The crawl space has an integral role towards a home’s overall value as well as the living space above. Most homeowners in Franklin Tennessee 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.
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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 - A Beginner's Guide On Buying The Right One
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.
Crawl Space Vapor Barriers
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.
Crawl Space Masters Specializes In Crawl Space Encapsulation in Franklin TN.