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Vapor retarders are materials that inhibit water condensation. In cold climates, water vapor collects in the attic or top level of a house as heat rises. Vapor retarders help to prevent this condensation. Materials used as vapor retarders include the batting on rolled insulation, specially-treated latex paint, polyethylene sheets and certain lumber.
Vapor retarders are important to control water vapor from damaging ceiling and floor joists as well as causing mold and mildew and encouraging termite infestations. The home inspector will check to see that all of the areas that need vapor retarders have them, and that these materials are installed properly. He will also check the ceiling and floor joists for any sign of moisture damage.