While crawl spaces provide access to plumbing works and electric wires, they’re susceptible to moisture and water leaks. The main source of moisture is humid air from the outside and leaks through porous concrete walls. Some leaks are easy to fix, while others are not.
How do I know whether a crawl space is due for repair, and not just a simple repair, but a revamp?
When do you have a leak?
A leak in the crawl space comes from one or more of the following sources:
- High humidity. Raleigh, NC, has a relatively high humidity level. Humidity levels that exceed 50% cause a lot of problems in your crawl space. If you do not take appropriate measures to protect this space, mold can easily start growing, and before long, everyone in your home could be sneezing. If you have vents and cracks on the wall, this aggravates the condition as these openings let more humid air into this space. Moreover, concrete is porous by nature, so humidity can seep through the walls into the crawl space. Most of the time, a dehumidifier will be able to handle this problem, as well as vent covers to conceal the vents and prevent outside air from coming in.
- Moisture from the ground. Some homes in Raleigh sit on aquifers or water tables. This means there will be constant moisture coming from below the ground, causing rot and mold in the crawl space. If unchecked, hydrostatic pressure issues can cause your house to settle or even sink. To address this problem, you need to install a vapor barrier or encapsulate your crawl space in order to keep it separate from the rest of the living space.
- Faulty drainage. Clogged pipes, poor landscape grading, gutters that empty water into the foundation, frozen drain pipes, and faulty sump pump sensors can all contribute to a damp crawl space.
- Plumbing leaks. Water, drainage and sewer pipes pass through the crawl space. However, because this space is not monitored, it is easy for these pipes to burst without your knowledge. Sudden pipe bursts can cause a flood, while burst sewer pipes can cause serious health complications. You need to install sensors to alert you in case of a plumbing leak beneath your home.
- Flooding. During wet months, huge rains may cause water to collect on your driveway, lawn or around the perimeter of the house. Your drainage system may not be able to handle the high volume of water. As a result, excess water may find its way into the crawl space.
Signs that your crawl space needs a revamp
If you’ve never experienced crawl space issues, you may never know the telltale signs of crawl space problems. You may find your electricity bills going up because of increased heating and cooling. Because of drought, your HVAC unit may work extra hard to normalize internal conditions.
Moisture in the crawl space will always find a way to announce itself. Sniff around, and if there is a musty smell coming out of the crawl space, it’s an indication you already have mold. Besides, the rotting wood and insulation material will also start producing a bad smell that will undoubtedly reach the living room.
Another sign is increasing allergic reactions. Mold produces spores that float in the air. When these get into your living space, they can cause irritation and sneezing. Once you start experiencing allergic symptoms from nowhere, call an expert to inspect your crawl space.
Moisture in the crawl space may cause your house to start settling. As the walls move, the floor can curve inward, something you cannot miss, especially if you have been living there for a while.
Lastly, you could see the cracks on the wall. Moist soil expands and contracts, pushing toward or away from the foundation wall. If it expands, it will push the wall causing it to crack.
How to Revamp the Crawl Space
Your contractor may advise you to do either of the following:
1) Crawl space encapsulation. Where moisture issues have been rampant, a plastic vapor barrier is your best defense against groundwater and moisture. Not only does encapsulation stop moisture but it also keeps the crawl space clean and mold-free. A quality vapor liner can last up to 20 years.
2) Crawl space waterproofing. If you are experiencing frequent water intrusion and flooding in your crawl space, your best bet is to have waterproofing solutions installed to catch the water and remove it from the area. These pieces – CrawlDrain perimeter drainage and sump pumps – are installed prior to encapsulation. The drainage channels just under the crawl space floor intercept seeping water and direct it to drain into a sump pump system. From there, the water will then be pumped out of the crawl space and away from the home’s foundation.
3) Crawl space insulation. When the humidity levels rise above 60 percent and temperatures above 40°F, mold starts to grow on organic material. Installing durable insulation material in the crawl space helps keep moisture and cold air away. When installed properly, insulation will make the crawl space warmer and reduce the need for heating, ultimately increasing the value of your home by 25 percent.
4) Crawl space repairs. When the foundation settles, your crawl space support beams could also go down. Cracks may also occur and these need to be fixed too. Your contractor can repair cracks and re-support piers and beam foundations, which can restore the house to its original level position while supporting it too.
Combining these repair methods is a great way of keeping moisture away and creating favorable internal conditions.
Not sure what to do? Schedule a free crawl space inspection and find out whether you need to carry out simple repairs or a full revamp.