Homes in America usually have one of these three foundations: a concrete slab, basement, or crawl space. Almost 15% of houses have a crawl space since it is cheaper to build than a basement, but not faster. This hollow space beneath the house acts as a buffer between the home and the ground. Let’s take a closer look at the crawl space, its pros, and cons, how it is built and when it is recommended.
What Is a Crawl Space?
Crawl spaces get their name from the fact that they’re generally one to three feet in height and only accessible through crawling. You cannot stand in a crawl space and turning it into a living area is impossible. However, a lot of people use it as storage. Although to some homeowners, a crawl space can seem like a poor compensation between a basement and a concrete slab, this type of foundation offers a lot of benefits, such as providing a lot of space for the electric panel and utility lines.
Building Code Requirements for Crawl Spaces
If your home has a vented crawl space, you should keep in mind that, according to regulations, you need to have one square foot of vent for every 500 square feet of crawl space area. However, the rules are different if the ground is covered with a 20-mil vapor barrier. Also, according to building codes, the space between the joists and the ground needs to have outside ventilation.
On the other hand, if you have an unvented crawl space, you must have a Class I vapor barrier on the ground and up the vertical wall a minimum of six inches. Also, you need to ensure that this area has a continuously operating exhaust system or conditioned air supply. Methods of mechanical drying that are up to code are permanent dehumidifiers, air from the HVAC, conditioned air from the living space above, or exhaust fans.
How Crawl Spaces Are Built
Crawl spaces are built much like basements are. To begin with, a construction crew will dig out a space for the foundation. Next, they will pour a concrete footing. Once that has set, the foundation walls will be constructed and the rest of your home on top of it.
Apart from pipes and electric wires that run through it, the crawl space is pretty much empty unless you decide to insulate this space. A lot of homeowners leave the ground uncovered in the crawl space since this is much cheaper than pouring concrete.
The Cost of Building a Crawl Space
One of the reasons why homeowners opt for a crawl space and not a basement is because it is cheaper. Of course, building costs depend on the size of the house and the quality of materials that are used. Building a crawl space for a standard family home can range from $10,000 to $20,000.
The Benefits of Having a Crawl Space
Although they can be difficult to install and cannot be turned into living areas like basements can, crawl spaces surely have their advantages.
Durability: With a crawl space, you won’t have to worry about your foundation being damaged due to an earthquake, which is something that cannot be said for slab foundations. This type of foundation is durable and remains stable in all kinds of situations.
Level ground: When you are building a home in an empty lot, chances are that it isn’t perfectly level. With a crawl space foundation, you can easily build a home on a sloped piece of land by varying the length of piers.
Flexibility: If you need to build a home in an area with expansive soils, a crawl space is your best bet. Besides, the crawl space foundation responds better to hydrostatic pressure than a slab foundation.
Flood protection: Since your home is lifted off the ground, it is protected from floods. That space underneath your home can make the difference between slight discomfort and pricey repairs.
Storage: While you cannot turn your crawl space into a basement, you can use it as storage. A lot of homeowners move items they rarely use down to their crawl space area. Also, you can run your plumbing lines and electrical wires through it.
Crawl Space Cons
Of course, like any other type of foundation, crawl spaces are not without flaws.
Reduced energy efficiency: During the cold winter days, the open crawl space can lower the energy efficiency of your house. Warming up this area can be tricky, and you may have to spend a pretty penny to warm it up. This is why contractors in North Carolina recommend insulating the crawl space. With insulation, you can lower heating costs.
Pest infestation: Pests, such as rodents, love moist and dark places, making the crawl space an ideal home for them. They can nest, breed, and live there without being disturbed, destroying your foundation along the way.
Moisture issues: Unfortunately, open crawl spaces are prone to moisture. Since air gets in and out of this space freely, the interior can become humid. Moisture in the crawl space area leads to rot, mold, and other problems.
When to Use a Crawl Space Foundation
If you live in an area where floods and earthquakes are nothing unusual, build a crawl space foundation instead of a slab foundation. Also, this type of foundation is a better option if you are building a home on a sloped piece of land.
If you worry that something is wrong with your crawl space area or you want to encapsulate it, contact the experts at Tar Heel Basement Systems and schedule a free inspection. One of our inspectors will assess the situation and recommend the steps you should take to protect your home.