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Repair of vapor barrier may require removal of more drywall

QuestionI had to remove a piece of drywall next to the floor. As it is an outside wall, there is a clear plastic vapor barrier. In removing the 4-inch by 12-inch piece of drywall, of course, I cut through the vapor barrier. Is it OK to mend the vapor barrier with Scotch tape before I replace the small piece of drywall? Thank you very much.

AnswerIf you just poked the plastic in a few spots, then you should be able to push in on the plastic enough so you've got room to seal each hole with a 3-inch piece of white vinyl tape (which provides better holding power than Scotch tape). Be sure the surface is free of any gypsum powder before applying the tape.

From experience, I will assume that the vapor barrier was damaged around the entire opening where you cut. To repair this type of damage, you'll need some extra room around the existing plastic, so I recommend that you increase the size of the opening. Mark the wall at least 1 inch around the opening using a pencil (not a pen) and an adjustable square. Cut a half-inch piece of plywood so it extends at least 3 inches beyond both sides of the opening and is just wide enough to extend beyond where the 1-inch cut will be made but leaving enough room so you can hold on to the plywood comfortably with one hand. Now slide the plywood in the opening and behind the drywall. Hold it with one hand and score the wallboard using a utility knife with the other.

Work your way around the opening, sliding the plywood under each side as you score, until the area finally separates. You may find it easier to have a helper score the wallboard as you hold the plywood with both hands.

Once the area is open, vacuum up the gypsum powder, taking care to not get too close to the plastic with the crevice and brush attachments. Wipe down the face of the plastic with a clean damp cloth and let dry; dust on the plastic will prevent the tape from sticking. Now cut a piece of plastic so it overlaps the existing plastic by about 1/4 inch. Cut four small pieces of 3-inch white vinyl tape and use them to place the patch. Then cut full-length pieces of tape to secure the overlap. This is going to be a time-consuming and messy project. Hopefully the vapor barrier has been stretched tightly and is secured properly, which will make it easier for you to apply pressure to the tape and plastic as you secure it. Unfortunately, you'll need to cut a new piece of drywall to fit the larger opening size. Good luck!

Copyright © 2004, 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.



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