Many homes have crawl spaces and for those that have never lived in such a structure, it can often seem a mystery as to why they even exist. Despite often being a generous space underneath the structure of the home, it is not an area utilized the same way as a typical basement.
With basements, you can convert them into storage space or even functional living and entertaining spaces. Crawl spaces are however kept clear and can often vary in size from full height, like basements, to as little as a foot or two in headroom that leaves just enough room to crawl around on your belly.
Why Crawl Spaces Exist
Crawl spaces provide an area underneath the home where vented air is allowed to circulate as the design of the home enables the floor to be kept off the ground. The choice to have a crawl space underneath the home offers a couple of key benefits for homeowners.
The first is that it makes the construction of the home more affordable as they do not have to excavate, level, and lay a concrete pad as the foundation of the house. The other benefit is that with the provision of such a space, it becomes easier to install the needed plumbing and HVAC system. When it comes time for maintenance or repairs, technicians can easily access these areas by getting into the crawl space.
These cost-saving and convenience benefits however require that great care is taken when it comes to maintaining crawl spaces. Having a space beneath the home where moisture can get in can create all sorts of problems when it comes to the healthy atmosphere, infestations, and preserving the structural integrity of the home.
Depending on how the crawl space has been designed and its surroundings, it becomes possible for moisture to permeate and lead to problems like mold, termite infestations, and wood rot. If these problems take hold in the crawl space, they can cause corresponding issues to arise in the home above including:
- mold or mildew
- allergic reactions from poor indoor air quality
- insect infestations
- structural failures, like floors collapsing
- interference with temperature control
- reduced levels of insulation
How to Keep Out Moisture from Crawl Spaces
Crawl spaces can have moisture permeate from two key sources. The ground beneath and the air that is vented in from the surrounding space can both contribute to the level of moisture in a crawl space. This problem is typically dealt with by installing a crawl space vapor barrier that acts as a waterproofing system. This bare protection comes in the form of a plastic liner that is applied to cover the floor of the crawl space.
It helps to keep out water and moisture that can lead to mold, wood rot, insect infestations, humidity changes, and attract rodents. This barrier system can also restrict harmful gases like radon from penetrating the soil beneath the home, which could build up and eventually end up rising into the home. Because it is a colorless and odorless inert gas, its presence may only be realized once it has started causing health problems for the house’s occupants.
Installing a dehumidifier in the crawl space can also help to treat the air that gets into the crawl space through vents. Treating this air to rid it of moisture is vital as it eventually ends up rising into the house. About half of the air found on the ground floor comes up from the crawl space. When appropriately treated, the air that travels upward to higher levels of the home is safer and more comfortable to breathe, protects the structural integrity of the house, and reduces the risk of pests.
Proper grading of the home and installation of gutters and downspouts can also help to direct moisture from rain away from the house. Additional waterproofing on the interior or exterior and installing crawl space ventilation can also help reduce moisture levels.
Why the Cleanliness of Your Crawl Space Matters?
While moisture control is essential to ensuring a safe, sound, and comfortable home, so too is cleanliness. Certain risks associated with allowing moisture to get into crawl spaces are made worse by the presence of dirt. Mold grows when moisture encounters dead matter. It is easy for matter like leaves or insects to get into crawl spaces due to vents that lead in and out of the space and promote the growth of mold or mildew.
If water gets into your crawl space, it can also attract insects and wildlife. When pools of water that are not cleared away sit in the crawl space for long periods, it can cause dampness that gets into the wood. Insects like termites can be a big problem as they will feed on the wood on support beams and other structures. They are often drawn by deteriorating wood that is rotting from prolonged exposure to dampness. Besides feeding, termites can also end up laying eggs in the wood, causing more damage as their numbers grow.
Dirt can also come from damaged insulation in the crawl space. Right beneath the ground floor of the home, insulation is installed to prevent heat loss during cold months and retain cool temperatures during hot months. However, if there is an insect or rodent infestation in the crawl space, their activity like chewing and nesting could damage this overhead insulation. With their breeding and defecation, it can also lead to bad odors.
The damaged insulation material will add to the dirt in your crawl space. Compromising this insulation will also make it easier for moisture, allergens, and odors to rise into the home, badly affecting indoor air quality. Breathing in bad air can cause health problems for humans and pets.
Hence the need for regular inspection and cleaning of crawl spaces. The earlier you can detect the presence of moisture, pooled water, insect infestations, or damaged insulation, the quicker you can act to remedy the situation. Where problems like mold, bad odor, and other damage appear to be taking hold, engaging a crawl space cleanup service is the best solution.
Having professionals come in to provide maintenance and deep cleaning of your crawl space will help prevent the escalation of problems like mold growth, insect and rodent infestations, insulation, and structural damage.