?

    If so, the insulation and vapor barrier are missing and the insulation on the rafters should be located in the stud wall voids.

    It's difficult to tell without seeing more detail.

    As noted earlier if this an attic space, the current insulation is possibly in the wrong location.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Claude Lawrenson View Post
    Not to belabor this topic, having taken another look at the photo - is the wall on the right side of the photo forming the interior finished living space?

    If so, the insulation and vapor barrier are missing and the insulation on the rafters should be located in the stud wall voids.

    It's difficult to tell without seeing more detail.

    As noted earlier if this an attic space, the current insulation is possibly in the wrong location.
    Claude,

    I'm looking at the photo as the left (sloped) side with the insulation is the underside of a roof, and the right wall has living space on the other side of it, which makes the thermal envelope of the house enclosing that attic space.

    If that is the case, then the right wall does not require any insulation or vapor barrier, and that attic space should not be vented (needs to be sealed).

    As a side note, fiberglass insulation is not an air barrier, air basically goes right through it, which means that the only "air barrier" there is the roof sheathing on the other side of that insulation, not that wood roof sheathing is considered an "air barrier", but that would be all there is.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Claude,

    I'm looking at the photo as the left (sloped) side with the insulation is the underside of a roof, and the right wall has living space on the other side of it, which makes the thermal envelope of the house enclosing that attic space.

    If that is the case, then the right wall does not require any insulation or vapor barrier, and that attic space should not be vented (needs to be sealed).

    As a side note, fiberglass insulation is not an air barrier, air basically goes right through it, which means that the only "air barrier" there is the roof sheathing on the other side of that insulation, not that wood roof sheathing is considered an "air barrier", but that would be all there is.
    Thanks Jerry, good point, however my experience is the opposite. Typically the insulation, and vapor barrier to the warm side is on the interior walls, hence the exposed attic is like any other attic space, therefore vented.

    Typically in our Canadian climate, a 2x4, or even 2x6 rafter space that is insulated and sealed as depicted in the original photo with a vapor barrier is not adequate for a number of reasons. This type often caused premature deterioration of the roof sheathing due to inadequate ventilation space requirements.

    Similar idea, but different construction practices.


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Claude Lawrenson View Post
    Thanks Jerry, good point, however my experience is the opposite. Typically the insulation, and vapor barrier to the warm side is on the interior walls, hence the exposed attic is like any other attic space, therefore vented.

    Typically in our Canadian climate, a 2x4, or even 2x6 rafter space that is insulated and sealed as depicted in the original photo with a vapor barrier is not adequate for a number of reasons. This type often caused premature deterioration of the roof sheathing due to inadequate ventilation space requirements.

    Similar idea, but different construction practices.
    Charles, please accept my humble apology. I can be a wise cracker at times.
    Sorry.

    Could you provide more information. Post such as yours are very informative.
    There are no right or wrong answers. We are all hear to learn.

    Claude, I was thinking along your line of thought. I concur. An air space and venting is required to allow air movement.

    Hopefully Charles will reply.

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
    Our Motto; Putting information where you need it most, "In your hands.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Quote Originally Posted by Claude Lawrenson View Post
    Thanks Jerry, good point, however my experience is the opposite. Typically the insulation, and vapor barrier to the warm side is on the interior walls, hence the exposed attic is like any other attic space, therefore vented.
    The vapor barrier should, in your climate, be on the 'warm in winter' side ... and that photo shows the vapor barrier on the 'warm in winter' side ... just that the insulation is left exposed because it is at the roof sheathing instead of at the wall.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    Think of 6 inches of fiberglass insulation as a 6 inch thick air filter.

    When putting the insulation on the underside of the roof sheathing, the attic should no longer be ventilated, it should become a "sealed" attic, and fiberglass insulation does not make it a "sealed" attic.

    Same thought process on what is being done, just wrong material to accomplish what needs to be accomplished when fiberglass is used instead of spray foam insulation.

    We recently had our attic sealed and spray foam applied to the underside of the roof sheathing - I don't recall if I have posted photos of that yet?

    Our utility bill kw usage as dropped, year to year comparison on a month to month basis, 25% (we also replaced our air conditioning system and it went from being in a 140 degree attic on 90 degrees days to now being in a 85-87 degree attic on those 90 degree days). That has been consistent for the last three months since the work was done.

    The 1979 single pane windows which had loose glazing (some of it rattled in the wind) were replaced this week with double glazed, Argon filled, Low e windows. We will likely see another drop in month to month kw usage due to the amount of glazing that is in our house (each bedroom has a 6' by 6' window - 36 sf of glazing in a 96-104 sf wall ... that's a pretty big 'hole in the wall' for a window ... basically, 1/3 of the exterior bedroom walls are glazed, the rest of the house has about 1/3 to 1/2 of the wall area as glazed openings - that's a lot of glazed area per wall area).

    (added with edit): I know what some are thinking ... we don't throw stones.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Flammable paper vapor barrier on the insulation should not be exposed question

    I understand it is a warm climate.
    Here is an article I have not finished reading on vapour barriers.
    BSC: Info-310: Vapor Control Layer Recommendations
    https://buildingscience.com/document...r_code_changes.

    In hot, humid climates, a Class I or II vapor control layer on the interior of the framing can, and often does, cause premature building enclosure failure due to inward moisture drive condensation (see RR-9302: Humidity Control in the Humid South).

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I know what some are thinking ... we don't throw stones.
    I heard, people that live in glasshouses change their undergarments in the basement.

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
    Call (514) 489-1887 or (514) 441-3732
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