Can I Put Tyvek on My Ceiling?

Buildings wrapped in Tyvek at construction sites are a familiar sight.

Tyvek

Tyvek is most often used to wrap the exterior of buildings, but can also serve as a vapor barrier in attic and basement ceilings.Tyvek is most often used to wrap the exterior of buildings, but can also serve as a vapor barrier in attic and basement ceilings.
The white plastic emblazoned with the word Tyvek helps weatherize homes and commercial buildings throughout the world. While it is less often used inside the structures, Tyvek can help insulate ceilings and protect them from moisture.

Discovered in 1955 by a DuPont scientist, Tyvek is made of high-density polyethylene fibers. This thin plastic is used for everything from car covers to envelopes to wraps used to envelope houses, where it protects against wind and rain. Tyvek is "breathable," meaning that it allows moisture vapor to pass through rather than being trapped within walls. Water itself rolls off Tyvek and cannot penetrate it. Tyvek can reduce energy bills, keeping houses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Tyvek in Ceilings

Builders generally use Tyvek on the outside of a structure to protect from moisture and serve as an insulating layer, but the material can serve these functions on the interior as well, primarily in basements and attics. Owners of drafty log cabins have installed Tyvek in their ceilings to increase warmth, while some business owners have used it as an innovative way to protect their merchandise. Czarnowski Display Service in Chicago, which manufactures exhibits and displays, constructed a drop ceiling made of wood frames and Tyvek, which allows light to filter through but repels dust.

Basements

Tyvek can help keep a basement's cooler air from traveling to warmer upper floors. Some homeowners have used Tyvek to bolster insulation in the ceiling by stapling it to the bottom of joists. The Tyvek can then be covered with a traditional ceiling finish or left uncovered in unfinished basements.

Attics

DuPont manufactures Tyvek AtticWrap, which is used under shingles and plywood but over the attic rafters and trusses to increase a house's energy efficiency and moisture control in the attic. In unfinished attics, the Tyvek serves as the ceiling material. It allows moisture in the attic to vent in cold weather and helps keep heat from building up in the summer. When Tyvek is installed so it faces downward into the attic, it can help reflect heat toward lower floors in cold weather.

About the Author

Barbara Ruben has been a journalist for over 25 years. She has written extensively for the "Washington Post" and served as editor for an international health-care magazine and a group of newspapers for older adults. She earned a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University.