Encapsulating a crawl space is a common way to deal with moisture or flooding. It is also an easy way to quickly get control of the air quality in the home and lockout rodents and insects. When you’re thinking about “green-ovating” your home, or simply getting control of the moisture or humidity, when you have a crawl space, you must encapsulate.
Encapsulation does a great deal for the crawlspace and for the home above.
What the process is and what it does
The practice of encapsulating or “sealing off” a crawlspace is done to lock out moisture and cut off the connection between moisture, water and the joists of a home. By running a vapor barrier down the walls of a crawl space to completely cover the floor, you essential separate the outside from the inside of the home.
This vapor barrier will be the flexible membrane between the walls and floor and the rest of the home. A properly designed vapor barrier will limit the transfer of moisture through it while regulating the speed at which air will naturally pass through. This helps to limit and control the amount of moisture that will find its way into the air space and completely segregate liquid water and direct it to a sump location.
5 helpful tips when having a Vapor Barrier installed in your crawlspace:
1.) Not all vapor barriers are made for this task – careful. There are many products out in the world that claim to be able to fully encapsulate a crawl space. Make sure that your vapor barrier has a low “perm” rate and that it is at least 14mil thick. If you’re planning to use the space for storage make sure that a flexible sub-flooring product is also placed on top of the vapor barrier to protect it.
2.) Cover the walls too – all too often contractors forget to also encapsulate the walls of the crawl space when installing a vapor barrier. This can still allow water and moisture into the basement and therefore render the whole project useless. Take care to make sure it’s installed properly.
3.) Don’t use sprays. – Sealants and sprays aren’t designed to be applied on the interior of the basement. They are good in many circumstances as the “first line of defense” but as the last, they can’t hold the pressure and moisture trapped in a wall.
4.) Install a sump and a dehumidifier – to totally control the moisture level in the crawl space it’s imperative that you have a sump pump and a dehumidifier installed. Moisture will still exist, although not to dangerous levels, but a sump will remove any liquid water your encapsulation traps, and the dehumidifier will deal with any residual moisture that naturally collects in the space.
Crawlspace Vapor Barrier Installation
Crawl space is one of the most fundamental areas in every home which needs to be kept extremely clean. This is the reason why people go for crawl space encapsulation kits, as these liners make your crawl space extremely clean by keeping away insects, water logging and bad odor. However, the market displays numerous encapsulation kits in different qualities.
Good quality encapsulation kits are more expensive than the cheaper ones, but the cheaper ones are much weaker when it comes to quality. Unfortunately, in my extensive experience in this industry, I have noticed that people are attracted to cheaper ones and choose them for their encapsulation. However, they regret later when the whole thing fails to deliver what it promises.
This undoubtedly is the reason why I suggest using DIY encapsulation kits to save a considerable amount of money. How? It is not only the DIY kit that is expensive, but what's more expensive are the labor charges that come along with it. Labor charges have been increasing higher than ever, and this is the reason why it costs you as much as the encapsulation kits itself. However, if you opt for using DIY encapsulation kit you can save a considerable amount of money that you might spend on labor charges.
Moreover, you can also do your encapsulation at the convenience of your time, patience and energy. You do not have to wait for the professional to arrive at your home, analyze your crawl space and then start the job. Sometimes, this may take longer than you even expect it to finish. This undisputedly becomes the reason why people are more open to taking up DIY kit, as this can finish up their crawl space encapsulation as fast as possible.
What's more? Choosing a DIY kit will help you to ascertain the quality of your liner and the credibility it comes with when protecting your home. By choosing this kit you can take your time and choose the one that suits your preferences and is a permanent solution to your problems. If you leave this to the dealer, you cannot be sure on the quality of liners they will be using and the credibility of their service.
By doing the encapsulation yourself you can be sure that you have done it perfectly and can also alter some changes according to your preference. Hiring a professional will not only take your time and money, but may not be as flexible as you may think.
Crawl space DIY kits are readily available in the market and all you need to do is to research a bit on the types available. Remember, to choose a good quality liner because it all depends on the quality of the liner when it comes to completing the protection of your house.
Improving a Home's Indoor Air Quality by Crawl Space Encapsulation
There are advantages and disadvantages in having a crawl space under your home. Advantages, perhaps, a slightly elevated home may be more attractive than a home on a slab. Plus, you can make repairs and modifications to plumbing, heating, and electrical services.
Disadvantages, a crawl space is an area that is never cleaned. Under the vapor barrier the humidity is always 100% so mold and bacteria are always present. Termiticides, other chemicals, even rodent droppings may be present, and odors and gases that emanate will migrate into the home's living space unless proper ventilation is installed. Whether on a slab or elevated, if radon is present, good ventilation is required.
There are several technologies on the market in regard to moisture control. One is encapsulation, sealing the crawlspace. Though this might lower humidity, it's costly and there is no dilution or replacement of stagnant, poor quality air. Again, if radon is present, ventilation is required.
Another technology is to install a dehumidifier in the crawl space. This can lower humidity, but again will not dilute or replace the stagnant air. Another point to think about is that the dehumidifier will be costly to operate. More importantly, using a dehumidifier requires you to close tightly the crawl space. Thus, the home's living space air quality is going to be lowered because the crawl space air is not diluted and replaced with fresh outdoor air.
Some systems use a dehumidifier control (dehumidistat) to operate a crawl space vent fan. This sounds like it's going in the right direction. However, the technology isn't quite right. Here's why. Suppose the outdoor air is getting worse (wetter). Though the dehumidistat control is in the crawl space, it will quickly recognize this wetter air condition and begin ventilation, even though ventilating is going to make crawl space wetter. Another problem with a dehumidistat control is that most of them are not made for the difficult environment of a crawl space, so their warranties are short, 30 days to 1 year maximum for the dehumidistat.
There is another system that uses special technology different from all the others mentioned above. This special technology makes a comparison of the actual moisture content of both the air inside the crawlspace and the outdoor air. The result is that it pauses and does not ventilate when bringing in outdoor air is going to make the space wetter. Then, as the outdoor air is getting drier and is able to improve the moisture and air quality in the crawlspace, then this ventilator moves a lot of air which dilutes and replaces stagnant air, ultimately improving your home's living space air quality.
This system, called the Smartvent, is made in the USA, is used from Florida to Alaska... San Diego to Nova Scotia.
This system is a proven system, and it is the only system to have undergone a year long test where crawl space humidity averaged 46%. Besides the unique technology this system employs, it also has the longest warranty of all ventilators, five years.