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How Your Crawl Space Affects Your Home’s (and your) Health

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Around 20% of the homes built in the U.S. every year have crawl space foundations. This building technique has advantages over slab or basement foundations, like providing a space for electrical, plumbing, and ductwork. It is also less intrusive to build a crawl space foundation on land that has some elevation changes. Building a slab foundation on a hilly and uneven site would require a lot of grading, which may cause settlement issues down the road.

There are also some disadvantages to a crawl space, at least to ones that are vented. A vented crawl space is one that has unsealed vents that can be opened and closed depending on the season. A vented crawl space will most likely have plastic sheeting or a moisture barrier on the ground, though that’s not always the case. Vented crawl spaces are open to outside air, and all the moisture that comes with it.

In the Charlotte area and all over the Southeastern United States, the humid climate makes it nearly impossible to have fresh air with no moisture. An unsealed crawl space invites a host of potential problems that affect the health of the area under your home and potentially the inside of the home where you live and breathe the air.

What are some problems that can affect your crawl space health?

  1. Mold and Fungus: Where there is moisture, there is the likelihood of mold. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “the key to mold control is moisture control.” In an unsealed crawlspace, moisture is a given, inviting mold and other fungi to thrive. Not only can this mold cause rot and decay in the wood underneath your home, but it may also find its way into your home’s interior and into the air you breathe. Based on surveys, it is estimated that nearly 50% of the homes in the U.S. have significant dampness or mold contamination. It has also been scientifically proven that exposure to mold and mildew produces health issues.
  2. Termites and other pests: An unsealed crawl space provides an open invitation to termites, insects, and other pests. Termites can cause significant damage to the wood framing under your home in a short period of time. This wood is then more susceptible to mold, which can cause additional damage. Rotten and damaged joists or beams cause the flooring to sag or sink, and in worse-case scenarios can collapse.
  3. High energy costs: A vented crawl space is subject to changes in temperature along with the outside air. While a properly insulated space will help, it can not help stabilize the temperature in the crawl space from season to season, and it can also allow outside air to enter the home’s interior. Heating and cooling systems will have to work harder to keep the temperature consistent, leading to higher energy usage and costs.
  4. Radon Gas: A naturally occurring radioactive gas found in the soil, radon can creep into a crawl space that is not adequately protected.

What are ways to make a crawl space healthier?

  1. Moisture Control: Controlling moisture in a crawl space will prevent a lot of the problems discussed above. Sealing a crawl space through encapsulation and adding a dehumidifier that is the proper size for the space will eliminate humidity and moisture. In turn, mold will not be able to grow in this controlled environment, nor will termites and other insects gain access to the space. If there is water intrusion, a drainage system may be needed to keep the crawl space dry.
  2. Seal for energy efficiency: Full encapsulation of a crawl space that includes a dehumidifier not only eliminates moisture problems, it will also decrease the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home. Fully encapsulated crawl spaces do not experience temperature extremes like a vented space, so your heating and cooling system does not have to work as hard to keep your home comfortable.
  3. Seal out contaminants: A fully encapsulated crawl space prevents radon and other contaminants from entering the crawl space and, in turn, your home.
  4. Regular inspections: Making a crawl space inspection part of regular home maintenance will allow you to catch problems early and address them before they become serious. If the thought of going into your crawl space makes you uneasy because you think of it as a dark, damp place, know that full encapsulation will transform your crawl space into a clean, healthy space that you won’t mind going into. It also provides an extra space for storage, since you don’t have to worry about moisture, humidity, or insects. As part of the warranty we provide for our full encapsulations, we perform annual maintenance and inspection of the crawl space, so you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.

A healthy crawl space is essential to the health of your home and possibly to those who live in it. If you have any concerns about moisture, mold, insects, or any other issue with your crawl space, HydroHelp911 offers free comprehensive inspections in the greater Charlotte area. Our professionals will thoroughly evaluate your crawl space and provide a written plan for repair if needed. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

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