The crawl space has an integral role towards a home’s overall value as well as the living space above. Most homeowners in Cedar Bluff Knoxville 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.
The Best Crawl Space Remediation In Cedar Bluff TN
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.
Proper Crawl Space Ventilation Can Improve Living Space Air Quality Inside Your Home
Outlined below are the most common 4 methods I have seen used in installing a vapor barrier. If you talk to different builders, you usually will end up with many different methods of installing a vapor barrier in a crawlspace. Here are the most common:
1. Pea Gravel on top of plastic vapor barrier - This has to be the all time dumbest thing I have ever seen, and yet it is probably one of the most common. I have had builders tell me that the plastic on the ground KEEPS ground water and moisture from coming up from the ground. Now if there is no moisture or water in the soil, this might be possible; but if that was the case there would be no need for the barrier in the first place. So here is the basic idea - ground floor (bottom) - plastic (middle) - 4" pea gravel fill (top). Once the crawl foundation is built, builders install a 4 - 6 mil plastic on the ground and dump about 4" - 6" of pea gravel on top of the plastic. Eventually, what always happens is that water comes in from the walls and the ground floor and ends up on top of the plastic. So what you end up with is a swimming pool liner that holds water in the gravel for prolonged periods of time. Nearly all the water and moisture in the gravel back fill has to evaporate into the structure. Another example of building practices and science turning a blind eye to crawlspaces for decades.
2. Vapor barrier on top of ground floor - By far the most common practice for installing a vapor barrier. A 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier is placed over any ground floor. Here is the idea - ground floor (bottom) - plastic (top). The ground floor could be river rock, pea gravel, dirt floor, sand, etc. The seams are typically overlapped 6" - 12" and almost never taped. While this will temporarily stop some moisture evaporation, it does not seal out moisture from the internal perimeter wall where most water penetration occurs. Also moisture can come up from the seams, and the plastic is not durable enough to crawl on. It nearly always ends up with many punctures and holes in it.
3. Vapor barrier on bottom of floor joists - This is rarely seen, and usually only home owners attempt this. This is probably the method that accounts for more wood rot than any other method. If you are even thinking of doing this, quit thinking and call a professional to fix your crawlspace. Most crawlspaces are vented and the cooler surfaces such as duct work, pipes, and the floor will condensate in the summer. The plastic will trap the condensation up against the floor structure and mold and wood rot will occur. Good intentions do not always produce good results.
4. Vapor barrier fastened to sill plate - There is a new industry in crawlspace repair that encapsulates crawl spaces. The process of encapsulation is to install a heavy think plastic liner on the floor and up the foundation walls. The plastic liner is fastened and sealed to the foundation wall and all the overlapped seams are taped. Every potential gap or seam in the liner is meticulously sealed to prevent any moisture from evaporating. Then the vents are sealed in the encapsulation system to prevent hot humid air from entering in the summer. There is another system being sold and installed out there being represented as an encapsulation system, but is far from it.
This "other" system is a 6 mil plastic that is ran up the foundation walls and stapled to the sill plate. None of the overlapped seams are taped. It is basically a glorified vapor barrier on top of the ground floor being ran up the walls and stapled to the wood. They seal the vents without properly sealing the moisture from the ground floor or foundation walls. The problem with fastening plastic to the sill plate is that moisture will "wick" up the foundation wall, and moisture will absorb into the sill plate and floor joists. They are giving free access to all the moisture under the liner to rot the sill plates and floor joists. Not to mention that all the moisture will evaporate up through all of the seams that aren't taped and the plastic liner is only 6 mil and eventually will puncture and tear. Be very careful in the contractor you choose to properly encapsulate your crawlspace.
Thinking Long-Term Safety & Health With Proper Foundation Structural Repair & Basement Waterproofing
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 Cedar Bluff TN.