Dangerous Crawl Space Mold: 8 Tips on How to Prevent it
There are few words that strike fear in the heart of a homeowner as much as “mold.” Once mold has gained a foothold in your home, it can be incredibly difficult to get rid of. Unfortunately, the alternative—ignoring it and hoping that the problem will just go away on its own—can lead to structural damage, expensive remediation and repairs, and even serious health issues.
Crawl space mold is even more insidious than mold in other areas of the home, by virtue of how moist and damp many crawl spaces are. That’s why it’s important to take steps that will help prevent mold from developing in crawl spaces, to begin with. Keep reading to learn what these steps are!
First, Why Is Mold So Prevalent In Crawl Spaces?
Mold thrives in wet, dark spaces. That’s basically the definition of a crawl space! Most crawl spaces suffer from a couple of factors that make them hospitable to mold and mildew: damp wet ground, humid climates, and poor ventilation.
It doesn’t help that they usually have dirt floors, so any moisture in the soil contributes to the overall dampness. Homeowners who suspect their crawl space might be prone to mold should use the following steps as a checklist, completing each action methodically.
1. Look for Leaks
In order to check for leaks that may be making the crawl space damp, you’re going to have to get right in there. Take a flashlight with you, and inspect the entire interior for any sources of water. Pay particular attention to the HVAC ducts and plumbing components.
Make note of any standing water, as well. If you can, try to identify the source of the standing water. It could be coming from your plumbing pipes, water pipes that supply your home, or even groundwater.
Depending on what you find, it may be possible to address the issue yourself. In many cases, however, you may want to call in the services of a professional crawl space company or plumber.
2. Check the Ventilation
Chances are the crawl space is one of the least well-ventilated areas of your home. Perhaps surprisingly, there is some debate as to whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Some contractors and construction experts say that ventilation is necessary. Others counter with the belief that ventilation, rather than allowing moist air to escape, actually encourages moist air to enter the space.
It is probably in your best interest to consult a professional to check out your crawl space and make a determination. There are a lot of mitigating factors that could influence the ventilation question, including the size of the space, any obstructions in the space, the climate you live in, and so on.
3. Inspect the Insulation
It may seem as though insulating the crawl space is a waste of time and money. After all, it’s practically the outdoors. What’s the sense in insulating an area that no one actually lives in, besides the occasional raccoon or stray cat?
Plenty. There’s a tremendous amount of energy loss from a crawl space that is not insulated. It also provides ample opportunity for moisture to enter the home.
If your crawl space is already insulated, inspect it every six months or so. Make sure the insulation is still in place and isn’t sagging. If it is, replace it or use an alternative solution like crawl space encapsulation. If you don’t have insulation, now is the time to get this task taken care of.
4. Tend to the Dryer Vents
Dryer vents should vent to the outside. Take a moment to ensure that they aren’t venting into the crawl space, attic, or any other interior location. This will cut down on the humidity of the crawl space.
5. What About the Gutters?
All gutters and downspouts should be directed away from the home, as well. This will prevent several different problems related to water damage. If water is flowing toward the home’s foundation, there is definite cause for concern.
While you’re at it, keep those gutters clear. Gutters that are clogged with leaves and debris are asking for trouble, either to the drainage system itself, to the roof, to the foundation, or to the walls of the home.
6. Set Up Barriers
Vapor barriers, like heavy-duty plastic sheeting, can help prevent evaporation and other sources of moisture from entering the home. The “floors” of the crawl space, as well as the foundation vents, should be covered with a dehumidifier installed, in order to be most effective.
As a bonus, this plastic sheeting will make it much easier in the future to detect leaks.
7. Use a Dehumidifier
If there seems to be moisture in and around the crawl space, no matter what precautions you have already taken against it, it might be time to bring in a dehumidifier.
A crawl space dehumidifier collects the moisture in the air so that the crawl space or other area stays nice and dry. Many homeowners will find that they only need to run a dehumidifier at certain times of the year or in particular weather conditions. Even if you have to run it nearly constantly, it’s worth it as a safeguard against mold. Most crawl space dehumidifiers run automatically to a desired moisture level.
8. Be Vigilant!
Go through this checklist frequently so that you can nip any developing mold in the bud. Once you have thoroughly inspected and insulated your crawl space, it won’t take nearly as long to make semi-annual checks to ensure that everything is staying nice and dry.
The sooner you can catch any signs of mold, the easier it will be to remove it.
If You Do Find Crawl Space Mold…
This is a tricky area for a homeowner to deal with, and mold is such a serious issue that you really don’t want to mess around with DIY remedies that may or may not do the trick.
If you find crawl space mold, do yourself a favor and call in the professionals. Then, congratulate yourself on being such a conscientious homeowner and on preventing the dangerous development of excess mold.
Bay Crawl Space specializes in protecting and treating these unique areas of the home.
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