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.
The Three Basic Types of Home Foundations
Crawl spaces are known for their aesthetic presence-- NOT! When you talk about a crawl space you probably touch upon the dirt floor, the mold buildup, the puddles, the stench, oh and you can't forget about the insulation falling from the ceiling or the dusty old vents.
Unfortunately, this environment can cause a whole lot more damage to the rest of your home than you may think.
Crawl spaces and basements have huge problems with moisture. The stack effect is the proper name for the well-known process of warm air rising, which absolutely has a lot to do with moisture.
When the hot and humid air from the outside enters into the crawl space, the air begins to cool and the warm air pushes and exits through the upper levels. When the hot air cools by even one degree, the relative humidity rises by 2.2 percent.
This is why you find condensation and water buildup on other surfaces! Once this moisture begins to build and the humidity rises in the space mold begins to grow. Mold will continue growing and prospering if it has moisture, organic material to eat and a comfortable temperature. You cannot remove mold by wiping it away, but you remove mold by eliminating the source of moisture.
In other words-- close the vents, seal the space and install a sump pump!
As we just learned, air tends to rise within a home. So, when old-school thought encouraged people to install vents, it was unfortunately saying that air would come in through one vent and go out the other vent. This is not the case. Instead, the air comes in through both vents increasing moisture and humidity. In addition, as the crawl spaces conditions worsen due to the vents, the air quality in your home also lessens.
It's been estimated that a third to one half of the air on the first level actually comes from the crawl space, so whatever is growing and prospering beneath your home you can be sure to be breathing in throughout the rest of your home.
In addition, some spaces have fans as well. A fan will only blow the mess around and worsen the problem. Both of these "solutions" also heighten your energy bills and shorten the life of some of your homes heating and cooling appliances. Your air conditioning will be working a whole lot harder to cool and your heating system will be working very hard to keep your home warm. Unfortunately, the vents and fans in your crawl space are a big factor in your energy waste and increase in expenses.
Since crawl spaces have problems with moisture control and mold growth the best solution will close-off air flow from the outside and prevent moisture from entering through the soil, cracks and vents. In addition, the solution must prevent mold growth and include a water drainage system for when leaks occur and water somehow makes its way into the space.
This solution is to install the CleanSpace Crawl Space Encapsulation System, which will enclose the entire crawl space with a vapor barrier that also separates the space from the soil foundation. In addition, you can close-off the vents and include a sump pump drainage system.
No more vents, no more fans equals better air quality and a cleaner environment.
How To Protect Your Health And Get Rid Of Awful Smells With Crawl Space Encapsulation
The single best thing you can do to eliminate moisture and odors coming from the crawlspace is to apply a heavy sheet of plastic. Plastic wrap comes in clear or black and in different thicknesses. Purchase either color and with a thickness of at least 6 mil or better yet 10 mil.
Roll out the plastic so that all of the crawlspace floor is completely covered with plastic. When you have to cut the plastic to go around something, be sure to cover the cut with additional plastic or lap the original layer over the cut out. It's OK to use duck tape on the plastic vapor barrier as well. Just be sure to not have any voids in the plastic where moisture and odors can still get through.
The walls of the crawlspace should be covered as well to better eliminate moisture concerns as they can harbor condensation, a major source of moisture issues. Just roll out extra length of plastic so that you can run it up the crawlspace wall and using the stapler, tack along the ledger board located just above the concrete block or poured wall.
If you eliminate odors, moisture from the crawlspace and other undesirable elements coming from the ground beneath your home, your family will be living in a much healthier environment.
Although this task can be accomplished by yourself, it will be much easier if you can get a buddy or helper to go into your crawlspace and aid in the rolling out of the plastic barrier.
6 mil plastic is fine, however, if you can find thicker plastic (greater than 6 mil) then it will be much harder to rip or tear as you move along the crawlspace.