Are you looking to get a house with a crawl space or do you already have one? Are you wondering what would be the best way to tackle the crawl space problems? Well, here is the crawl space 101 guide along with important info you need to know about crawl space encapsulation.
A crawl space is essentially a vacant area that lies under houses between the ground and the first floor. The height of the crawl space can be anything from 1 to 3 feet, which as the name signifies is just as big for someone to crawl.
So basically a crawlspace is a subbasement, that is a vertically small underground space located under the main basement or it is a replacement for a basement itself, but one where you can crawl and not walk.
The problem with a crawl space is that it can easily get dirty and damp. Excessive moisture in the crawlspace can cause a nuisance of mold, fungi, termites, and rats.
The vapor enters the crawlspace from the ground. The vapor then moves up from the crawlspace into the house. This can not only causes damage to the rest of your house but it also reduces the indoor air quality which can result in various health conditions.
To avoid these problems, it is important to keep your crawlspace clean and dry. There have been multiple solutions — proper ventilation, installing air pumps, exhaust fans or even dehumidifiers. Some of these methods have turned out to be futile.
For instance, crawl space ventilation does not work well to prevent the dirt and damp. The latest leading technology and the one increasingly gaining popularity is the crawl space encapsulation. Encapsulation is a method where you completely seal the crawl space with a polythene barrier and sealing tape.
Encapsulation involves removing all debris and sharp rocks, sealing all vents and doors and insulating with a thick plastic layer. The encapsulation method is best combined with a dehumidifier to regulate the moisture level.
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- It positively reduces moisture to a great extent.
- It enhances the air quality in your crawl space and your house by blocking the vapor, dust or gasses from the soil.
- It gives you healthier living conditions.
- The additional insulation and the blockage of moisture and air leaks help maintain the heat in the house and thus reduces your heat bills.
- It does not permit pests and wood-destroying insects to breed in your crawl space.
- It gets rid of the problem of fungi/ mold.
- It helps maintains the structural integrity of your house.
- It ensures that there is no room for insects and rats, thus protecting your wiring and other substructures from being damaged.
- It provides a safer home.
- As of now, the only visible con is the expense. Installing a crawl space encapsulation can be very expensive. However, that depends entirely on you – your budget, the products you use and the contractor you hire. The cost of crawl space encapsulation can range anything from a thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars.
- If you have wires and piping running through the crawl space – which most people do – then you need to call plumbers and electricians for safety measures and that might add to your expense.
- Also, if you have wires and piping and other such substructures in the encapsulation, anytime you need to access those substructures, you will essentially break the capsule. So we can say it that those substructures have restricted access after encapsulation and accessing them becomes slightly expensive.
So if you’re considering the construction of a crawl space or if you already have the structure in place, then it is highly recommended that you consider investing in an encapsulation. As you can see the only con is the expenditure involved.
That means that all you need to worry about is saving up for an encapsulation. Once that is done, you can end the worry of infestations, bad air quality, unhealthy living conditions, damages to the structural integrity and even poor heating and insulation will be taken care of.
While you might have to shell out for the encapsulation, you will land up saving in the long run as it can reduce your heating costs. Despite the recommendation, having read the pros and cons for yourself, you are now in the best position to make an informed decision for your home.
What does crawl space encapsulation (sealing) mean?
This generic term is used by HVAC professionals to describe a method of sealing crawl space environs in order to keep moisture outside. This is accomplished by putting into place a vapor barrier that covers and seals surfaces.
This white vapor barrier can be applied to an existing home’s crawl space or it may be added during construction. According to several HVAC experts, the color of the material used to create this type of barrier is of no practical value, but white is most often used because it can lighten up dark space.
Benefits include better crawl space air quality, energy efficiency, fewer animal invasions and better temperature control.
There is only one situation in which contractors advise against encapsulation: If there are atmospheric combustion appliances located within a crawl space, this is probably not a good idea.
How much does it cost to encapsulate crawl space?
According to Angie’s List, the size of a crawl space determines the cost of encapsulating it, as will material(s) used to do the job and the amount of labor required to complete the project.
Putting this type of vapor barrier into place during the construction phase is likely included within the overall cost of building the structure, but if encapsulation is done after the fact, difficulty reaching crawl space areas could also drive up costs.
There are more factors to consider. Encapsulation may not be the only solution your contractor recommends to seal your crawl space.
Sealing passive vent openings, adding drains and upgrading forced air vent systems could wind up on the tab, but if you want a ballpark figure, use $6,000.
Unique circumstances, like building size and age, could reduce the cost to as little as $1,500 and as much as $15,000, say analysts at both Home Advisor and Angie’s List.
Some crawl space cleaning pros
Where should you turn to find crawl space cleaning professionals that deliver on expertise, price transparency and full-service assistance?
We recommend starting with the Better Business Bureau because consumers are never shy about expressing their feelings about local contractors—and that means, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) is a nonprofit organization with extensive membership lists of HVAC professionals.
Use their search portal, fill in fields and find contractors located within a five-to-100 mile radius of your home. The AACA’s accreditation program lists certified contractors who have met a higher standard of professional excellence.
Are crawl space vents necessary?
We consulted This Old House experts to ask whether crawl space vents are necessary and learned that these vents were designed to help circulate air beneath floors and keep areas dry.
But given seasonal weather patterns, vents ultimately proved an invitation for rot, corrosion, mildew, mold and other biological hazards to grow in crawl spaces.
Today’s building scientists weighing in on the topic agree that sealed, insulated crawl spaces are today’s best solution to keeping moisture controlled and contributing to less energy use, but the installation of vents continued to be a matter of debate – until a comprehensive research study was undertaken in search of a definitive answer to this conundrum.
The conclusion? “Closed, unvented crawl spaces stay considerably drier than vented ones, regardless of the climates in which the homes studied were located,” said study participants.
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