A conditioned crawl space is hermetically sealed from outdoor air and its conditioning is a part of the house HVAC system. Conditioned crawl space includes a ground completely covered with a vapor barrier, with the barrier’s seams and junctions as well.
Living in an area with a humid climate undoubtedly requires conditioning your crawl space. Keeping this particular spot in your house completely sealed will prevent a lot of problems, from keeping your utility costs down to improving the air quality in your home. Here are some of the key things that you need to know about conditioned crawl space.
In a conditioned crawl space, a 10-mil polyethylene barrier covers the entire floor, with the sheets extending up to 12 to 18 inches up space’s foundation wall. The sheets are glued right at the overlap seams, then to the foundation wall. Insulation boards are also glued to the entire wall.
Aside from its 100% sealed conditioned crawl space construction, humidity in this small space under the house is often removed by any of three methods – dehumidifier, small exhaust fan or air mover, or a small amount of air sourced from the HVAC system.
Properly sealing this hollow area can stop you from dealing with headache-inducing problems, from mold to low-quality indoor air. If you get asked, though, about what conditioned space problems you should expect, you may throw in how more expensive it is to seal your crawl space, given the materials that you have to use. It can also be time-consuming but if you just think about how much better off your entire home will be and the health of your family if you compare conditioned vs unconditioned crawl space, the extra cost and effort are all going to be worth it.
What Should Be Done Before Encapsulation?
Prep work involves tossing anything that might have been stashed there, such as paint cans or garbage. Remove all fiberglass insulation; this is poor insulation to use, and a specialist will set you up with the proper insulation for a crawl space. Seal all cracks. Even if the inside of the space is encapsulated, water coming through the concrete from the outside will widen the cracks and create future structural damage. Get an estimate for any work that should be done. If there is any mold present, hire a certified mold remediator to clear out the area. While it’s not a good idea to do any repairs yourself, trying to handle mold as a DIY project is the worst thing you can do. For your health and the health of those in your home, leave mold removal to the pros.
List of the Pros of Crawl Space Encapsulation
- It helps to reduce moisture issues that can occur in the crawl space.
Humidity is one of the most significant concerns that a home faces during every season. When there is too much moisture in the indoor environment, then it sets the stage for mold, mildew, and fungal growth. High humidity levels are also associated with a greater risk of pest infestation. Crawl space encapsulation allows for waterproofing and proper ventilation to ensure that the high moisture content can dissipate, reducing the risk of potential health hazards developing in the space.
- You can control pest populations with this system.
A crawl space encapsulation system can provide your home with a shield against several bothersome pests. Providing a layer of protection against a termite infestation is a significant advantage of this product. When installed correctly, it can stop these insects before they can get into your home – especially if you use a pest-specific barrier with the other products for this work. You can also install specific items that can reduce rodent, wildlife, and other insect issues that may be on or around your property.
- It will reduce your overall heating costs.
Although the cost of installing a crawl space encapsulation system is higher than just leaving it alone, the sealing process will work to reduce your heating and cooling costs over the lifetime of the product. This advantage occurs because you will lose less air through the crawl space because of the barriers that a professional contractor installs to improve the environment. The area will create its own form of insulation when you leave it sealed, protecting the heat from your indoor environment from the colder ground below. During the summer months, it will maintain a cooler element in the bottom floor of your home, which will help to cool down the entire structure.
- There are times when you can do this work by yourself.
If you have a few DIY skills that you like to use around your property, then there is an excellent chance that you can install a crawl space encapsulation system on your own. It is imperative that you use the correct materials for this work and install them properly so that your indoor air quality benefits from the work. If you fail to follow the requirements outlined in your local building codes, then you may place yourself out a significant risk of personal harm or cause unintended damage to your home. You will need to make sure that every vent for the crawl space is either sealed or removed. The access door must conform to the specifications of your local building code. A vapor retardant is required for the ground, and it must be at least a 6mm polyethylene product in most communities. Joints must overlap by at least six inches and every seam must be taped.
- It can help to reduce or eliminate bothersome odors in the home.
Outside of your activities and the presence of any pets, the biggest contributor to foul odors in a home is the crawl space area. A professional contractor will clean out the space as needed before installing the system to ensure maximum longevity. Then they will work to seal this space underneath your home to stop future smells from occurring because it is working to proactively prevent mold, mildew, and pests. If you detect a foul odor after the installation of the system, then it may be an indication that it was sealed improperly. You may detect the scent of cleaners like bleach in the first few days after your service because of the need to disinfect underneath your home.
- You can install a radiant heating system for your floor.
Once you have an encapsulated crawl space, then you create the option to install a radiant heat system for the floor above that space. Although there are cost considerations to look at with this advantage, a system like this adds another level of energy efficiency to your property that helps to keep each room at a more consistent temperature. The result of this work can lead to a significant reduction in your monthly utility bills.
- The space can be used for additional storage.
When you encapsulate a crawl space, then you are creating a sanitary environment for your home. This outcome means that you can begin to use this area for extra storage because it is no longer prone to the wide swings of humidity throughout the seasons or be at risk for a pest infestation. If you have a large and accessible area underneath your home, the cost of an encapsulation system could be significantly less than the price of adding extra storage to another location on your property.
List of the Cons of Crawl Space Encapsulation
- There is a cost consideration to look at with crawl space encapsulation.
Many homes survive with minimal problems without going through the expense and labor of crawl space encapsulation. According to information published by Home Advisor, the average homeowner will spend approximately $5,500 to install this system. Depending on the size of your structure and geographic location, the total cost for professional labor and supplies can range from $1,500 to $15,000. You can sometimes save money by using a single, thin layer of plastic liner to shield your foundation from moisture and pests. Advanced options include custom liners, vapor barriers, a sump pump, drainage trenches, and a dehumidifier.
- You may need to have foundation wall insulation for your new system.
If you decide to pursue an estimate for crawl space encapsulation, then your contractor might suggest that your area would benefit from the installation of foundation wall insulation. This product is usually composed of spray foam and is priced between $.50 to two dollars per board foot. Batting prices can range from three dollars per roll to $300 for a larger area. During the installation of the system, the professional you hire will cover the foundation walls with a rigid R-value foam board based on local building codes.
- There are additional maintenance costs to consider.
After you have a crawl space encapsulation system installed for your home, there will be additional maintenance and inspection chores to do every month. Depending on the number of features that you purchased for this upgrade, you may find that the costs to maintain the various levels of protection can be equal to, if not higher, than what your ongoing costs would be if you were to let the crawl space exist without the upgrade. If you live in a geographic region that doesn’t see a lot of rain or moisture, then the sealing advantages of this product might not give you the return on your investment that you need.
- You may need to upgrade your HVAC system.
Once you finish the work of encapsulating your crawl space, there will be less air movement occurring throughout the home. When there is a lack of air circulation for your HVAC system, then a combustion-based furnace or heater will not have enough oxygen available to it to run effectively. That means you may need to upgrade or replace your current unit to ensure that the temperature of your indoor environment remains at a consistent level. This process might also require a complete inspection of your duct work to make sure there are no leaks in the system that could compromise the integrity of your crawl space upgrade.
- It is not wise to store volatile materials in your crawl space.
Even if you have a concrete pad serving as the floor for your crawl space, it is not wise to store anything volatile in this area. Items like gasoline, solvents, or chemical cleaners need to stay in your garage because of the direct flammability threat these products provide. If these are the only items that you need the extra storage space to manage, then the cost of an encapsulation system will no longer be a budget-friendly expense.
You can store boxes, emergency supplies, bottled water, and similar essentials in this space without worry about pest interference or mold when the work is completed correctly.
- You might need to service the dehumidifier regularly to maintain the system.
One of the ways that you can save money on a system like this is to have a manual dehumidifier installed instead of an automatic product. You will pay for the savings in the long run because you could be stuck emptying this feature by hand regularly. If you live in a high moisture environment, then your new encapsulation system might need service every 72 hours to ensure that it can perform correctly. If a vent is necessary to prevent this issue, then many of the positive advantages will experience negation since there will still be an access point that goes through your barrier.
Radon & Conditioned Crawl Space:
How does radon get into my home?
Radon can get into your home through cracks and openings in the foundation.
A crawl space foundation with exposed dirt is like a window that’s always open.
Radon moves up through the soil and into the crawl space air. From there it migrates upward through your floorboards into the first floor of your home.
How do I reduce Radon in my Crawl Space?
Reducing the flow of radon into a crawl space is more challenging than it is in a basement. Many radon contractors suggest that you vent your crawl space to reduce radon. Yes, open vents in the crawl space can allow radon to escape, but venting the crawl space can do more harm than good.
Crawl space ventilation can lead to many problems throughout your home, including:
- Mold growth
- Wood rot
- Frozen pipes
- Cold floors
- High energy bills
If venting the crawl space isn’t the best solution for reducing radon in a crawl space, then what is?
Crawl Space encapsulation is the first step in reducing Radon Levels.
Encapsulating the crawl space reduces the migration of radon into the air.
In fact, crawl space encapsulation offers many benefits.
Does the air in your home smell musty and feel damp? Are your hardwood floors buckling? Are your carpets damp or moldy? Are your allergy symptoms getting worse? These problems could be caused by a moisture problem in your crawl space. The solution is crawl space encapsulation.
Verdict on the Crawl Space Encapsulation Pros and Cons
The pros and cons of a crawl space encapsulation system depend on the specific circumstances found on your property. There are times when a barrier is useful because humidity, pests, or both adversely impact the quality of the air that you breathe inside. Without the barrier in place, rodents and insects can begin to damage the structure of your home.
Because of the costs involved and how it may reduce humidity levels to a region where it is too dry, it can be helpful to consult with a professional contractor in your area to see if this option is right for your house.
Conditioned Crawl Space Layout
Airflow from ground to Subfloor
Vapor Barrier Floor & Walls
Radon Migration System