The term “air barriers” refers to a variety of different materials, but their general purpose is largely similar. Overall, air barriers are systems of sealing that help control airflow throughout a home’s building envelope. More specifically, air barriers are often used to control airflow between an air-conditioned space and a non-air conditioned space. In essence, their job is to make sure the building envelope functions as intended from room to room, maintaining internal conditions as consistently as possible.
Every building has a building envelope, but not all building envelopes perform or are designed equally. Air barriers are implemented as a supplementary sealing enhancer; providing extra support where the building needs it most.
Since air barriers help control airflow, they also contribute to the stopping the prevalence of moisture, pollutants, and allergens in a building’s air. Just as good ventilation helps a building retain healthy interior air, air barriers ensure the stability of the rooms that healthy air enters. When a building’s rooms have consistent, reliable expectations for air retention, homeowners and professionals can better regulate the internal environment through the additional HVAC systems in the home.
Apart from the materials used within the barrier, there are two primary types of air barriers that can be used to better secure a building’s air flow system.
Air barriers can be applied anywhere within a home, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ve categorized them by their general location of installation.
Across all types of air barriers, the goal remains the same: control airflow, and assist the building envelope in creating a more controllable indoor environment.
Air barriers that are installed on internal building components are typically more focused on halting the exfiltration of air through the building envelope. These barriers can be applied on interior window and door frames, joists, the connecting points of walls and ceilings, as well as a variety of other areas.
Interior air barriers also tend to have moisture-reducing capacities that are more pronounced than their exterior air barrier counterparts. Interior air barriers help to break a building up into its parts; by “chunking” the interior air barrier installations from room to room, contractors can compartmentalize a building and divide it so as to more thoroughly manage the interior environment.
Applied to the outside of a building, exterior air barriers carry a few advantages over their interior counterparts. Primarily, their installation process is far less intrusive into the day-to-day life of building occupants.
Exterior air barriers are also designed to be better at wind-resistance rather than moisture-resistance like interior air barriers are. It’s important to remember that these forms of air barriers are not exclusive. A building can utilize both interior and exterior air barriers to make a thoroughly effective guard against elements and create a better sealing system overall.
There are many materials which can be used to make an effective air barrier. The specific kind of air barrier that is best suited for a home may depend on environmental factors and the home’s location, so be sure to discuss options with a licensed professional before implementing any changes yourself.
Certain materials may be better fits for certain locations in a home; there is no “one size fits all” type of air barrier. Other supplementary materials like caulk can also be used at the seams around where an air barrier is installed to minimize as many openings as possible.
It’s important that any air barriers installed are not only effective at stopping air flow, but are durable and can guaranteed to not need replacement in the short-term.
If you’re looking to install an air barrier in your home, be sure to discuss material options with potential barrier providers.
Spray Foam Systems
Rigid Foam Insulation