Brian, a Forked River resident, has been with Cowleys since 2016. He is a valued member of our construction/home improvement crew, and has a variety of responsibilities including crawl space encapsulation, attic insulation, mold treatment, wildlife damage repair, and related home improvement services.
He joins us with an extensive background in construction and carpentry. For many years, Brian was a highly skilled union carpenter. His past experience included running his own construction company and serving as the maintenance manager of a large apartment complex. Brian has a keen understanding of the importance of completing projects on time and on budget, and brings strong leadership skills to Cowleys.
Brian enjoys the variety of home improvement work offered at Cowleys. He commented that the different jobs and their unique challenges every week makes his work interesting. He takes personal pride in every assignment and brings out the best in the other team members.
In his spare time, Brian enjoys coaching youth softball, and he must be doing something right out on the diamond, because he’s managed to have a run of winning seasons. He also values time spent with his family, which is his highest priority.
Previously, we conducted a thorough inspection of a homeowners attic in East Brunswick, NJ and determined... Watch Video »
To keep the air quality of your home healthy, prevent damage to your attic and roof, and keep your HVAC system running cost-efficiently, it’s important to maintain an air barrier between the living space of the home and the attic. Simply put, everything works better when attic air is kept out of the house and house air is kept out of the attic. Why? Let’s start with keeping attic air where it belongs. If you’ve ever ventured into the attic, especially during the warmer months, you know that attic air can be outright nasty. It often contains dust particles and other contaminants — contaminants that can cause health problems for the home’s occupants. The less attic air that enters your home’s living spaces, the better.
Just as important, we want to keep living space air out of the attic. Living space air can can be filled with water vapor. When that air is exposed to colder attic temperatures, the vapor gas condenses into water droplets that can potentially cause roof rot and mold growth (unfortunately, mold is an all-too-common attic contaminant). Living space air naturally tries to move up into the attic, especially in the winter, because of the “stack effect.” Heated air rises and expands. As air heats up, its molecules are pushed farther away, making it lighter (that’s why hot air balloons float). The air pushes upward against the attic floor. If there is a way for the air to find its way in, it will. Air leakage into the attic stresses your HVAC system, increasing your heating and cooling bills. There are a number of possible sources of air leaks, but attic hatches are at the top of the list. More often than not, attic hatches are unsealed and have gaps that allow for unwanted air movement. There is an easy solution for this: Attic stairway covers.
The homeowner mentioned to us that he was concerned that his attic hatch was causing significant air leakage. We had the perfect product: the Hatchmaster Attic Stairway Cover. This lightweight, durable cover secures around the perimeter of the attic hatch frame. It’s made of double-bubble reflective insulation, has a 15 R-Value, and a heavy-duty zipper to open and close.
A homeowner in Manchester Township, NJ, was having a problem with rodents accessing the crawl space area of the home. Pest view crawl spaces as prime real estate. They are dark, usually damp and humid, private, and often, there are gaps around the home’s foundation for pests to find their way inside. Once inside the home, rodents and other pests can use wall voids to travel throughout the home, more often than not, making their way to the kitchen to forage for food.
The homeowner diligently attempted to seal up all of the potential entry points around the home’s perimeter, but mice were still getting in. He determined that the crawl space access door was not fully sealed, but he did not know how to address the problem, and contacted Cowleys. Our crawl space repair and improvement division had the perfect solution: A customized Everlast door cover with weatherstripping applied on the back of the door. With this installation, the homeowner had a crawl space door on his foundation that would stand up to the worst weather conditions and provide a rodent-proof seal.
These covers are custom installed to provide a perfect seal to any crawl space opening. They can be installed against wood framing or masonry, work exceptionally well, and look great, blending in perfectly with the home’s foundation. These doors are made of a hard durable plastic that stand up to the worst weather. Unlike wooden or metal doors they can’t rot, warp, crack, or rust. They are also maintenance-free and never need to be painted. Also, even though these covers form a tight seal over the crawl space access, they are super-easy to open should you or a repair person need to get in. All you need to do is twist a few easy-to-grip knobs, and the door comes right off.
This homeowner could not have been more pleased.
These homeowners in Hopewell, NJ. found themselves with a raccoon infestation on their property. While the raccoons did not make their way inside the home, it is stressful even to see these large animals scavenging around your property. Here, they were crawling in and out of storm drains around because the grates had a gap that was large enough for the raccoons to gain access.
Wildlife has a way of exploiting weaknesses in a structure in order to gain entry. Often, its water-saturated, rotting fascia, soffit boards, or roof shingles. Other times, the weakness is a structural opening like chimneys or storm drains that do not have an adequate protective covering to block access. For this homeowner, I installed six storm grate covers that would keep out raccoons and other larger wildlife from entering the drains. I’m confident that by blocking these gaps, the raccoons will move off the property to find another home.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get a good before image, so here we show a typical open storm drain.
Recently, homeowners in Lawrence Township, NJ in Mercer County contacted Cowleys to upgrade their dirty, dusty crawl space. Crawl spaces are perhaps the most ignored areas of a home. They can also be fraught with problems that can affect the living spaces above. Dirty crawl space air circulates throughout the home, so even if you don’t see what’s going on down there, the crawl space in a very real way is visiting you on a daily basis. Crawl spaces are also notorious for high indoor humidity levels, for mold growth, and their damp, dark environment attracts insects. Many homeowners deal with pungent smells and poor indoor air quality because of problem crawl spaces.
This homeowner was bothered that there was a filthy area right below their first floor and decided it was time to do something about it. Cowleys has an experienced contractor crew that can improve crawl spaces in a variety of ways, up to and including the installation of a full CleanSpace encapsulation system. Crawl space encapsulation seals off the outdoor elements that can trigger all sorts of problems. Even if you don’t see puddles of water in your crawl space, ground soil is naturally saturated with water. By definition, any crawl space with a soil floor is damp and filled with moisture most of the time.
For this homeowner, we installed thick mold-resistant drainage matting to create a barrier between crawlspace and floor, a primary entry point of unwanted groundwater. We wrapped the walls with SilverGlo wall insulation, an Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) product coated in a mold-resistant aluminum and put protective warping on the crawl space pillars as well. Finally, we put in a heavy-duty 20-mil CleanSpace vapor barrier. Our vapor barrier is much thicker and sturdier than a regular liner, and we mechanically fasten it to the walls. When, on occasion, you or a repair person need to access your crawl space, the barrier will not pull off or tear.
Once we completed the installation, these homeowners now benefitted from a home with a clean, improved crawl space. This home improvement will make their home more comfortable for the family, improve the indoor air quality, and reduce the risk of crawl space mold growth. For these homeowner, an added benefit was that their crawl space could now be used as a much-needed clean and dry storage area.
Recently, we were contacted by homeowners in Millstone Township, NJ who decided to have a dehumidifier installed in their basement as a permanent long-term solution to their chronic humidity problem. High moisture environments in crawl spaces and basements invites mold, insects, and even structural damage to the home.
The readings on our hygrometer, which measures the humidity (amount of water vapor) in the air, confirmed that this basement had an unacceptably high level of humidity. Homes require an acceptable range of humidity for our comfort and health, and air that is too dry or too wet can be the source of problems for a home’s occupants. Our homes are most comfortable at humidity levels between 30 - 50%. Almost always, the problem with basements and crawl spaces Is too much humidity. High humidity levels can cause condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, musty odors, and over extended periods of time, wood rot and structural damage. humidity levels rise above 55%, a home is ripe for mold growth. Mold spores attach to wet or damp surfaces, consuming whatever organic material that it grows upon.
Based on the size (cubic volume) of the basement and its humidity level, we recommended a SaniDry XP commercial dehumidifier. We only install SaniDry commercial-grade dehumidifiers. These machines are specifically designed and manufactured for the challenging environments of basements and crawl spaces. Generic residential dehumidifiers simply aren’t up to the job. For example, the SaniDry XP is a powerful energy-efficient dehumidifier that outperforms standard household dehumidifiers by as much as 10 times while using the same amount of energy to run. The SaniDry XP can effectively cover indoor living spaces over 3000 square feet, making it well-suited for basements and crawl spaces over 40” high.
The most important difference between a residential dehumidifier and a SaniDry commercial dehumidifier is its ease of use and automatic operation. A residential dehumidifier requires human intervention to empty the pan of collected dehumidified water. If not timely emptied the pan will overflow and the machine usually huts off once the flow bucket is full. Our commercial dehumidifiers direct the extracted water pulled out of the air into either a sump pump or, if a sump pump isn’t present, a small condensation pump that pumps the water through a 1/2” condensate hose that runs to the outside of the basement. For this installation, we needed to drill a 1/2” hole through the foundation wall to run the hose outside. The installation went off without a hitch. Now, this basement will no longer have chronic humidity issues. The home will be more comfortable and the risk of dangerous mold growth has been removed.
We were called out to a home in Monmouth Junction for a mouse exclusion. This particular home was overrun with mice.
I replaced her crawl space door with an Everlast vent cover to make sure mice can not enter. These covers, which can be installed against wood framing or masonry, not only block insects and wildlife from entering the crawl space, they also block out humid mold-forming air and moisture from entering. These aesthetically pleasing covers are made with a hard durable plastic that stand up to the worst weather conditions, and unlike wood vents, are completely maintenance free. Even though these covers completely seal the vents, they are easy to open should you need to access your crawl space. All you have to do is twist a few large knobs, and you’re in!
With mice and other nuisance wildlife infestations, it is critical to find the potential entry points and seal them; otherwise, the infestation will never be permanently resolved.
We carefully inspected the entire home, filling every hole we could locate with spray foam. The before/after pictures highlight that the gaps that were once open are now closed off. During my inspection, I also noticed a large gap underneath the front door that would allow mice to enter. I installed rubber weather stripping to seal that potential route.
Recently, we went on a service a call in Bayville, NJ for a homeowner who was complaining of an excessive amount of moisture in his crawl space. Excessive moisture in your crawl space can have a major impact on your family’s health. In fact, 40% of the air in your home comes up through the crawl space — which means that moisture and mold can seep into your home, where you're breathing it in.
Once we arrived at the property, we equipped our personal protective equipment (PPE) and began our inspection. After surveying the crawl space, we noticed that the homeowner had a dirt floor crawl space and that his home was located right on the bay. Dirt floor crawl spaces attract and absorb moisture. When the dirt dries, it causes humidity levels to rise in your home. After a thorough inspection, we determined that this was the cause of the moisture build-up in the crawl space.
The best treatment method to remove the moisture is to encapsulate the crawl space. First, we installed a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is a super-durable, 20-mil 7-ply plastic sheet material made up of high and low-density polyethylene with polyester-cord reinforcement. The vapor barrier resists the passage of air and by stopping air movement from the ground, it can also turn your crawl space into a semi-conditioned space. Next, we removed the existing fiberglass insulation and replaced it with encapsulated comfort thermal insulation. Then, we installed a smart pump with a battery back up and auxiliary pump to remove any groundwater underneath the liner.
Finally, in order to prevent mold growth, we installed a SaniDry XP commercial dehumidifier. These machines are specifically designed and manufactured for the challenging environments of basements and crawl spaces. The SaniDry XP is a powerful energy-efficient dehumidifier that outperforms standard household dehumidifiers by as much as 10 times while using the same amount of energy to run. The SaniDry XP can effectively cover indoor living spaces over 3000 square feet, making it well-suited for basements and crawl spaces over 40” high.
Now, the moisture in the crawl space is greatly reduced, helping prevent mold growth.
I was dispatched to a home in Lanoka Harbor, a Lacey Township community, just north of Forked River. The homeowner had contacted Cowleys to take care of a flea problem in the home’s mechanical room that housed the HVAC equipment. Also, he asked us to replace the rotted plywood doors and wood framing used to access this small space located in the rear of the house. Many Cowleys technicians have extensive backgrounds in home repair and improvement, especially those of us assigned to either the Crawl Space Solutions By Cowleys Division, which specializes in helping homeowners resolve water, moisture, and high humidity problems in their crawl space, or our wildlife division where critter infestations are often accompanied by damage to insulation and other building materials.
Recently, a homeowner in Freehold, NJ, found himself with both a bird and squirrel infestation in his attic. It’s more common that you would think having different wildlife infesting a home at the same time. An entry point that’s good enough for one animal is often good enough for others. Our nuisance wildlife technicians had already come in to trap the squirrels. Once all the wildlife was removed, they located and sealed up the entry points that allowed the invading wildlife access to the attic.
Then it was our turn. A two-man crew from the Cowleys contractor division was called in to handle the aftermath of this infestation. Unfortunately, once birds or other wildlife take up residence in the attic, there is often more is involved than the animal eviction and sealing the entry points to prevent a re-infestation. Once inside, these animals often cause a significant amount of property damage. As the squirrels and birds did to this home, they turned the attic into a bona fide health hazard by leaving behind a mess of dangerous waste materials. These droppings can contain all types of disease-transmitting pathogens that can trigger serious chronic respiratory diseases and other health issues. Once animal droppings are dried out or disturbed, waste particles can become airborne, traveling throughout the entire home. “Dirty” air filled with microscopic particles from animal waste (or mold for that matter) deposited in a nonliving areas of the home like attics and crawl spaces circulates everywhere throughout the living areas of the home, endangering the home’s occupants.
Our job was to clean up this mess and make sure that the the attic was made safe and looked as good as new. After an attic wildlife infestation, the insulation is often ruined. Insulation not only acts like a sponge for wildlife waste, but also makes for excellent nesting material. Fist, we safely removed all of the damaged and waste-contaminated insulation from the attic. Next, we thoroughly hepa-vacuumed, sanitized, and deodorized the entire attic. We not only remove the dangerous waste, but just as important, we remove the lingering smells and remnants of the infestation. It is important to wipe out the wildlife scent markers so that more wildlife is not attracted into the home.
Finally, as a licensed installer of TAP Insulation, we replaced the ruined insulation with our own. TAP stands for the three key properties of this insulation: Thermal, Acoustical, and Pest Control. TAP is blown-in cellulose insulation that, unlike fiberglass batts and blankets, blown-in insulation effectively covers every attic corner, nook, and cranny, providing complete insulation coverage. We blew in a full 12’ of TAP. This insulation offers top-notch thermal and acoustical (sound-deadening) properties. Also, this homeowner was pleasantly surprised to learn that TAP insulation, unlike regular insulation, has a pest control component. Its paper fibers are treated with a borate solution that is harmless to people (and wildlife), but lethal to many insects including ants, beetles, and termites. The old batt insulation had an R-value (thermal resistance) of 30. Now, with TAP, the insulation was boosted up to an R-value of 42. With a more energy-efficient attic, this this homeowner will save on future heating and cooling costs.
As you can see from the photos, after completion of this job, the attic looked brand new. Although this wildlife infestation was one big unexpected headache for this homeowner, he appreciated that, when we were done, he was left with a better attic.
We received a call from a homeowner in Freehold, NJ who was suffering from raccoons in her attic. After our wildlife team took care of the raccoons and blocked up their entryway we needed to take care of the damage they did in the attic. Her attic had been decimated by raccoons. There was an abundant amount of raccoon feces and urine all over her attic. Raccoon feces and urine are harborage areas for viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Most notoriously the parasite Bayliscacariscc procyonis — also known as "raccoon roundworm.” Once it enters a human, serious symptoms can emerge within days. This parasite invades the lungs, liver, heart, eyes, and brain and sparks serious inflammation throughout the body. While some people make a full recovery, the infection can leave others blind, in a coma, or with permanent brain damage. It's sometimes fatal.
First, we put on our personal protective equipment and removed all of the soiled fiberglass insulation that contained raccoon droppings and urine. Once raccoons made their business in your attic and on your insulation, you have to get rid of it. Afterward, we carefully removed all the contents and then sanitized and deodorized the attic. Not properly cleaning up your attic can lead to serious health risks. By using a broom or vacuum, you increase the risk of dangerous air particles raising, hence increasing the risk of contracting the roundworm parasite. Finally, we blew in cellulose insulation. Cellulose insulation is made from ground up recycled paper. It is treated with different types of applications that aren’t hazardous to humans and provides resistance to mold, pests, and fire.
An East Brunswick homeowner contacted Crawl Space Solutions by Cowleys to inspect her “CleanSpace” that had been installed by another company ten years ago. She was concerned because one of the Everlast vent cover doors “looked funny.” Upon arrival, we immediately saw that the homeowner was right, and it was a good thing she called us. Because the door was was not installed properly, it was bowing out in the middle and not sitting flat on the foundation wall. This was a potential problem because it allowed damp, humid outdoor air to flow into the crawl space.
When it comes to any home improvement, the installation is just as important as the product. The Crawl Space Solutions by Cowleys crews have extensive home building and improvement experience.
For this Rumson homeowner, we removed the old, damaged Everlast door and installed a new one — but this time correctly! These Everlast vent covers are an important part of the encapsulation process because close off outside air and moisture from entering the crawl space through the exterior vents. They can be installed against wood framing or masonry, work exceptionally well, and are aesthetically pleasing. Made with a hard durable plastic, they stand up to the worst weather conditions, and, unlike wood vents, these covers are completely maintenance free. They should never rot, warp, or crack and they never need to be painted. With this Rumson home, the warping was caused by improper installation, not because of the door itself. Also, even though these vent covers completely seal the vents from the outdoor elements, they are easy to open should you need to access your crawl space. All you need to do is twist a few easy-to-grip knobs, and you’re in!
This homeowner was pleased to know that, after ten years, her encapsulated crawl space, besides the one vent door that needed to be replaced, was in tip-top shape. After she thanked us for replacing the door, we were on our way to help fix a crawl space for another customer.
An East Brunswick homeowner contacted Crawl Space Solutions by Cowleys to enlarge their existing crawl space opening. Although we specialize in converting problem-ridden vented crawl spaces into clean, dry encapsulated crawl spaces, our technicians have the experience to handle virtually any crawl space renovation work. This Brick homeowner was faced with a serious issue: His current crawl space opening was so small that a person of normal dimensions could not possible fit through it.
We installed a new crawl space entrance way by removing the concrete block, installing a new wood frame, and making a custom door for easy access.
We also custom-made a vent cover that we installed into one of our vent blockers. This was one of our smaller jobs, but for this homeowner, it was an important one. After all, a homeowner must be able to have ready access to their crawl space. Crawl spaces are prone to all sorts problems, from moisture to mold to insect and wildlife infestations. It is critical to have access to this often-neglected area of the home to periodically inspect for problems and to make the necessary repairs.
We went out on a service call for a homeowner in East Brunswick, NJ who was having an issue with poor ventilation in his attic. About 50% of energy costs can be traced to HVAC usage, meaning heating and cooling are one of the biggest expenses for many homeowners. Air leaks between the attic and the rest of the home or outside, insufficient insulation and poor ventilation are some of the factors that significantly influence your home's energy efficiency, comfort, and costs.
Once we arrived and conducted a thorough inspection, we determined that his attic was severely under-insulated. After bringing this to the homeowner's attention and discussing a few options, he decided to add blown-in cellulose insulation in his attic. Blown-in cellulose insulation is the perfect choice for reinforcing the barrier between your home's attic and other rooms. Insulation limits heat transfer, meaning it prevents heat from escaping during the winter and prevents humidity from entering the home during the summer. Improper installation of light fixtures in the attic can create void areas of missing insulation. Insulation voids allow heat transfer by convection and radiation. Research has shown that just a 4% void in fiberglass batt insulation can result in a 50% reduction in insulation effectiveness.
We added approximately 10 inches of cellulose to their existing insulation in the attic. Now the home has an extra layer of insulation to prevent heat loss.
This Seaside Heights homeowner wanted to cover his submersible sump pump, and contacted Cowleys. Cowleys offers more than just pest control. We also have a specialized division devoted to keeping crawl spaces and basements clean and dry. Sump pumps, a critical part of any crawl space system, pump out damaging groundwater that has found its way inside your home. While Cowleys sells and installs the sturdiest, most trouble-free sump pumps available, we also will take on specialized projects for homeowners like this one.
What’s a submersible sump pump? These pumps are located inside the sump basin, and its motor is designed to work when completely submerged in water. The alternative is a pedestal pump. With pedestals, the entire pump is located above the sump pit, and its motor is not designed to be submerged. You’ll usually only see pedestal-type pumps where the sump pit is too narrow or shallow for a submersible. Submersibles are today’s residential standard because they are far more efficient and quieter than pedestal pumps.
This homeowner understood the importance of covering his submersible sump pump, and contacted Cowleys to do the job. There are a number of important reasons to cover your sump. Covered sump pumps help reduce moisture, and keeping moisture levels down is essential for preventing mold growth. (The primary way to keep down moisture levels in your crawl space or basement is through dehumidification.) Also, covered sump pumps are especially important for homes with a radon gas problem because of the surrounding soil. While a sump pump cover will help to reduce the amount of radon, it won’t completely resolve the problem. Unfortunately, soil gases can seep in from many places, including floor cracks and floor drains. A sump pump lid reduces pump noise, stops debris from falling into the pit, and keeps out insects and rodents. If your sump pump is in the basement, a cover will keep out curious kids who may want to use the sump pit as a fun play site.
We recommend solid covers if there’s a pipe beneath that drains water into the sump well, and a perforated one if water drains into the well after flowing across the basement floor. Because of two plumbing pipes that funneled into the sump pit, we needed to build a custom cover for this homeowner. While this cover may not qualify as an exhibit at some fancy art museum, the Cowleys crawl space technicians who worked on this job are especially proud of it! As you can see, the cover does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and it made an unattractive area of the home look a whole lot better.
This Lavallette homeowner had used Cowelys to resolve her chronically damp dirty crawl space. We “cleanspaced” her crawl space with an encapsulation system developed by Basement Systems, the leader in encapsulation technology. She was impressed by not only the transformation of her crawl space into a clean dry foundation, but also by the added energy efficiency. She was thrilled that there were no more cold floors above the crawl space during the winter! Based on her experience, she hired us again. This time, she asked us to improve her home’s energy efficiency by adding a 4" cap of our TAP insulation in her attic. Our insulation is a blown-in loose-fill cellulose insulation with exceptional Thermal, Acoustical (sound-deadening), and Pest Control (“TAP”) properties. Pest Control? Yes! TAP paper fibers are treated with a borate solution that, while harmless to people and pets, is lethal to a variety of insects including ants, beetles, and termites.
The photos show the attic before and after our installation of the TAP insulation. With this added blown-in insulation, we were able to seal those small nooks and crannies that are missed with fiberglass batt blanket insulation. Batt insulation, which comes in rolls, while easy to install, is not effective at stopping air from infiltrating through gaps and cracks. With this TAP home improvement, this Lavallette homeowner will enjoy significant savings on her heating and cooling bills over the coming years.
These homeowners in Edison, NJ had with a squirrel infestation in their attic. A team from our nuisance wildlife division handled the trapping and relocating of the trespassing critters, and also sealed up their entry point. However, as often happens, the nesting wildlife made a mess of the attic. There were toxic droppings all about. When these droppings dry out or are otherwise disturbed, particles can become airborne and circulate throughout the home. If breathed in, these microscopic spores can trigger serious respiratory diseases. In addition, as often happens, the sponge-like attic insulation becomes contaminated from animal waste.
A two-man crew from Cowleys contractor division was called in to deal with the aftermath. As part of the clean-up, we carefully removed the contaminated insulation, used a powerful HEPA-vacuum to clean up the droppings left behind, and finally sanitized and deodorized the entire attic. After a wildlife infestation, it is essential to remove all signs and indications that there was once wildlife activity in the attic. Otherwise, the attic can become an attractant for insects and other wildlife that pick up on the lingering smells, and if you’ve ever dealt with one of these infestations, those smells are pungent! Also, an attic must be properly cleaned after a wildlife infestation to ensure the health of the home’s occupants.
Finally, after everything was cleaned up, we installed approximately 10” of our blown-in TAP insulation. TAP stands for Thermal, Acoustical, and Pest Control, which are the three key components that make this insulation such a great homeowner investment. This product offers superior thermal and acoustical (sound-deadening) properties. The ten inches of TAP that we installed for this homeowner translates into a 40 R-value, more than enough thermal resistance (insulating power) to deal with the temperature extremes that come with living in New Jersey. Because a higher R-value increases the efficiency of the HVAC system, these homeowners will save on their cooling and heating bills. This insulation offers a pest control component, a benefit not available with most other insulation products. Its paper fibers are treated with a borate solution that is harmless to people, pets, and other animals, but lethal to many insects including ants, beetles, and termites.
Recently, our crawl space specialists completed an upgrade for a home in Point Pleasant, NJ. The homeowner thought that after a recent heavy rainstorm he better check his crawl space for water. It was a good thing he did. The crawl space had stagnant water along with high humidity levels. He was concerned, and rightly so, that mold could develop. Moisture build-up in crawl spaces creates an ideal environment for mold growth. When hidden mold forms in the non-living spaces of homes like crawl spaces, basements, and attics, airborne spores circulate throughout the entire home adversely affecting air quality for the home’s occupants, and those sensitive to mold can develop respiratory issues. Excess moisture can lead to structural damage, including wood rot wood and rusted metal, and is also an attractant for insects and wildlife. Mosquitoes, for instance, breed in standing water.
Prior to entering the crawl space, we donned our personal protective equipment. Mold is a bio-hazard in enclosed spaces and proper safety precautions must always be used. With gloves, masks, and goggles in place, we began a thorough inspection of the crawl space. There were multiple water puddles throughout the crawl space, so the area was ripe for mold growth. However, after inspecting every nook and cranny of the crawl space, we couldn’t find any mold growth that had yet taken hold.
Continuing our inspection, we concluded that the moisture was coming up right through the dirt floor soil. Soil is a porous medium that acts like a sponge. About half its volume is air space and the other half is mineral and organic. It can soak up a large amount of water from above and below. Different soils have different water-holding capacities based on its porousness up to its point of saturation when all its pores are full. After rainfall, soil soaks up water, and once the soil is saturated, it will form surface puddles along with moisture and humidity. Although it was a good sign that there was not yet any mold growth in the crawl space, with this level of moisture build-up, it was only a matter of time before mold would form. This was a case where a homeowner had the foresight to realize there was a potential problem and contacted us early on. Usually, we are contacted after mold has already formed.
It was time for us to upgrade the crawl space. For this job, the homeowner requested that we install a vapor barrier. But not any vapor barrier. Many of the vapor barriers installed are no better than contractor bags. We use super-durable, 20-mil 7-ply plastic sheet material made up of high and low-density polyethylene with polyester-cord reinforcement. These barriers are as tough as nails and can be walked on without fear of tearing. We placed the vapor barrier on the dirt floor crawl space and anchored it directly into the wall. This barrier will deter moisture from entering the crawl space. A dry crawl space prevents mold growth and other water-related problems.
This job was a great example of a homeowner taking a proactive approach to prevent mold and mildew growth. Crawl spaces are notorious trouble spots for homeowners. It’s far better to identify and fix crawl space water and moisture problems before mold takes hold.
This residential customer in Brielle, NJ, had used Cowleys to help him deal with crawl space flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. At that time. the homeowner contracted Cowleys to remove his moldy insulation and install an encapsulation system. Crawl space encapsulation transforms damp vented crawlspaces that are often fraught with mold and pest issues into clean, dry, attractive and energy efficient spaces.
This heart of our encapsulation system is a super durable 20 mil thick polyethylene vapor barrier that blocks moisture, outside air, and pests from getting into your crawl space. We also use other crawl space products as necessary, such as vent covers, drainage matting, and commercial-grade dehumidifiers.
Following this encapsulation, the homeowner no longer had water or moisture issues in his crawl space. According to him, his crawl space was now as dry as a bone. However, at the time, he elected to not replace the moldy water-damaged insulation that we removed. Not surprisingly, for a few winter seasons, he had cold floors above the crawl space. He decided this was no longer tolerable, and he called us back to install some good insulation.
We recommended JM ComfortTerm insulation, a Formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation with R-values up to R-30 (12” thickness). Its batts and rolls are wrapped in plastic for less dust kick-up during installation and also has a vapor-retarder plastic facing. Now, with the crawl space insulation job completed, this home will be more comfortable, and this thermal envelope will help with the home’s indoor air quality and dramatically improve the home’s energy efficiency.
We recently replaced five foundation vents with Smart Vents for a homeowner in Manasquan, NJ. The old vents would not adequately protect the home from damage in the event of floodwaters from a severe weather events such as a hurricane, tropical storm, or nor’easter, which unfortunately seem to be occurring more frequently and with greater severity. Often, we can simply remove the existing vents and replace them with Smart Vents. However, sometimes, as we did here, we must cut into the foundation to properly fit the improved vents. Either way, the transition from traditional vents to Smart Vents is easy and seamless, and at the end of the day, the homeowner is left with considerable protection of their home foundation against damaging floodwaters.
Smart Vents prevent severe foundation damage by equalizing hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic water pressure can reach tens of thousands of pounds. It’s enough pressure to collapse large dams and retaining walls let alone home foundations. They work by allowing floodwaters to freely enter and exit the basement or crawl space. And how they so it is deceptively easy. Unlike traditional air vents, these vents open automatically and passively on their own once floodwaters reach a certain level. They do not require human intervention and no electricity is needed. The vents provide a 3-inch clearance for small debris and trash to easily pass when the vent door is opened by patented internal activation floats. For vented crawl spaces, there are Smart Vent models with a metal coil sensitive to temperature changes that opens and closes the vent louvers, and, just like the Smart Vent models that respond to water levels, these vents open and close automatically and do not require manual intervention.
Perhaps most important, these vents are FEMA and NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) compliant. They are deemed so effective by these agencies that the installation of these foundation flood vents can save homeowners, on average, 80% of their NFIP premiums. Any Jersey Shore homeowner with a crawl space or basement in a flood hazard area, especially NFIP-designated V Zones and A Zones, should strongly consider installation of Smart Vents. Smart Vent has its own Flood Risk Evaluator division to ensure that Smart Vent purchasers receive the proper flood insurance rating. They can provide homeowners with an estimate of their new lower flood insurance premium at www.yourfloodrisk.com.
We went out on a call from a property manager in Sea Girt, NJ who owned a condominium complex. The property manager mentioned that the dehumidifiers in the basement of his complex needed an upgrade. The current dehumidifiers he had were too small to properly treat the areas needed and they kept malfunctioning. A dehumidifier is a great air treatment solution for removing excess moisture around your home and protecting it from damaging mold. Dehumidifiers can help relieve allergy symptoms as well as lung and respiratory symptoms. The fact that the dehumidifiers kept malfunctioning and weren't large enough to properly service the room, made them useless.
First, we inspected the current dehumidifiers to make sure there wasn't any damage to the outputs or wiring. Once we confirmed there wasn't we replaced all three dehumidifiers with commercial grade Sani-dry Sedona dehumidifiers. These dehumidifiers are perfect for commercial properties. They cost less to run than other dehumidifiers, cover over 3000 square feet and are energy efficient. What's the main difference between commercial and residential dehumidifiers? Commercial dehumidifiers can remove up to 160 pints of moisture, while most residential dehumidifiers remove up to 70 pints. Not to mention, commercial dehumidifiers operate in temperatures as low as 33° F and are constructed out of durable steel parts versus plastic materials in a residential dehumidifier. Lastly, residential dehumidifiers have a pan or bucket that you must manually empty once it's full of dehumidified water. With commercial dehumidifiers, the water is drained into a sump pump. If there is no sump pump present than we use a condensation pump to pump the water into a sink or outside the property.
Two of the dehumidifiers were in rooms that were back-to-back. We are able to place the water evacuation tube (which filters the water out of a dehumidifier) from the dehumidifiers into a commercial utility sink. As for the other dehumidifier, we were able to use the existing condensation pump that was in perfect working condition. Now the rooms can be treated properly!
Recently, we went on a service call for a homeowner in SeaGirt, NJ who had an issue with moisture in his crawl space. Moisture can seep into the crawl space through poor circulation or from the foundation walls and can lead to a number of problems, such as mold and mildew growth. As much as 40% of breathable air in your home comes up through the crawl space. Which means if mold exists in your crawl space, the unhealthy air circulating through your home can cause health problems for your family.
Once we arrived we began our inspection in the crawl space and discovered that the wooden door leading into the crawl space was rotted, damaged, and not closing properly. This was allowing not just moisture into the crawl space, but pests as well. Crawl spaces can also become a dwelling for pests if not properly maintained. Once pests enter your crawl space, they can follow heated air ducts, water pipes, and electrical wiring into your home and cause additional health issues.
Continuing our inspection we noticed that homeowner had a dirt floor crawl space and there was an excessive amount of garbage and debris scattered throughout the crawl space. Dirt floor crawl spaces attract and absorb moisture. When the dirt dries, it causes humidity levels to rise in your home. After a thorough inspection, we determined that this was the cause of the moisture build-up in the crawl space.
The best treatment to remove the moisture from the crawl space is to install a vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is a super-durable, 20-mil 7-ply plastic sheet material made up of high and low-density polyethylene with polyester-cord reinforcement. The vapor barrier resists the passage of air and by stopping air movement from the ground, it can also turn your crawl space into a semi-conditioned space – one that is close to the temperature of the living spaces above. When that occurs, your floors feel warmer in winter and your energy bills go down.
First, we removed all the sharp rocks and debris, which may puncture the insulating plastic, from the crawl space and then graded the ground to create a leveled surface. Next, we anchored the vapor barrier to the walls and placed it on the floor. We also installed an Everlast™ door to replace the damaged wooden door. An Everlast™ door is made from ½-in.-thick PVC plastic that will never warp, crack, shrink, require maintenance or painting and will prevent any unwanted pests and moisture from entering the crawl space.
With the new vapor barrier and everlasting door in place, the moisture levels in the crawl space are greatly reduced which will prevent mold and foul odors from growing and forming.
This homeowner in Point Pleasant Beach had one of the more unique crawl spaces that our home improvement crew has come across, and not in a good way. Without being too disparaging, this crawl space was little more than a glorified dirt pit. It was such a dusty dirty mess that it was a completely unusable space in the home. You could not even venture down there without returning to ground level looking as though you just emerged from the depths of a Kentucky coal mine.
Fortunately, this homeowner decided that enough was enough! It was time to give his crawl space a complete makeover. Cowleys is a certified Basement Systems dealer. Basement Systems pioneered the field of crawl space repair and encapsulation for moisture control and waterproofing. With their system, a chronically damp wet crawl space can be transformed into a clean, dry foundation. Unlike traditionally vented crawl spaces, encapsulation prevents water seepage and hot, humid air from entering the crawl space, as well as acting as a barrier for insects and nuisance wildlife. When supplemented by dehumidification, encapsulation inhibits dangerous mold growth and other allergens, providing clean, healthy air for the occupants residing in the home.
The Cowleys crew arrived. We first installed CleanSpace liners. Never before has the term “clean space” been more true. Before we got there you could not go down into this basement without getting filthy dirty. We installed both a 4 ft. high wall liner, and a floor liner to finish off the job. These liners are thick, tear-resistant vapor barriers that prevent moisture from passing through the floors and concrete walls.
The last step of this project was installing a maintenance-free commercial-grade SaniDry XP model dehumidifier to keep the basement free of excess humidity that can trigger dangerous mold (There is also a CX model for smaller areas). These compact dehumidifiers are specifically designed for crawl spaces and mid-sized basements. They can operate in temperatures as low as 40 degrees F. and are much more powerful than traditional dehumidifiers. Once they are set up, there’s nothing to do. They operate automatically, turning on and off according to a built-in hygrometer. Also, these machines don’t have a water tray that needs to be emptied. They connect directly into the home’s drainage system.
The homeowner was extremely happy with his new crawl space, knowing that he could now go down there or send a repair person there without returning covered in dust. Now, he could even use the space for storage. Also, with these liners secure and in place along with the dehumidifier, the crawl space will be kept dry. Without excess moisture and humidity build-up, he won’t need to worry about mold, insects, and other issues down below.
A homeowner in Belmar, NJ, who was in the process of building his dream home, decided to invest in a dehumidifier for his basement, and he contacted us. Cowleys has a contractor division with an experienced crew that installs and services SaniDry dehumidifiers. These commercial-grade dehumidifiers that are specifically engineered for the challenging environments of crawl spaces and basements, and we limit our line to these workhorse machines. In these sub-grade areas of homes, chronic humidity is a problem, especially with our hot and muggy New Jersey summers.
Dehumidification is the only effective long-term solution to remove excess moisture in the air. High indoor humidity levels are responsible for a host of problems for including mold growth, a favorable environment for insects, wood rot and other structural damage. Also, dehumidifiers improve the liveability of a home. They help eliminate musty odors that can waft into the living areas of the home and dramatically improve indoor air quality by removing airborne mold spores and other allergens, helping relieve allergy and other lung and respiratory symptoms. After inspecting the homeowner's basement, and based on the size (cubic volume) of the basement, we recommended a SaniDry XP commercial dehumidifier.
You may be thinking why not go with a residential dehumidifier? Can there really be that much of a difference between these commercial-grade dehumidifiers and the generic residential ones? The short answer is that there is no comparison. As many homeowners find out the hard way, the generic dehumidifiers sold in hardware stores simply aren’t up to the job. For example, the SaniDry XP that we installed for this homeowner is a powerful energy-efficient dehumidifier that outperforms standard household dehumidifiers by as much as 10 times -- while using the same amount of energy to run! The SaniDry XP can effectively cover indoor living spaces over 3000 square feet, making it well-suited for basements and crawl spaces over 40” high.
The key difference between a residential dehumidifier and a SaniDry commercial dehumidifier is its ease of use and automatic operation. A residential dehumidifier requires human intervention to empty the pan of collected dehumidified water. If not timely emptied, the pan overflows, and usually, the machine shuts off once the flow bucket is full. Our commercial dehumidifiers direct the extracted water pulled out of the air into either a sump pump or, if a sump pump isn’t present, a condensation pump that pumps the water through a condensate hose to the outside of the basement. These machines work 24/7 year-round automatically.
The homeowner was ecstatic to know that he would have clean, dry air circulating throughout his home and the reduced humidity levels in his basement would prevent mold growth. For him, this dehumidifier was an investment that protected both his home and his family’s health.
Homeowners in Old Bridge, NJ, recently converted their front porch to a year-round living space. There is a small crawl space underneath the newly converted area. As they started to use the area, they soon noticed a musty, earthy odor wafting up from the crawl space. Also, the floor was quite cold. They contacted Cowleys for some crawl space renovation that would buffer the cold air and remove the odors, and one of our crawl space encapsulation teams was sent over.
To stop the cold air, we installed Silverglo insulation on the exterior walls. SliverGlo is a lightweight, rigid, and closed-cell insulation that is much more efficient than over-the-counter batt and foam insulations that just isn’t designed for crawl spaces. Its closed-cell structure provides minimal water absorption and low vapor permanence. Other types of insulation act like a sponge in damp crawl spaces and, once wet, loses its ability to effectively insulate. We then installed a CleanSpace liner (vapor barrier) to encapsulate the area.This heavy-duty 20-mil liner is much thicker and sturdier than the generic “contractor bag” liners.
With the crawl space sealed from the outdoor elements, the homeowners will no longer have a “freezer box” underneath their flooring and the odors will be gone as well. Considering that there were odor problems during the winter month, once summer rolled around, the problem would have gotten even worse. With the encapsulation, there will be far less likelihood of mold formation and the crawl space will stay nice and dry — the homeowners can now even use this “dead” crawl space area for storage if needed.
Here is a great “before and after” photo comparison where I installed a vent block to replace, what frankly, was a big mess. This project was completed for a home in Avon by the Sea, NJ. Whenever we install a dehumidifier in a crawl space, we strongly recommend to homeowners to block the crawl space vents, which helps keep outside humid air from entering the basement (not to mention insects!). Installation of a commercial-grade dehumidifier is the single most important way for homeowners to prevent mold growth and other problems resulting from sustained high humidity in crawl spaces and basements. ideally, these subterranean areas should be encapsulated to keep humid air from entering the crawl space. Building scientists that study indoor airflow have found that vented crawl spaces do exactly what homeowners want to prevent — allowing hot humid outdoor air enter the crawl space. There is a popular misconception that vented crawl spaces expel hot humid air, when in fact, the opposite is true. However, even if a homeowner decides to not fully encapsulate their crawl space, at a minimum, we strongly recommend that homeowners at least block the crawl space vents since these are, by far, the largest entry points for outside air.
To block the vents, we cut Silverglo insulation to size. SliverGlo insulation is an Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS) insulation that contains graphite. This lightweight, rigid, closed-cell insulation is 24% more efficient than over-the-counter batt and foam insulations. Its closed-cell structure provides minimal water absorption and low vapor permanence. As an added benefit, SilverGlo is coated with a mold-resistant aluminum that naturally enhancing primary sources of light, dramatically increasing the luminosity of even a single bulb. After setting in the insulation in the vent space, we then spray a hardening foam around the outside edges to completely block off any airflow.
An Avanel homeowner contacted Cowleys for a nuisance wildlife technician to take care of a wildlife problem, and I was dispatched to his home. He told me that animals, possibly opossums, were gaining access under his cantilevered flooring. I have an interest in building construction and, to me, cantilevers are a great example of smart home building. With standard framing construction, joists are extended to a girder at the front end, and the framing looks like a bed frame. However, with cantilevered flooring, instead of a girder at the end of the joists, a beam is placed under the joists, so they can extend past that support. That overhang that is past the beam is what’s called the cantilever. Using this construction, you can extend a home’s footprint and save on material costs— as long as it’s done right. For a safe cantilever overhang, you have to consider the strength of the particular wood and the spacing of the joists. Also, since the beam acts as a fulcrum, you have to make sure that the flooring can handle the weight put on the cantilever by taking into account the backspan of the joists (the distance of the joist up to the beam). Cantilevered engineering is like building a playground teeter-totter that you don’t want to budge an inch when weight is placed on the unsupported side. Unfortunately, some wildlife was as impressed with this cantilevered flooring as I was — and they wanted an up-close view by getting into the spacing under the flooring extending over the foundation!
For this particular job, the animals had made of mess of things with their clawing and droppings, and I needed to remove all of the debris and contaminated insulation underneath. I was able to access the area through the ceiling of the basement. After removing the debris, I sanitized and deodorized the entire area so that no other wildlife would be attracted to the same area by the left-over scent. For added measure, I blocked off every bay in the framing with silver-glo insulation and spray foam. Finally, I installed a dig defense on the exterior portion of the cantilever and the rear deck to keep wildlife from being able to gain access. With a dig defense, the area invaded by wildlife is blocked by underground fencing to prevent them from re-entering.
This Avanel homeowner will always be dealing with wildlife in his yard, but after this repair and improvement work to exclude wildlife from around the foundation, this homeowner should not have any more unwelcome visits by opossums or any other clawing animals under his cantilevered flooring.
This homeowner in Avenel, NJ contacted Cowleys for a crawl space improvement. Cowleys has an experienced crew that handles various crawl space improvements, up to and including full encapsulation and whole-house dehumidification for homeowners with water and moisture issues. These issues often result in mold growth that then affects the indoor air quality of the home.
This particular installation job was more limited, and we are more than happy to adjust the scope of our work to meet the particular needs of the homeowner. The homeowner did not require full encapsulation (Cleanspacing”) because the crawl space was dry and did not have humidity levels that would be conducive to mold growth. However, the customer decided that it was time to replace his flimsy 6-mil “contractor bag” vapor barrier with something more durable and substantial in order to deal off the dirt and prevent dust and odors that periodically permeated the living areas above.
To meet the needs of this homeowner we removed the old barrier and replaced it with our tear-resistant heavy-duty 20-mil CleanSpace vinyl vapor barrier. This vapor barrier is only available to licensed Basement Systems dealers. Our barrier is a specially engineered film made of layers of high density and low density polyethylene, and you can walk on it without worrying about rips and tears. With its mil thickness, this barrier has the durability of a plastic tarp.
The homeowner was quite pleased with our installation work and informed us that if he ever needed additional crawl space renovations, he’d have us back in an instant.
This Bradley Beach homeowner had damage to his facia board that was caused by squirrels. The fascia board on a house is the vertical finishing edge that caps the end of the rafters, and is often where the home’s gutters are attached. Squirrels had chewed and clawed their way right through fascia.
Another common trouble spot around the roof often damaged by wildlife is the soffit. The soffit is the finished wood or vinyl horizontal underside (water-resistant vinyl is preferable) beneath the overhanging section of the roof eave. Soffits, which have small holes to help ventilate the attic, are often a magnet for attracting small animals and insects.
A Cowleys wildlife technician had already resolved the squirrel issue, and I was called in to do the repair and exclusion work. Cowleys has a crew of technicians with extensive experience in home construction. Our projects include installing TAP insulation, waterproofing crawl spaces, treating mold, and repairing damage caused by wildlife.
The homeowner was insistent that he did not want the expense of removing his gutters, replacing the damaged fascia board, and re-installing the gutters. So, I took a more expedient approach that would leave the fascia in place. First, I needed brown aluminum to match the brown fascia board. This was easier said than done. It was a challenging job. In order to do this, I had to remove the supports for the gutter, and I had to do this a section at a time so the gutter would not fall. While the supports were off, I slid the the brown aluminum between the gutter and the fascia board to cover the damaged areas.
The next step to this process was to install a white sheet-metal drip edge. The drip edge is flashing installed along the edge of eaves. To install it, I slid the edging up under the shingles and carefully bent it so that it would wrap down on top of the brown aluminum layer. To fit the drip edge to size, I used tin snips, and allowed an overlap where the two pieces of drip edge meet so there would be no gap where water could potentially seep through.
A drip edge is an important part of roofing that is often overlooked or not understood by homeowners. This drip edge is what gives a finished look to the roof and it also goes long way preventing rainwater from causing damage to the wood building materials near the roof. The drip edge helps keep out rainwater by preventing blow-under leaks caused by wind-driven rains and by directing rainwater into the gutter instead of running down the fascia where water, over time, can wreck havoc.
A drip edge also helps prevent wildlife infestations. Moisture and water intrusions easily ruin wooden facia boards, and as this homeowner found out, fascia that weakened and softened by rain is also an open invitation for many types of wildlife like squirrels and raccoons to gain access inside the attic. These animals can rip and claw their way through weakened fascia like it was butter.Finally, a drip edge acts as a support for the shingles so they are not just hanging off the edge of the roof.
Homeowners in Oceanport, NJ, had an ongoing problem with rodents gaining entry into their crawl space. Usually, rodents will first gain entry inside a home by locating openings around the foundation. And, for mice, it doesn’t take much. These tiny animals that weigh less than an ounce can easily squeeze through gaps as small as a dime. Common rodent entry points are gaps around pipes and wires, garage doors that don’t fully close or are missing weatherstripping, and, the entry point with this home — an access door to the crawl space that no longer did its job. As you can see in the photo, this metal access door had seen better days. It was warped, rusted and had an opening that was an open invitation for rodents. Mice have a distinct knack for finding weaknesses around the foundation, and it was not surprising that they exploited this one.
Cowleys has a contractor division that is staffed by an experienced, professional home repair and renovation crew that handles a variety of crawl space improvements, up to and including complete crawl space encapsulation for homeowners with chronic water, moisture, and humidity issues. We also happily handle smaller projects such as this one. Here, we removed the damaged crawl space door and replaced it with an air-tight Everlast door.
Everlast covers help block outdoor air and moisture from entering the crawl space, which can trigger mold formation and cause wood rot and structural damage. However, these doors are also an effective barrier against rodents and other pests. They are made with a hard durable plastic that stands up to the harshest outdoor elements that we face in New Jersey.
Everlast vent covers are a major improvement over wood or metal doors. These maintenance-free doors will not rot, warp, crack, or rust, and they never need to be painted. Also, they can be installed against either wood framing or masonry. Although these doors create a solid barrier preventing mice and any other pests using this common access point, for humans, they allow for easy crawl space access. These doors have four large easy-to-grip knobs that you or a repair person can twist off in seconds. Homeowners have commented that they wished opening up pickle jars were this easy! As you can see from the before and after photos, this Everlast crawl space door was far more than just a rodent barrier. It was a major aesthetic improvement for the home’s exterior perimeter.