Does Your Home Need Crawl Space Insulation or Encapsulation?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019


crawl space insulation and encapsulation

When you live in North Carolina, you get used to your fair share of precipitation. You shouldn’t get used to a flooded crawl space, though.

Both the encapsulation and insulation processes can help you keep your crawl space dry even after the worst of North Carolina’s rains. It’s deciding which process to use that’s the real challenge, though.

Which Process Is Better?

Before we get started, let’s get the argument out of the way. Which is the more effective process, encapsulation or insulation? That depends entirely on how much water your crawl space takes in after a storm. The encapsulation process will protect your home from excess leakage, making it ideal for homes that see frequent flooding. The insulation process, however, is ideal for homes that only see a few leaks a year.

In short, assess the state of your crawl space before committing to one of these processes. You don’t want to over- or under-commit!

Insulation: The Steps You’ll Take

With that in mind, let’s take a look at insulation and the insulating process. Insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It can also play a waterproofing role in your crawl space if it is prone to leaks.

The process of insulating your crawl space typically involves the following steps:

  1. Clear away the water – There’s no point in insulating a crawl space that’s full of water. Before you start replacing your old insulation, you’re going to need to pump any remaining floodwaters out of your crawl space. This could be as simple as installing a temporary dehumidifier. Alternatively, you may need a contractor to help you physically remove water from your space.
  2. Take preventive steps – Once the water is out of your crawl space, you’ll need to find where it was coming from. This means finding the source of the leak. You should be able to identify leaks in your walls and joints by following the flow of water into your crawl space. However, if the leak is coming up through your foundation, you’re going to need a contractor’s help to seal it.
  3. Remove old insulation – With all visible leaks plugged, you’ll need to uninstall any old insulation you have in your crawl space. Why remove it instead of reuse it? Because your old insulation may have been damaged after long-term exposure to leaks. Damaged insulation can release allergens into your home while also providing strains of mold a breeding ground. Best to get rid of it and replace it with something cleaner.
  4. Install new insulation – Speaking of which, once your old insulation is out of the way, you can go about replacing it with waterproof insulation. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing a brand or type to use, be sure to discuss the matter with your contractor.
  5. Protect your pipes – As you’re installing your new insulation, keep a close eye on the pipes you’re working around. You’re going to want to insulate your crawl space pipes well, as colder weather may cause them to crack and break if they go unprotected.
  6. Further waterproof your crawl space – Once you’ve finished, you might want to consider using other forms of waterproofing in addition to the insulation you’ve installed. These options include temporary sealants, drainage mats, a French drain, a sump pump and more. You can even stack the insulating and encapsulating processes if your crawl space is prone to severe flooding.

As mentioned, insulation will keep your walls and joints safe, should the North Carolina rains start to get to you. However, if your crawl space is leaking through its foundation, then you’re going to need the help of a contractor to keep your belongings dry.

Encapsulation: The Steps You’ll Take

Now, let’s look at the encapsulation process for comparison. The encapsulation process involves the installation of large plastic-like sheets in your crawl space. Coupled with a perimeter drainage system and sump pump system, these sheets will help direct water away from your belonging.

The process of encapsulating your crawl space typically involves the following steps:

  1. Clear away the water – As with the insulating process, you’ll need to clear water out of your crawl space before getting started.
  2. Take preventative steps – Likewise, you’ll need to plug any leaks ahead of time so as not to ruin your encapsulation job while you’re in the middle of it. Again, you’ll need a contractor’s assistance if the leak is coming up through your foundation.
  3. Remove old insulation – Once again, you’ll need to remove old and damaged insulation from your crawl space so as to improve the health of your home.
  4. Put up a vapor barrier – Instead of replacing the old insulation with new insulation, you’re going to install a vapor barrier. This is the large white plastic sheet (or another material, depending on what you’ve agreed to with your contractor) that will keep your belongings dry the next time it rains.
  5. Install a dehumidifier – Optionally, you can ask your contractor to install a dehumidifier in your crawl space. A dehumidifier will pull any excess moisture from the air and help your encapsulation last longer.
  6. Further waterproof your crawl space – Finally, if you’re worried about leaks getting through your encapsulation, you can ask your contractor what additional waterproofing solutions are available to you.

Don’t let North Carolina’s weather keep you from using your crawl space. Whether you choose to encapsulate or insulate, you can take back this space for yourself.