Most people don’t give much thought to the crawl space under their house, if any at all, hence so many of them go unmaintained and neglected for so long. And it’s an easy attitude to understand; it is not a practical space for storage purposes and is dark, usually nasty-looking, and probably full of bugs. But the fact remains, the crawl space beneath your property represents a crucial element in the continuing good health of your home and those that dwell within.
Knowing exactly what is under your house is critical in maintaining it, so it’s time to get down and dirty and get to know that much-ignored but most important of spaces. Don’t worry, help is at hand, we asked our experienced Aftercare team for their opinions on the dangers of a neglected crawl space and their best tips and guidance on how to avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.
What is a crawl space and why is it there?
The crawl space is the area of raw earth sitting directly beneath the bottom floor of your home with a gap of around 18-38 inches between it and the underside of the floor above. It acts as a buffer between your home and the land, whereas some homes are built on a slab of concrete and have no such pace. There are a number of reasons for this, depending on factors like location, topography, climate, and cost.
Slab foundations cost more but are preferable in humid climates, whereas crawl spaces are less expensive to construct and represent a better solution for homes susceptible to flooding. Crawl spaces create a certain amount of airflow not possible with solid foundations, and this can be very helpful in combating moisture. This is only true, however, if the space is kept clean and tidy, otherwise, it can have the exact opposite effect and attract dampness, rot, andother unpleasant issues.
The pros and cons of crawl spaces
As mentioned, associated costs are lower in constructing a property with a crawl space than with a concrete slab fountain, but there are some practical advantages too. A crawl space offers the added bonuses of allowing easy access to any under-floor plumbing and wiring, and also provides a certain amount of ventilation, aiding moisture control.
The downside of crawl spaces is they are difficult to insulate in colder climes and are prone to neglect and disrepair. All moisture control benefits are lost if they become clogged with debris, especially organic matter which is a magnet for moisture, facilitating rot, musty smells, and air quality problems.
The dangers of a neglected crawl space
Moisture and mold
Any excess standing water in an unkempt crawl space is bound to lead to the growth of mold, especially in warm, humid areas. If this moisture also collects on organic matter like leaves and grass that has accumulated under the house, this can lead to problems with rot, even spreading to the fabric of the house if left unchecked . If you find mold developing, it is essential to address it immediately as it can spread quickly and become very dangerous and expensive to remediate.
The health issues associated with mold and its disease-causing bacteria are many and none of them are pleasant. This represents, perhaps, the most important reason why crawl spaces must be kept dry and cleaned/maintained regularly.
Is moisture-proofing effective?
Moisture-proofing can be attempted to some degree by installing thick plastic sheeting to the surfaces below the house, but we know all too well that water is not easily stopped and can find its way into even the tiniest crevice. This tactic is greatly enhanced by the introduction of a dehumidifier to dry any moisture settling in the area and is a good way to keep humidity levels low.
It may be that your crawl space does not require drainage, but it is important to check and get the opinion of a trained professional if you are not sure. Regular standing water is a dead giveaway, and if that persists you need to consider installing a drainage system as soon as possible.
Poorly-maintained crawl spaces can easily result in the appearance of mold and rot, mortal enemies of the structural integrity of any property. Excess moisture trapped within walls and floors is also a huge problem and must be addressed as soon as possible if serious damage is to be avoided. Repair costs are bound to be high due to the awkward location and it is perfectly feasible the whole property can become uninhabitable if these issues are ignored for long enough. Prevention is reasonably straightforward and inexpensive when compared with the nightmare situation of floors rotting out from under you.
Unwanted creatures are already naturally drawn to any dark, secluded spaces, and if nest-making debris and reduced ventilation are combined with standing, stagnant water, the effect is only magnified. Some typical pests include:
Luckily, regular cleaning and maintenance are excellent ways to make crawl spaces less enticing for pests, preventing them from becoming a breeding ground that can so easily find them expanding their empires and moving into the house above.
Inadequate ventilation can be a major cause of poor indoor air quality, leading to potential respiratory issues and other unpleasant side effects. When properly cleaned and maintained, crawl spaces can actually contribute to the improvement of indoor air quality. If the air travelling from under the home is clean and dry, it can only be of benefit to the interior and those who live there.
Tip: Ensuring any air vents are clear and unblocked helps to maintain decent, clean airflow
Cleaning the aftermath of accidents and toxic leaks
It is an unpleasant fact that pipes sometimes burst unexpectedly, and the obvious place where escaped contents are going to settle is the crawl space. This is bad enough if water pipes burst but a living nightmare if it’s a sewage pipe.
The dangers of a neglected crawl space are nothing compared to those associated with exposure to untreated sewage, and this is essentially an emergency situation. One which can rapidly lead to the property being rendered uninhabitable if not handled expertly. This is where Aftercare steps in and takes control of the situation by cleaning up, disinfecting, and deodorizing contaminated crawl spaces. The service is a comprehensive one and includes:
- A free Aftercare consultation/inspection
- Detailed cleanup and waste disposal plan
- Crawl space debris taken away
- Removal of liquid sewage using a powerful, bespoke vacuum
- Disposal of existing plastic moisture barrier
- Exposed areas dug to a depth of one inch and all materials removed
- Entire area treated with microbial chemicals
- Dug out areas treated with microbial, deodorizer, and lime
- Fans employed to facilitate drying
- Installation of a brand-new moisture barrier
There is simply no better way to handle a toxic leak of this nature and restore things to a safe state quickly, efficiently, and with a minimum of fuss and expense.
Prevention is the key to success
There are some tasks and problems around the house it is safe to put on a back-burner and deal with only when the mood strikes, but crawl-space maintenance is not one of them. By the time any issues become glaringly obvious, much more damage will probably have been done, and the situation will be exponentially more expensive to correct.
Create a schedule for your own inspections and cleaning, and a thorough one, preferably performed by experienced crawl space cleanup professionals, like the team here at Aftercare, at least once a year.
If you would like to learn more about the dangers of a neglected crawl space or any of the premium-quality cleaning services Aftercare provides, please get in touch at your earliest convenience. Our team members will gladly discuss your exact requirements and help you book an obligation-free inspection of your crawl space, or any other aspect of your property requiring the touch of trained professionals.