Homeowner's Guide to Crawl Spaces
The Problem with Crawl Spaces
Many New Jersey homes have crawl spaces. Unfortunately, vented underground crawl spaces may well be one of the worst concepts in home building. They are a problem waiting to happen. While people try to avoid spending any time inthese dark cavities, critters of all shapes and sizes, from bugs and spiders to snakes and rodents, find them downright delightful. And just add a little water, or a lot when there is flooding, and crawl spaces become a breeding ground for mold and rot, creating indoor air quality problems and structural deterioration. Even though we don’t go down to the crawl space, the crawl space comes up to us. There are times during the year when 40% or more of the indoor air we breathe originates from the crawl space.
Crawl spaces are not just a problem of older homes. Builders continue to build homes with crawl spaces because they are cheaper to build than basements and ground conditions, such as damp soils in coastal zones, make basements impractical. Fortunately, there have been tremendous advances in crawl space solutions to permanently resolve these all-too-common problems of air quality, water, moisture, and pests.
If you have absolutely no idea what is going on in that hidden part of your home, it’s safe to assume that there is likely something going on. And if there is, it’s nothing good. Right now, it may be a small problem, but if not fixed, you can rest assured that in a few years, that small problem will grow into a big one. If you have a crawl space, consider having a company experienced in the installation of crawl space encapsulation systems inspect it for potential moisture, mold, and pest problems. Making your home healthier with improved air quality and removing a prime source of mold growth
is one of the best gifts you can give your family.
Ventilated Crawl Spaces Can Cause Moisture and Mold in Your Home.
Moisture in a crawl space can also lead to some very unwelcome intruders such as cockroaches, mice, rats and termites. An infestation of subterranean termites can be devastating. It’s estimated that termites cause $5 Billion in property damage every year.Most crawl spaces have vents that permit air to flow through them, and theoretically, for moisture to escape. But new crawl space science now proves that ventilation does the exact opposite: Ventilation contributes to excess moisture and all the problems associated with moisture such as mold and mildew, wood rot, corrosion, cold floors, excessive energy loss and poor indoor air quality. In 2004, the IOM (Institute of Medicine) found evidence that links exposure to damp indoor environments to upper respiratory tract problems. Otherwise healthy people had coughing and wheezing and those with asthma had more difficulty keeping their asthma under control. These problems were confirmed in a 2010study conducted by the Indoor Environment Department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. This study found that those living in residences with dampness and mold had substantial and statistically significant increases in respiratory infections and bronchitis.
What can a homeowner do with a vented crawl space? In a single word: encapsulation. Encapsulating crawl spaces with a vapor barrier, along with sealing all the vents, reduces moisture issues and increases the homes energy efficiency. In high humidity areas, a dehumidifier may also be needed.
Crawl space encapsulation is today’s standard in building design for homes with crawl spaces. Benefits of crawl space encapsulation include:
- Fewer pest problems
- Improved air quality throughout the home and perhaps even relief from mold and mildew allergy symptoms.
- Reduced energy loss
- More appealing, cleaner look to the crawl space