Why You Should Care About Your Crawl Space
Of all the areas of a home that shouldn’t be neglected, the foundation is the most overlooked, with the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” easily explaining why. Most homes are built on foundations of a concrete slab, a basement or a crawl space. There’s not much to do for a concrete slab except check for cracks; and a basement usually has room to move around and check for issues like flooding or structural damage. But unless there’s a compelling reason to investigate (or you enjoy caving), for most homeowners, venturing into a small, dark crawl space just isn’t happening.
The air you breathe
One of the most important reasons why you should care about your crawl space is the potential for unhealthy air in your living area. The crawl space is filled with ductwork, pipes and electrical cords that all help you enjoy many of the comforts of your home. But, over time, if the crawl space is not maintained, critters can find a way in and cause substantial damage. Torn or separated ductwork brings contaminated air right up into the home. You don’t want to know what you and your family are breathing if you’ve got pests living, doing battle, procreating and dying in your crawl space.
Another air-born risk is radon. This colorless, odorless gas naturally releases from the ground in small amounts and usually dissipates harmlessly. It is only dangerous in large concentrations, which can occur in an improperly vented or otherwise unprotected crawl space. To check your home’s radon levels, an inexpensive test kit provides general measurements. A professional can give precise levels and help with protection efforts.
Too much moisture
Mold, mildew and dry rot are the enemies of a healthy crawl space, all the result of too much moisture building up. Along with radon, water vapor is constantly being released from the ground, and if your home doesn’t have good protection or is left untreated, severe damage to the structural integrity of the foundation can result. Moisture buildup has a number of potential causes, including: improper grading and/or gutter downspouts not directing water away from the home, disconnected or torn dryer vents and disconnected or broken plumbing lines.
Once the moisture source has been identified and fixed, it’s important to remove all the wet debris (including saturated insulation which should be replaced with treated insulation), remove any standing water using a sump pump or French drain, remove any residual moisture using dehumidifiers or fans and install vapor barriers. Ensuring proper ventilation with foundation vents and encapsulating the crawl space will help reduce dust mites and other allergens, eliminate odors, enhance energy efficiency and reduce heating/cooling costs.
Get the job done right
Most crawl spaces are tricky and/or icky to navigate, but because of the importance of keeping them well maintained, it’s essential to hire a reputable company that will do a good job. Since most homeowners can’t double-check the quality of work performed, the contractor should be willing to shoot a video of the crawl space once the work is finished to prove the work was completed satisfactorily.