How to Apply Vapor Barriers When Framing Basement Walls

I have a partially underground basement which has concrete walls painted with waterproof paint. I’m building 2×4 walls inside the basement that will be covered with drywall. What kind of insulation should I use, and do I need a vapor barrier? -Mike

Hi Mike,

Building codes usually require a vapor barrier (4 mil plastic sheeting) on exterior basement walls if the framing is attached to masonry or concrete surfaces, or if the wood framing butts up against the outer basement walls. You should then use fiberglass insulation that has a vapor barrier between the studs, with the vapor barrier facing in toward the living space. This will give you two vapor barriers, one before and one after the stud wall framing.

The other option is to set the 2×4 wall framing in 4” from the masonry or concrete basement walls, and use just the vapor barrier on the insulation facing toward the living space.

Also, be sure to use treated lumber for the bottom plate on the wall framing.

Good luck with your project,


Further Information


Please Leave a Comment

2 Comments on “How to Apply Vapor Barriers When Framing Basement Walls”

You can follow comments to this article by subscribing to the RSS news feed with your favorite feed reader.

  • Kody Says:
    February 26th, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I am confused because the 2015 International Residential Code says:

    R702.7 Vapor Retarders
    Class I or II vapor retarders are required on the interior side of frame walls in Climate Zones 5, 6, 7, 8 and Marine 4.

    1. Basement walls.
    2. Below-grade portion of any wall.
    3. Construction where moisture or its freezing will not damage
    the materials.

    To me, this sounds like you should not install a vapor barrier in a basement? any thoughts?

  • Jim Says:
    April 25th, 2012 at 9:58 am

    I am framing below grade basement wall with 2×2’s and using 1″ 1/2″ styrofoam insulation. Does the vapor barrier go on the cement wall and then the studs with insulation between the studs?

We want to hear from you! In addition to posting comments on articles and videos, you can also send your comments and questions to us on our contact page or at (800) 946-4420. While we can't answer them all, we may use your question on our Today's Homeowner radio or TV show, or online at

 characters available

How to Apply Vapor Barriers When Framing Basement Walls