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Why Do We Have Crawl Spaces in NJ?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Bill Cowley

Before and after crawl space

That dark and dreary, damp and moldy area beneath your home may have become the very bane of your existence. Mold and mildew, pests and nuisance wildlife problems, water issues and energy inefficiencies are just some of the headaches that homeowners with vented crawl spaces must deal with.

Vented crawl spaces were a common building trend for decades. Here in New Jersey, there are a variety of reasons, from aesthetics to structural, that crawl spaces are used in construction. The main reason for including a crawl space when building a home is budget. Crawl spaces are less expensive to install than a full basement. Over time though we have come to realize that the original protocol to vent a crawl space is causing a long list of problems for homeowners. When extreme outdoor temperatures are allowed to permeate the lower portion of a home it is a recipe for disaster. Mold and mildew growth, humidity problems that can affect the structure of the home and high-energy bills are just a few of the results.

Sealing and encapsulating crawl spaces is necessary to turn this unfortunate building trend around. Perhaps you can even come to appreciate some of the reasons that crawl spaces are still included in building homes today. Let’s take a closer look at why a properly encapsulated crawl space may actually benefit your New Jersey home:

1. Structural Stability: In New Jersey we are lucky to experience all four seasons every year. Although seeing freshly fallen snow in the winter, or reading a book in the shade on a hot summer’s afternoon may do wonders for the soul, these fluctuations in temperature can create real problems for buildings. Slab foundations may actually crack during the freeze/thaw cycle that we see every year in Princeton Junction, NJ, as well as other areas of the state. A cracked foundation is a serious problem! Another natural problem that crawl spaces help to discourage is termite infestations. A crawlspace elevates a house, making it less susceptible to termite damage. Although you can have a termite problem when you have a crawl space, your chances are lower than if your house is built on a slab. Lastly, in many cases building a full basement is impractical. There are many areas in New Jersey where the proximity of ground level to solid rock is so small that digging into the ground to create a full basement is unrealistic without a serious increase in the construction budget.

2. Access to utilities: Another important advantage of a crawl space over slab construction is a crawl space gives you access to your utilities. When everything is working well this doesn’t seem to be of great importance, but once you have any kind of plumbing or electrical problem, the ability to reach your utilities without compromising your foundation or destroying your flooring is a huge advantage. In addition, this space if properly sealed through encapsulation can also provide some additional storage for items that are not often used.

3. Cost: Crawl space construction can be significantly less expensive than the construction of a full basement. Although crawl spaces are generally more expensive than slab construction, in many cases topsoil may be too unstable for a slab foundation that is not remediated. This means that digging will be done anyway, so the additional cost of creating the crawl space is not significant. The small increase in the construction budget will often pay off in the long run as concrete slab foundations are less desirable and negatively impact a house’s resale value.