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.
Save Money By Using Crawl Space DIY Kits
I recently came across a Consumer Reports article that served as a good reminder to homeowners about some of the home's maintenance issues that are just too important to put off. With today's economy, it is easier to justify holding off on repairing a leaking basement wall crack because it seemingly does not pose an immediate threat, outside of a little inconvenience, of course.
Problems related to the foundation's structural stability or the indoor air quality of the home requires more immediate action; such issues are essentially putting the health and overall safety of the family at risk: not tomorrow, or a year from now, but at this moment.
While bad news for the homeowner, such problems are good for basement waterproofing and foundation repair contractors - the need for their services will always exist. The Consumer Reports article lists a couple of problem issues that the homeowner should be concerned about - the growth of mold and mildew and the formation of cracks in poured foundations. As a business owner who works with the basement waterproofing industry, these are two areas of concern that I am well familiar with.
The growth of mold and mildew can occur inside a home for endless reasons. The most prominent areas are basements and crawl spaces, where excess moisture is a sure bet unless the necessary measures are taken. Concrete walls are prone to the seepage of water vapor - leaking water from cracks in the foundation or the floor adds to the problem. The basement and crawl space provides the ideal environment for trapped moisture to eventually grow into mold spores and mildew.
Concrete cracks in poured foundation walls usually occur as a result of shrinkage or settling around the foundation. Cracks forming as a result of shrinkage in the concrete typically do not pose a structural threat, yet they may cause headaches for the homeowner the second they begin to leak water.
Whether such foundation cracks are structural or not, it is best not to leave them exposed for long, as it relates to the concern of the home's indoor air quality. These cracks, as well as in concrete floors, may provide an opening for soil gases. The infiltration of soil gases, in addition to the growth of mold and mildew can be enough to create an indoor air quality nightmare. The bad air circulating inside the basement and crawl space affects the entire home - 50% of the air circulating throughout the home originates from the home's lowest level.
Concrete cracking is unavoidable. Properly addressing them early on will minimize further problems down the road. Further indoor air quality concerns may also be addressed by implementing the proper waterproofing and sealing techniques throughout the basement and crawl space. There are plenty of qualified contractors throughout the United States and Canada available to service such jobs.
It's reassuring to know that our message is backed up by an objective source such as the Consumer Reports. You view the article at the provided link, http://shopping.yahoo.com/articles/yshoppingarticles/418/5-home-repairs-not-to-ignore/.
You can't put a price on the long-term stability of the home and health of the family.
What to Do About Basement Waterproofing Before It's Too Late
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.