Crawl Space Moisture Control
Controlling moisture in your crawl space can seem like a daunting task. You have so many other parts of the house to worry about! The bathroom needs to be gutted, the kitchen needs new appliances, the master bedroom could use some work — who has time to think about even think about it?
Well, you should! Although we rarely even see this space, it has a huge impact on the rest of the house. The condition of your crawl space has an impact on your energy bill, the strength of your home’s infrastructure, and even your health.
Because we usually like to avoid our crawl spaces at all costs, they are often the most neglected part of a house, resulting in damage that goes unchecked. Pests and bugs like termites can set up camp in the crawl space and wreak havoc, but the most notable source of damage is a silent killer — moisture. Water and vapor don’t sound very threatening, but they can cause irreparable damage that will cost you thousands in dollars and headaches.
To avoid moisture in the crawl space, you should first learn about how it gets there. Follow along as we discuss the ways moisture gets into your crawl space and provide our tips for crawl space moisture control.
How Moisture Gets into the Crawl Space
While most newer homes build vents into their crawl spaces, no one is completely immune to water and moisture getting inside and staying there. There are several ways yours could be infiltrated:
1. Plumbing leaks
It’s safe to assume that water in the crawl space is caused by a plumbing leak — most home piping systems run through there and do leak occasionally. These can be relatively harmless or devastating, it all depends on how much water is escaping and how long you go without noticing. This is why frequent visits are important; you’ll never know a leak is there if you haven’t checked in a while.
In crawl spaces that aren’t encapsulated, the water is usually leaking into dirt or gravel on the ground of the room, which are more susceptible to mold and mildew than plastic. For more information on crawl space encapsulation and how to protect your home, check out our blog, Benefits of Crawl Space Encapsulation.
2. Subterranean leaks
These leaks are ones that occur underground, and are not your fault as the homeowner. These are usually the city’s problem and were caused by broken water lines that run under the house. City officials will have to come to your home and fix this problem, so it’s best to alert them as soon as possible and be patient with them as they complete the project.
The groundwater of oversaturated soil from the outside can lead inside from under the house and arise to the soil in your crawl space. If it recently rained heavily or flooded, there’s a chance the crawl space saw some after-effects of the inclement weather. If you live somewhere that has frequent snowfall, monitor the area as it gets warmer and the snow and ice begin to melt rapidly.
Having a dirt floor in the crawl space is a bad idea. The soil absorbs water and vapor and the increased moisture levels quickly lead to other issues like wood rot, mold growth, and bad air quality inside the home.
4. Poor sloping grade
We can’t stress how important it is to not build your home on a downward slope — it gives water a direct path down the hill and straight into your crawl space. After even the slightest bit of rainfall, if the water is pooling it will naturally flow to lower ground. If your home is at the bottom of a hill or slope, puddles will form at the summit of the hill and seep into the soil below, causing more problems.
5. Over-watering the lawn and garden
Over-watering is another reason water seeps into the soil and finds a way into the crawl space. As a general rule, your lawn and plant beds only need about one inch of water per week, including rainfall. So don’t overdo it when watering as you could be contributing to the moisture levels in the crawl space — and if your sprinkler system is automated, make sure it’s set to an appropriate schedule.
While vents were initially built into crawl spaces as a means to let moisture escape, they wound up being another way for it to enter. If you live in a humid environment where there are constantly high levels of moisture in the air, it will infiltrate your home through these vents. Because of the stack effect, or a process that naturally pushes and pulls air in and out of your home due to temperature changes, warm air from outside will be “sucked in” by the house and into the crawl space.
Crawl Space Moisture Control: How It's Done
Now that you know how water gets in, it’s time to learn how to keep it out.
1. Fix any leaks ASAP
This might go without saying. Fix any leaks, whether they came from inside your home or from underground, as soon as possible for ultimate crawl space moisture control.
2. Ditch the dirt floors
The soil on the ground absorbs water and water vapor, leading to mold, mildew, and poor indoor air quality. To keep your home safe, it’s best to install a vapor-proof barrier between the house and the earth to keep water out.
3. Seal vents and cracks allowing air in
Those vents and cracks are allowing water and vapor into the crawl space and doing all sorts of damage. Your best bet is to seal them up so the area won’t be affected by the elements.
Crawl space encapsulation is the most efficient way to keep your crawl space dry and clean. Because it’s a proactive measure, it saves you from needing restoration and remediation in the future. The process includes sealing up the area to ensure moisture cannot enter and can be done yourself or by a professional service. We highly recommend encapsulation.
How We Can Help
Does staying on top of crawl space moisture control seem like too much for you to do alone? We’d love to help. At Killingsworth Environmental, we have a detailed crawl space encapsulation process that includes inspecting, sealing, and dehumidifying the area to ensure it stays dry longer after our visit. We’ll service the humidifier if any issues arise (on top of providing a 5-year warranty), including cleanings or filter changes the humidifier may need. We’ll also complete on-going check-ups for any moisture or fungal growth that you might miss.
Schedule an appointment with us today to get a quote.
originally written: March 27, 2020