The crawl space has an integral role towards a home’s overall value as well as the living space above. Most homeowners in East Ridge Chattanooga 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 Insulation In East Ridge 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.
Crawl Space Vapor Barrier Basics
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.
The Three Basic Types of Home Foundations
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.
Crawl Space Masters Specializes In Crawl Space Encapsulation in East Ridge TN.