About 20 percent of all homes in the U.S. have crawl spaces. Crawl spaces play many vital roles in a home, housing the building structure, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, gas lines, and irrigation system of your home.
Most homes with open vented crawl spaces tend to suffer from moisture-related issues, such as mold and fungal growth. These issues can compromise the structural integrity and health of the home. Moisture can lead to expensive crawl space repairs and attract termites.
To avoid these issues, experts recommend a professional grade ‘crawl space encapsulation’.
But what exactly is crawl space encapsulation? What makes this home upgrade worth the cost? More importantly, how do you go about an effective crawl space encapsulation?
If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we tell you all you need to know about crawl space encapsulation.
Crawl space encapsulation refers to the addition of a heavy-duty moisture barrier to the dirt floor of your crawl space, sealed foundation vents, insulated walls, and special crawl space dehumidifier(s).
Crawl space encapsulation is most effective when you seal the space completely. As soon as you’ve encapsulated the space, you can use a dehumidifier to help regulate the moisture levels in the area.
Many homeowners confuse between crawl space encapsulation and crawl space insulation. But the two serve very different functions. Crawl space encapsulation works great when you’re dealing with such issues as ground moisture and humid air. On the other hand, crawl space insulation is ideal only to help with cold floors.
The average cost for crawl space encapsulation is about $7,500. The cost may be as high as $20,000 on some occasions, depending on a variety of factors such as:
To get the most affordable crawl space encapsulation services, you need to do comparison shopping before hiring a contractor.
When you’re spending thousands of dollars or more on a home upgrade, you want to make sure you get everything right. Here are some of the don’ts when encapsulating your crawl space.
While encapsulating your crawl space will help keep it dry, it will not work if there are large air gaps, allowing outside air to enter the space.
Whether you’re performing a crawl space encapsulation, it is critical to seal out the outside air sources to allow the dehumidifier to condition the air below.
Some homeowners assume that encapsulations will keep water out of their crawl space, and they don’t need a drainage system. The mistake with doing so is that an encapsulation does not prevent water entry or flooding under houses.
Damage caused by water can be expensive to repair. Fixing a water-damaged foundation, for instance, can set you back as much as $12,000.
To avoid scenarios where water sits against your house, install a water drainage system that directs the water away. A French drain system or a sump pump can help.
Unless you’ve chosen NOT to seal and dehumidify or conditioned your crawl space, you shouldn’t use fiberglass.
Actually, it may be a good idea to avoid using fiberglass at all. The material performs poorly when it comes to crawl space insulation. When the material is installed in an unconditioned, vented space, the results are minimal.
Because the material soaks moisture, losing its R-value in the process. That makes it useless as an encapsulation material. Fiberglass also sags due to the weight of the water, opening holes in the encapsulation blanket.
Even worse, fiberglass batches are typically held together using a urea-based adhesive. When fiberglass, adhesive, and moisture combine, they create a haven for mold. Professional mold remediation could set you back anywhere between $500 and $6,000.
For many homeowners, DIY home upgrades are fun and cost-saving. But when it comes to crawl space encapsulation, it’s a bad idea to assume you can complete the project by yourself.
If you don’t have the necessary skills and experience to do crawlspace encapsulation, you risk wasting time, effort, and money.
Now that we’ve seen what mistakes to avoid when encapsulating your crawl space, it’s time to talk about what you need to do instead. Here are four suggestions.
Depending on the current state of your crawl space, you need to get it ready first. Some of the issues you may need to address include:
If your home doesn’t have proper grading or has a poorly maintained drainage system, chances are water has been seeping into your crawl space. Do you see pools of water beneath your home? Talk to a drainage company to address these issues before you pursue encapsulation.
A damp crawl space will most likely have mold growth issues as well. Inspect the floor joists and HVAC equipment for any signs of mold growth. Deal with the mold before you begin the actual encapsulation project.
Conduct a safety inspection to ensure that your combustion appliances aren’t emitting carbon monoxide that could back-draft into your living space. Encapsulating your crawlspace without addressing this issue could prove hazardous to you and your loved ones.
As soon as you’ve prepared your crawl space for encapsulation, it’s time to start the project in earnest. Your goal should be to seal the crawl space from the damp earth and outside air to the greatest extend possible. To make this happen, be sure to:
The idea is to keep all moisture out of the crawl space. In addition to the floor, attach the vapor barrier to walls, equipment, piers, air handler, etc.
You want to stop outdoor from getting into your crawl space. The best way to do so is by sealing off all openings to the outdoors. You can use spray foam and foam board.
Once you’re done sealing the major openings and vents, it’s time to focus on any other reaming cracks and gaps. These may include band joists, plumbing penetrations, HVAC drain line runs, and wiring.
Earlier, we pointed out that DIY encapsulation may be a bad idea, especially for homeowners with zero training and experience in crawl space encapsulation. The best move is to choose a reputable crawl space encapsulation contractor to do the job for you.
A professional brings valuable experience to the table, ensuring that the job is done properly. Because they have the necessary tools and skills, professionals can also complete the project much more quickly than you can. And since you get a top-notch encapsulation installation, you don’t need to worry about replacing the encapsulation soon.
Once you’ve completed your home encapsulation project, there are certain clear benefits you can expect to enjoy. These include:
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the issues associated with a damp crawl space is mold and mildew. Mold exposure can cause certain health problems, including wheezing, coughing, stuffy nose, itching, and so on.
When you encapsulate your crawl space, you prevent moisture from building up in this space. This, in turn, prohibits mold growth.
An un-encapsulated crawl space can introduce mold, mildew, and other contaminants into your living space. Contaminated air does not only make your indoor space uncomfortable to stay in but could also be harmful to your health. Once you seal the crawl space, you stop this problem in its tracks.
Moisture in your crawl space will only lead to structural damage over time. The vapor within the crawl space can rot your home’s wooden frames and flooring.
Encapsulating the crawl space keeps away moisture. In addition, encapsulation helps keep dangerous pests like termites out. These pests can cause untold structural damage to your home.
Of the home upgrades that you can invest in today, crawl space encapsulation is one of the most important. It’s an easy project that can go a long way in keeping moisture and pests out while preserving your home’s structural integrity and indoor air quality.
Are you interested in reliable crawl space encapsulation services? Please contact us today.
Blake has specialized in crawl space & foundation repairs for over 10 years (since 2012). His prior engineering and business degrees from James Madison University in VA prepared him for a mastery of problem solving with crawl space & foundation repair issues. He is one of America’s top experts on crawl space encapsulation. As Founder of both ‘BAY Crawl Space & Foundation Repair’ as well as ‘GridLock Foundations’ he is a leading industry expert on crawl space foundation repairs.