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» ICC Bulletin Board » Code Chat » Building and Residential Codes -- Non-Structural Issues » Vapor barrier under garage slab (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Vapor barrier under garage slab
mayberrydf153
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I've got a house I'm dealing with where the homeowner complained about extremely high humidity in her attached garage. She had someone cut an area out of the slab while I was there and we found that the builder did not install the poly under the slab the piece that was removed was a 24" x 24" area. As I said the garage is attached to the home and is concrete floor on ground as addressed in the 2003 IRC section 506, it says vapor barrier shall be installed with a minimum of 6" overlap but that the vapor barrier can be omitted in certain situations: if the garage is detached or flatwork that is not likely to be enclosed and heated at a later date. People are enclosing their garages every day making family rooms out of them, what options are there in this situation, any help would be appreciated.
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Inspector Gift
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There are many possibilities, but two suggestions are to:

1. Install an approved vapor barrier between the conditioned space and the concrete.

2. Elevate the new floor above the garage "slab" and provide a crawlspace with mechanical ventilation.

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brat
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Your client could also mechanically vent the entire garage and control it with a humidistat.
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mayberrydf153
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The homeowner is not at this time considering to condition the space, how it was found that the builder did not install the vapor barrier is that the high humidity in the garage was so noticable that she called us to look into it at that time she had someone remove the piece of concrete, the code says that the vapor barrier SHALL be installed, unless the situation meets one of the eceptions which I do not see where it does because the garage is attached to the house and people every day are enclosing their garages making family rooms or other conditioned space out of them, my position is the code says it shall be installed, since the homeowner has removed the concrete and found that it wasn't isn't it ouor responsibility to require him to make this area comply with this code section. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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permitguy
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The stance that a garage is "likely" to be utilized differently in the future is not legitimate, IMO. You can't know what the future holds, and unless greater than 50% of the garages in your city are finished into family rooms, it is statistically unlikely to happen here.

For this, along with several other reasons, I wouldn't touch this one.

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Inspector Gift
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I agree with Permitguy and think it may be better to save your fight for a bigger battle. Even if it were "statistically" likely to happen, it would be expensive to justify and defend in court.
quote:
R506.2.3 Vapor retarder.
A 6 mil (0.006 inch; 152 µm) polyethylene or approved vapor retarder with joints lapped not less than 6 inches (152 mm) shall be placed between the concrete floor slab and the base course or the prepared subgrade where no base course exists.

Exception: The vapor retarder may be omitted:
  1. From garages, utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures.
  2. From driveways, walks, patios and other flatwork not likely to be enclosed and heated at a later date.
  3. Where approved by the building official, based on local site conditions.



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mayberrydf153
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There will be no trip to court on this one, but I still feel that this particular situation would have required the poly to be there,I do not feel that this garage meets any of the exceptions to omit it from being installed when the concrete was first placed, thanks for the input, I do appreciate it.
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mayberrydf153
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InspectorGift, in the exceptions you listed above, Exception #1 Is that the vapor barrier can be ommitted in detached garages, utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures. If this exception would have been written as you did above and just said that it could be ommitted in garages period then I would also think that it would not have been required, this garage is 24 x 24 and is attached to house.
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DRP
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Paint the garage floor?
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pyrguy
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Where does it say detached garages in the exception? It reads “The vapor retarded may be omitted:
1. from garages, …”

The comma is important. Nowhere in the exception does it say detached garages. It just says “garages”. Attached, detached it doesn’t say. It does go on the talk about utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures but the exception does exempt garages.

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pyrguy
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I forgot to add I think that a vapor barrier should be required under all slabs-on-grade. (I learned the trade in south Louisiana. Plastic went under everything but driveways and walks.) But the code doesn’t require it.

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SCdf153
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sorry, I forgot to mention the most important part,that I am dealing with a home permitted under the 2000 IRC at that time it reads as I wrote above,that it can be ommitted from detached garages, the reading was changed in the 2003 IRC to read differently.
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SCdf153
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I am so used to writing 2003, sorry for the confusion.
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jim baird
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sc,

If the garage slab is that wet, how about the dwelling itself. If crawlspace it must be wet.

As for the garage common sense says to maximize ventilation, improve positive slope outside.

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SCdf153
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The slab is not wet the garage it is just very humid, slope outside of home is fine. and crawl space is fine no excessive moisture present. The question is for all that want to reply is "Would you reply a vapor retarder under a 24' x 24' garage slab if the garage is attached to a home that was built under the 2000 IRC section 506.2.3." If not then what would be the reasoning behind you not requiring it.
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FredK
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While I don't have an 2000 code and would only the 06, here's what I found on the net:

"...The two common solutions to moisture problems are removing the moisture source and ventilating the home. Removing the moisture source is always preferable. Rain penetration and ground water seepage are the two of the most serious problems a house can suffer. Leakage through the roof or around windows shouldn't ever be allowed to persist. Penetrations in roofs and the tops of exterior window trim are common leak sites. Fixing these leaks is the first defense against moisture problems.

Besides rain leakage, the ground is the biggest potential moisture source in a home. Watering ornamental plants near a home's foundation and rainwater collecting around the foundation, for example, can cause serious problems. Water may seep through the foundation and into the floor structure. Install rain gutters, and re-landscape, if necessary, to prevent water draining toward the house. Install a sump pump to dry out your wet basement or crawl space. A ground-moisture barrier should also be installed on any unfinished crawl space floor to prevent water vapor from rising out of the ground into the house. A ground-moisture barrier is simply a piece of heavy plastic that covers the ground...."

I would bet that there's not enough venting in the garage and or water is running under the foundation. Could be rainwater/drainage issues to be suppling water(no gutters/bushes next to the garage).

If this is a "major issue" in your AHJ then consider amending the code for garage slab to have a vapor barrier required.

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permitguy
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Obviously you don't inspect garage slabs before they're poured. Do you know what is normal for your region in this regard? Do most builders install a vapor barrier beneath the garage slab? If it is unusual to the region, I wouldn't retroactively implement a change that wasn't a life safety issue, especially knowing that subsequent code editions have different language. Even if everybody does install it, I would likely instruct the homeowner to take it up with the builder, who is ultimately responsible for a compliant installation. Getting involved post-occupancy on non life-safety issues is messy business.
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peach
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lots of areas exempt it under the "local conditions" provisions... you don't have to be in the South for a slab to sweat .. if it didn't meet Code when it was built... it needs to be fixed... should still have a builder's warranty on it..

In a little defense of the builder... poly vapor barriers are really hard to maintain if it rains, or is windy between the inspection and when the concrete is placed.

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tsmith
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"The vapor retarder may be omitted ... from garages, utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures."

As an aside, if the intention was to clarify the language to include attached garages in the exception, it was a complete failure.

I disagree with the notion that the comma somehow separates this into two unrelated topics. Not in the grammar I learned. If that was the intent, it should have said:

"From garages, and from utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures."

"From garages, or utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures."

As it stands, the normal English reading would be that garages and utility buildings are two examples of unheated accessory structures. Therefore, it only includes detached garages. Ask 10 English teachers, and I'll wager that all 10 say the same thing.

"You may eat bread, spinach and other green vegetables." That wouldn't make sense, because bread isn't a vegetable.

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peach
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Hi tsmith..

If you've ever been to a code change hearing, the punctuation frequently is the difference between a committee approval and a committee disapproval.

How often do you heat attached garages in your area?

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tsmith
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peach, all I'm saying is that the great brains at the code hearings would benefit by mastering middle-school level grammar. I don't care if they argued all night, they still came up with a klunker of a sentence which says the opposite of what they apparently intended.

What does heating attached garages have to do with anything? The code sentence, as it's written, if it were taken as normal English, applies to unheated accessory structures such as garages and utility buildings. An attached garage isn't an accesory structure. As written, it doesn't address attached garages at all, and I'd take the change to mean that attached garages are not exempt from the vapor barrier requirement.

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peach
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that's my point exactly..

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Uncle Bob
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I agree with Tsmith. When did they quite teaching students how to diagram a sentence? Probably in the 60s.

Exception number 1. From garages, utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures.

In this sentence garages and utility buildings are types of unheated accessory buildings (see "and other"). They are specifically named because they are the most common accessory structures.

Exception number 2. From driveways, walks, patios and other flatwork not likely to be enclosed and heated at a later date.

In this sentence attached garages are not listed as an exception because they are likely to be heated at a later date.

Ergo, attached garages are not exempt.

Ok, I'm bored and bored people have to do something. [Smile]

Uncle Bob

[ 12-03-2007, 07:40 PM: Message edited by: Uncle Bob ]

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permitguy
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If that's the case (and I'm not saying it isn't), I'd be interested in the justification for the change from 2000 to 2003. Anyone keep their books from the code change hearings?

I'd add that the IRC prohibits ducts penetrating into the garage. I'd say it is usually unlikely that a garage will be heated. Just because it happens sometimes doesn't mean it is likely. We see it most often in post WWII ranches, not new construction.

[ 12-03-2007, 07:49 PM: Message edited by: permitguy ]

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tsmith
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Okay, peach. From several posts above, it seems that some folks think the omission of the word "detached" between 2000 and 2003 was intended to include ALL garages in the exception, but I don't think it reads that way.

In terms of "good practice," my firm specifies vapor retarders under any slab which is under a roof. Anything under a roof is relatively easy to enclose, and even heat, if you guys insist. It seems to me that, heated or not, a situation such as the one described, where there's an excessively moist environment within the structural frame of the building, is an invitation to mold and decay.

Garages normally aren't heated, but neither are they normally ventilated at all, and they stay closed most of the time. If moisture is migrating into the garage, it's not leaving except by being absorbed by the rest of the stucture. I don't think the question of heating is as relevant as the open pathway for moisture intrusion into the structure.

Whether the 2000 code required a vapor retarder in the garage is another question, and whether it makes any sense to try to retroactively enforce it is yet another.

[ 12-03-2007, 08:15 PM: Message edited by: tsmith ]

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Will Design/Build for Food
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There is a famous book, the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, also famously illustrated by Duhrer. (This is the story where the sailor guy kills a albatross, and his whole ship gets lost in the doldrums, and everyone dies, but keeps on getting even more bummed out.) This spectral dude who is sort of the living dead, stops people on the way to weddings and has to tell them about his sad story. A real fun story, no doubt.

This slab without poly story seems similar. Even if you had a piece of plastic down there, if the below slab area is really wet, it will find its way thru the plastic. (Around the joints, actually.) I can imagine some spectral building inspector visiting future owners, telling them they have to pay for the sins of former owners, who didn't anticipate that some one might finish a garage. Hello! There is a little something we call permits?

Anyone who buys a house might decide to store nuclear waste and have an illegal child care center. Shall we plan for that and prohibit everything to stop what evil might lurk in the hearts of man?

Get real.

Oh, and by the way - if you pour a slab on plastic, it causes much more cracking than slabs poured on gravel. You'll have MORE moisture problems. Positive drainage of the subslab gravel will do far, far more good than a piece of plastic that degrades and falls apart in 3 years.

[ 12-03-2007, 08:25 PM: Message edited by: Will Design/Build for Food ]

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DRP
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I don't know if it matters to intent. Warm, moist, sultry southern air migrating from outside into the garage might be going from a 90* 90%rh environment into a 75* environment. I don't have a psychrometric chart at my fingertips but that is more likely the cause of the high Relative humidity. If the slab drops to dewpoint it sweats from the atmosphere not the ground, so again vapor barrier wouldn't be the issue there.

My first check would be to tape poly on the floor and see if its a ground moisture problem.

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tsmith
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Nice theory on condensation, DRP, except it's near freezing here in SC, and the humidity's bone dry. If the OP had said the problem was worst in August, but went away a couple months ago, you might have something.
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GREEN
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This is from the hearing April 2002 RB102-02- Reason: There is no reason why attached garages should be
required to have vapor retarders when detached garages are
exempt. Attached garages are no more likely to be heated than
detached garages. Even if they are heated, they don’t have
showers, cooking, plants, etc., adding to moisture in the air, are
constructed so as to be much less airtight than a dwelling, and
have large overhead doors that are opened frequently to ventilate
the space. Floors are more likely to be constructed above water
tables.

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jim baird
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DRP,

I love English lit too.

Your assertion that the sub-slab plastic degrades and falls apart in three years sounds like pure conjecture. Surely six-mil poly must last longer in that setting. It's like the light in the refrigerator. Does it really go out when you shut the door?

As far as conditions of the OP, I didn't see it mention gravel. If you have hard, dry dirt you don't need gravel, and if you have drainage issues on site or at the building perimeter, you might have a damp slab.

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Handymann
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I love the way people add words to the code that aren't there. the code reads garages, not attached, not detached, just garages. Yes I would not build one without plastic as I have had motorcycle rims rust, but the code reads.... Garages....
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tsmith
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Once again, the sentence doesn't end after the word garages. It lists "garages, utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures." As it stands, it cites two categories of unheated accessory structures (garages and utility buildings), as well as "other" structures of that ilk. Attached garages aren't included.

If the writers had meant to refer to two completely different cases (accessory structures and attached garages), and if they had known how to write what they meant in plain English, they would have used two independent phrases, as per the examples I gave above.

Green's quote doesn't exactly inspire me with confidence in the code hearing participants. They seem to be under the weird and inexplicable delusion that the purpose of the vapor retarder is to protect the ground from interior household humidity. None of the quotation above makes any sense at all with respect to the purpose of the vapor retarder. Now that I see the quality of their reasoning, I can understand why they wouldn't be capable of saying what they mean in clear terms.

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mayjong
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and acccessory structures must be detached??
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tsmith
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"and acccessory structures must be detached??"

Well, an accessory structure is "a building, the use of which is incidental to that of the main building and which is located on the same lot."

People have played games with the word "attached" for zoning reasons, by connecting a garage to the house by a breezeway or clothesline. But I don't see much way that a separate "building" could be the same thing as "the main building." It wouldn't be an accessory structure if were part of the SFR.

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FredK
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My two cents on the comma.

It falls under rule 1 from the Blue Book of Grammer and Punctuation:

To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.

In this case these are three stand alone items.
1. Garages
2. Utility buildings
3. Other unheated accessory structures

Now if the code writers would employ people who actually speak language then there maybe less confusion in determining the code. For example if they said:
1. Detached Garages
2. Detached Utility buildings
3. Other detached unheated accessory structures

Then one could determine it need to be on any attached building in the IRC code, but they didn't.


And thats the way I see it.

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pyrguy
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Guys,

I know that in common usage the comma is omitted from in front of the ‘and’ in most sentences. However, we are talking a legal definition here.

The usage of the comma in the exemption separates the structures into two items:
1. garages
2. utility buildings and other unheated accessory structures.

If there were two commas in the list, it would be separated into three items:
1. garages
2. utility buildings
3. other unheated accessory structures.

Again, I would want a vapor barrier under any slab with a roof. However, I don’t think that the code requires that. After reading the post from Green it looks like the code change committee thought the same as my first example. That being said most builders put a vapor barrier under garage slabs here.

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Uncle Bob
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I knew it!!!

The comma is really a period. Learn something new every day. [Cool]

Uncle bob

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permitguy
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At least it's not a colon! [Big Grin]
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SCdf153
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The 2000 IRC does state that the vapor barrier can be ommitted from detached garages, I am aware of the change in the 2003 to just read that it can be ommitted in garages, that the word detached was removed. Though I still feel that in this situation the 24' x 24' attached garage would have been required to have a vapor barrier installed. Thanks everyone.
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tsmith
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Bob, maybe ee cummings had it right all long.

Dwight, nice try, but assuming they meant that (and I'm willing to accept the word-of-mouth that they did), then why in God's name couldn't they have simply SAID SO in the very simple form you showed?

I don't buy the theory that "legal" commas mean anything different than regular commas. The code isn't supposed to be read only by real or wanna-be lawyers. It's supposed to be accessible to normally literate folks.

Looking at the nonsensical rationale which Green posted above, I would not give this bunch of clowns credit for knowing how to use a regular garden-variety comma, let alone a fancy one. My most generous explanation would be that they were sleep-deprived and just wanted to go home. What they wrote is crap (as far as anyone deriving the meaning from it without standing on their head) and their logic for doing so was outright idiotic.

If they had simply given the different items different numbers, as per your example, they would have at least made sense, and saved themselves a legal comma.

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Uncle Bob
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The word accessory (2000 to 2003) was dropped from the sentence because it was redundant.

2000 1. Accessory garages, utility buildings, and other unheated accessory structures.

2003 1. Garages, utility buildings, and other unheated accessory structures.

The sentence is describing unheated accessory structures, and giving two specific examples.

Like this:

Wild lions, tigers, and other wild animals.

(repeating the word "wild" is redundant and unneccessary)

Lions, tigers, and other wild animals.

(completes the sentence without using the same word twice in the same sentence)

Hope this helps,

Uncle Bob

[ 12-04-2007, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: Uncle Bob ]

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Old n Broken
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It is the Building Official's of the AHJ resposibility to interpret what the code means. We can argue all day on if the garage is heated or not...it is not our call.

That being said I would put in the plastic.

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jim baird
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"...why... couldn't they have simply SAID SO..."

Exactly my question when I read the GA state accessibility code's exception to an elevator requirement (mentioned in a recent post), which excludes certain buildings as follows:

"...facilities less than three stories or 3000 SF per story unless the building is a shopping center,..."

Facilities less than three stories includes those with one and with two. Who needs to be told you don't need an elevator in a one-story facility?

Could we not be just as inclusive/exclusive and just go ahead and say "two story"?

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IRC Combination, ICC Commercial Building, ICC Plans Examiner, SBCCI Housing Rehab

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Wedge
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mayberry or SCdf, whoever you are, Are you the local BO or just an inspector. I would want the plastic, but I would advise you to pick your battles carefully. If you feel that strongly, make them put in the plastic, If you are the BO it's really your call anyway.

As you can see, you can ask and get several different interpretations of the code. However the only interpretation that really matters is your boss's.

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mayberrydf153
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Thanks everyone for your input, and Wedge I am neither, I do not work for a BO, I was called out to investigate a complaint by a homeowner and during the process this issue was uncovered. Out of curiosity I called ICC for their interpretation of this situation and it was there interpretation that if the home was built under the 2000 IRC that the poly would have been required if the garage was attached to the home, however, that due to the change in the 2003 IRC removing the word detached out of that section that the builder could always go to the BO and ask for a modification due to the code change, thanks again everyone and now I'm going to put this old dog to rest.
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Inspector Gift
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Been away from this topic for 3 days due to Severe winter storm on the Northwest Pacific coast. But it sure made for fun reading tonight. And it is good to see that I won't have to change the way we do things around here!

No Plastic VB required under garage slabs as long as they are not heated garages. It is recommended, but not required.

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A friend in the Building Codes,
TERRE GIFT

"Build it well, whatever you do. Build it Strong, Straight, and True...."

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thelunatick1
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Vapor Barriers.
There are many factors to consider for whether or not to install them.
But an interesting approach to take on this is many floor finish manufacturers have issues with lack of or how vapor barriers are installed.

Some finishes, like Ceramic Tile, have products that enable their installation in condition with high vapor drive, but others do not.

Question to ask, is how not having a vapor barrier effects future installation of epoxy or other floor coatings?
VB are a minor material assurance on a quality project.

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HvacMike
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quote:
Question to ask, is how not having a vapor barrier effects future installation of epoxy or other floor coatings?

I had a pole barn built. No vapor barrier was put down. I epoxy coated the floor 2 years ago. So far so good. Keep in mind the concrete floor has blue stone between it and the ground. It is heated, but I only use the heat when Im working in it.

[ 12-07-2007, 09:10 AM: Message edited by: HvacMike ]

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Paul Sweet
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As we saw on a recent post, not all garages have properly sloped floors. Even if they are properly sloped, water doesn't flow very well on the rough concrete floor. I prefer not having vapor barriers under garage floors so the water or melting ice that drips off the cars can soak through the slab and gravel into the dirt.
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charlesdavis
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I agree the easiest thing to do is install a vapor barrier between the conditioned space and the concrete since it an expensive precautionary tool.
Posts: 5 | From: Winston Salem, NC | Registered: Dec 2007  |  IP: Logged
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