The crawl space has an integral role towards a home’s overall value as well as the living space above. Most homeowners in Bristol Tennessee don’t think twice about their crawl space unless they have to make repairs to plumbing, heating ducts or house wiring. While often thought of as no more than a storage area, it also has a tremendous impact on the overall indoor air quality of the entire home.
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By default, the air quality of a crawl space is typically poor. Mold, mildew, radon gas and poor energy efficiency all create several problems. The air that circulates within it eventually makes its way up through the living space. Scientific studies show that up to 50% of living space air originates from the lowest level of the home. With homeowners more concerned about their home’s indoor air quality, the encapsulating of crawl spaces has become a popular solution for such problems.
A damp crawl space creates a safe harbor for harmful molds, in addition to dust mites, termites and other bugs that can infest the home. The presence of excessive moisture will also create a serious problem with the probability for the wooden structure of a home to deteriorate. Crawl space vents pose a further problem. While believed to be a solution to moisture problems, they, unfortunately, make the problem worse. As it turns out, the vents allow cold air and moisture in, which rises into the living area and therefore decreases the heating efficiency of the entire home.
Another all-too-common problem associated with crawl spaces is radon gas. Though it cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, radon is a radioactive gas that can contribute to poor health, including cancer. Radon gas makes its way through the earth, into the crawl space and the home’s living space. According to the U.S.E.P.A., radon gas is the number one leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
Ignoring these various conditions is not recommended for both long-term health and energy usage. Fully encapsulating a crawl space – by both sealing and insulating – is a fully efficient measure in addressing such problems. It makes sense to maintain and improve the lower level area in order to maximize healthy living conditions and home resale value.
While there are several systems for encapsulating, a zero perm liner system that also insulates and reflects heat provides the most benefits. With a proper floor and wall liner, the area will not only be well insulated but will seal out moisture, bug infestation, and radon gas. Other components to look for in a system include a radon gas-dispersing drain fabric, a radon gas ventilation pipe, and a ceiling heat shield.
A complete system with all of the above components will allow any soil gasses – including radon gas – that naturally occur under the liner system, to wick through the drain fabric and escape out through the ventilation pipe. While improved indoor air quality is the primary benefit of a sealed and insulated crawl space, the homeowner will also appreciate a bright, clean, and dry storage area; the ridding of musty smells; less energy usage; and tax credits. Contractors encapsulating crawl spaces will have more to offer to their clients when they can assure the peace of mind with improved indoor air quality.
How To Protect Your Health And Get Rid Of Awful Smells With Crawl Space Encapsulation
Crawl spaces are inherently dirty smelly places that can contain all types of unwanted odors from mold & mildew to urine & feces. Some areas of the country can even have soil underneath the home with odorless, harmful gases like radon gas. I'm a big believer that the best long-term solution to solve these problems is to encapsulate the air underneath the home with a liner system. It is a inherently impossible to keep rodents, bugs and mold out of the area underneath the home since the soil is exposed - but it is relatively simple to create a barrier between the home and crawl space the keep out all these unwanted nuisances.
I had a very nice lady write me the other day telling me about this house she had just purchased that formerly had many cats living in the crawl space and they left behind the smell of a giant litter box underneath her home. The odors were coming up through the wooden floor and creating a very fowl smell in the house. She told me she tried all different solutions: spreading baking soda, spraying an enzyme treatment originally intended for carpets & laying down new top soil - needless to say none worked. I wrote her back, apologized for her wasted time and suggested that she treat her crawl space like a wild beast that you can't defeat, only contain. She took my advise, installed a crawl space encapsulation system and the smells immediately went away.
Encapsulation systems are rated by permeability - 0.000 is the best, normal plastic is 0.01 and wood is 0.2. To stop all smells, moisture and gases look for an encapsulation liner system with a 0.000 permeability rating. A zero perm liner will also completely weatherize the crawl space and save on energy bills since the outside air won't be able to leak into the home.
Thin Liners Don't Encapsulate the Crawl Space
I can't tell you how many times I've received a call or been sent an email from a homeowner telling me how they went to Home Depot, bought a liner system as thin as a trash bag, spent an entire weekend installing it then didn't solve their problem. Cheap store bought liners are typically 6-12 mil, 0.01 permeability and even new they don't stop gases like Radon - they are also easily chewed through by bugs and rodents leaving the crawl space a year later leaking air like a sieve.
What to Look for
40 - 60 mil thickness, 0.000 permeability and antimicrobial so mildew can't grow on the liner. Encapsulation systems don't need a contractor to install (although trust me they won't tell you that). Look for the Energy Star Rated logo.
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For many homeowners, the first thought in their mind when they consider installing a crawl space waterproofing system is, "But I don't go down there! Why on earth would I do that?"
Good question! And there's a great answer. While you probably don't think about your crawl space, and you may have never even seen your crawl space, it's part of your home. What happens to it has surprising effects the rest of your house.
Water can enter into your crawl space in three different ways: through the earth (or concrete) around your home, from a plumbing leak, or through the air entering your crawl space vents. Whether this moisture enters as humidity or as an all-out leak, a wet crawl space means a headache for you. Moisture collects in anything organic - including wood floorboards, support beams, and some types of crawl space insulation. As the wood swells and warps with moisture, there are nasty results: mold, rot, mildew, bacteria, and dust mites.
What you have beneath your house is no longer a crawl space. It's a habitat. The area is filled with humidity, mold spores, and dust mites. All too soon, mice, rats, snakes, and vermin will take up residence- living and dying in the dark, wet area beneath your home. And there's nothing more attractive to a termite colony looking for a new place to live than all that damp, rotting wood!
Ignore the monster lurking below while you can, but remember that even before your rotting floor and support beams are significantly damaged, you're already being affected. Warm air in your home exits the home through your upper levels, and crawl space air is sucked up into your home. As it's pulled up, nothing is stopping the humidity, mold spores, dust mite waste, and odors coming up with it. In the summer, your air conditioners will be working overtime to remove this humidity. During the winter months, cold air vented into the home hammer away at anything it can reach- including the water heater, hot water pipes, and heating ducts.
In a vented crawl space, insulation is a Catch-22. If you don't have crawl space insulation, then there's no line of defense keeping humid summer air and cold winter air away from your floorboards. If you do have crawl space insulation, then moisture and mold can saturate the material, weighing it down and causing it to collapse on to the floor. If it's wet or lying on the ground, what can it do for your home?
The first step to solving a crawl space moisture problem is to remove any standing water issues. Left in your home, it will add humidity to the home, encourage mold and mildew, and bring pests into the room while it stagnates. It simply has to go.
If your crawl space has pooling water at any time, a reliable cast-iron crawl space sump pump is the best option. Water can be directed to the sump pump via a drainage swale, or in some cases, a modern French drain system.
Humidity pours into your house through the crawl space vents, and the damp earth and cement around your home will soak up water like a sponge, releasing water vapor into the area. Cut this problem off at the source by sealing off all crawl space vents and installing a crawl space vapor barrier. Avoid cheap solutions- the kind of product you're looking for should be strong and durable- at least 20 mil thick. A quality crawl space vapor barrier will allow access for you and service workers without tearing your line of defense. Crawl space vapor barriers should also be flexible and resistant to punctures and tears, and a bed of gravel should be laid underneath to allow water to pass underneath.
Crawl Space Masters Specializes In Crawl Space Encapsulation in Bristol TN.