When it comes to crawl spaces, we understand that homeowners may have a lot of questions about issues and repair options. In fact, we are asked the same questions repeatedly by potential customers, so we know there is a need for information. In this article, we will answer some of these questions and hopefully provide you with a basic understanding of crawl space management.
1. Should my crawl space vents be open or closed?
Crawl space vents are one of those building technologies that seemed logical many years ago, but have since been debunked by modern research. Vents in a crawl space are meant to be closed in the winter to help prevent freezing pipes and open to create airflow under the house in the hot summer months. In theory, this is a good idea, but in reality, vents do little to help with the health of a crawl space. One problem with allowing airflow in the summer, particularly in the Southeastern United States, is that the air itself is moist and humid. Allowing humid air to enter the crawl space only increases the humidity in the space, and moisture is a crawl space’s worst enemy. The ideal solution is to permanently seal the vents shut and install a dehumidifier in the crawl space so it can regulate the humidity levels. We recommend fully encapsulating the crawl space to maximize the efficiency of the dehumidifier.
2. What is the difference between encapsulation and insulation?
While they may seem similar at first glance, there is a major difference between insulating a crawl space and encapsulating one. Insulation is required in both unsealed and sealed crawl spaces by North Carolina building codes. Though there are a few different choices available, the most common type of insulation found in the Charlotte area is fiberglass batt insulation. This insulation is placed between the joists in the flooring system, which is the ceiling of the crawl space. This helps with regulating the temperature inside your home, but it does not help regulate the temperature or humidity inside the crawl space.
Encapsulation is the process of completely sealing a crawl space with a moisture barrier and installing a dehumidifier. For maximum effectiveness, the moisture barrier should extend up the walls and wrap the piers of the crawl space. The vents are sealed shut with foam insulation to prevent air leaks and a properly insulated and air-tight access door is installed. Encapsulation creates a more energy-efficient home and prevents wood damage and mold due to moisture.
3. Can encapsulation help with energy bills?
Absolutely. In fact, crawl space encapsulation is one of the most effective ways to lower energy costs. A properly encapsulated crawl space is not subject to the extreme temperature fluctuations found in an open crawl space. If you’ve experienced cold floors or drafty rooms in your home, you will see a significant difference once you encapsulate your crawl space. “Homes with closed crawl spaces are known for increased comfort, including fewer drafts, warmer floors, reduced dust, less humidity fluctuation and fewer pests. Energy savings may also be realized if the HVAC system is located in the crawl space.” – North Carolina Advanced Energy Corporation
4. How do you get rid of mold in a crawl space?
With thousands of searches on Google for that question, it’s clear that mold in a crawl space is a concern for a lot of people. Mold in your home can cause allergies and respiratory ailments, and in some extreme cases has even been linked to asthma or autoimmune diseases. Mold in a crawlspace can affect the air quality inside your home. A study by a NC nonprofit energy study consulting firm found leaks allowing the transfer of air between the crawl space and the home’s interior in roughly ⅔ of the homes they investigated.
While mold is a cause for concern and should be addressed, its removal is a job best left to the professionals. There are a lot of DIY remedies all across the internet, with some suggesting spraying the mold with a solution of diluted bleach. While mold spores can be killed with spray solutions, the object that contains the mold must be wiped thoroughly in order to loosen and remove the spores. The US Environmental Protection Agency website advises “Dead mold may still cause allergic reactions in some people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold, it must also be removed.” Full mold remediation followed by moisture management in the crawl space is the only truly effective way to eradicate mold.
5. What is the cost for crawl space encapsulation?
There are a few factors that go into determining the cost to encapsulate a crawl space, including the height and square footage of the crawl space. You can find the complete breakdown of those cost factors, but for a general ballpark estimate, the average cost to encapsulate a crawl space in the Charlotte NC area in 2022 was between $6,300 and $7,000 for a 1,500 square foot crawl space. It is an investment that will pay off in lower energy costs, a healthier home, and an increase in the value of your home.
We hope that we have answered some of your questions about crawl spaces. If you have more questions or would like to schedule a free consultation to assess the health of your crawl space, please reach out to us.