We had a lot of rain this past summer and we’re seeing a lot of crawlspaces that are still wet. And this is the time of year when the dryer wintertime air should have absorbed the excess moisture from the torrential rain we experienced over the summer. So if you find yourself in the situation where there is still moisture and maybe now some mold in the crawlspace, then you should give us a call.
Our homes leak air. All of them, regardless of how “tight” they were built. Warm air rises in the home and leaks out of the top- and every cubic foot of air that leaks out is replaced by cold air from the bottom of the home. This is the way buildings work. In Richmond, the bottom of the home is generally your crawlspace (unless you have a basement). And what comes with that cold air? Well, there are insulation particles, dust, moldy odors, etc. So ensuring that your crawlspace has a good vapor barrier is a must. And sealing those cracks is a good thing to do as well, but that’s another story for another blog. That’s called air-sealing… And maybe your home needs this too.
Back to that musty crawlspace now. So sure, VA building code requires a vapor barrier for new construction. But when was your home built? Furthermore, the code requirement can equate to a roll of plastic that was rolled out in haste, with voids that can allow moisture to make it’s way into your home. If your home is older, you may not have a vapor barrier at all. Building scientists have discovered that some homes without properly installed vapor barriers may have 20 gallons of water evaporating and rising through the home from the crawlspace. No fun at all when your home is the equivalent of the Amazon jungle. Sofa feeling a little damp today? Musty odors in some parts of the home?
Now there is one approach where the crawl space is encapsulated with a thick continuous vapor barrier that even runs up the side of the interior foundation walls. All joints are taped and even the interior foundation piers have poly installed around them. And then these foundation walls are insulated, and some HVAC ducting is opened up to the crawl space to provide it with conditioned air. This is called a conditioned crawl space, and this is not cheap- but will provide you the “cadillac” of all crawlspaces. Although this approach is great, it is costly. We believe this is a good recommended approach for only those who have serious moisture problems that cannot be resolved through other means. Or those who are building new and are concerned with having a top level of indoor air quality.
Treat the problem, not the symptoms, right? Are your gutters clogged, or is the grade around your home turned towards the home’s foundation? If so, we recommend treating these problems before moving forward with getting your crawlspace conditioned. But you should still have a good continuous vapor barrier, regardless.
Everyone should at least get a good continuous vapor barrier with taped seams in their crawlspace when any type of moisture issue is discovered. And even if there isn’t moisture, this may still be in your best interest- just to ensure that the dirty ground doesn’t come in contact with the air that may rise into your home through all those cracks you may not know about that most certainly exist between your crawl space and first floor.
We recommend 6 mil reinforced white poly that is carefully cut and laid in place with taped seams. It isn’t terribly expensive and the difference in your indoor air quality will be huge. Now you also may have a situation where this isn’t enough, due to circumstances where water is living under your home. In this case, full crawlspace conditioning is the way to go. But this approach generally starts at around 5 grand (on the low end). So exploring other less expensive strategies to direct the water from the home should be the first plan of attack.
Our company is located in Richmond, VA and we can evaluate your crawlspace at no cost and provide you some options for your wet crawl space. We start by trying to treat the problem, not the symptoms. So if you have been given prices for “full encapsulation” or “conditioning your crawlspace” right from the start- then give us a call. There may be less expensive strategies that can alleviate the issue. In most cases, we recommend performing the work in steps. First you have a reinforced poly vapor barrier installed. All of the seams are taped to prevent any moisture from rising into the home. You spend your money on this first step and see if the problem is solved. Maybe you’re done after this first step. If a few weeks elapse and things don’t dry out, then you can think about conditioning the crawlspace.
To summarize, most homes in our area are on crawlspaces and it is of crucial importance that we keep them dry. We want to help you find the source of the problem before treating the symptoms. We are the homeowner’s friend when it comes to moisture issues. Call us if you would like to schedule a free crawlspace evaluation.