What Is A Crawlspace and What Is It Used For?
Basically, it is what it says it is. It is a space beneath the dwelling where someone can crawl around it. It is small and typically not big enough to stand in, hence the term “crawl”. It usually consists of dirt. Crawlspaces are usually found in homes that do not have a basement or are built on concrete slabs. Commercial buildings are also known for having crawlspaces between some of their walls. The purpose of a crawlspace is so that air can circulate throughout the dwelling and have easy access to electrical, plumbing and other maintenance needs. Without crawlspaces, it could be an expensive endeavor to make many repairs as problems may arise throughout the home’s history. The crawlspace should not be considered as part of the foundation, but it should be treated as part of the home.
Crawlspaces are not big enough to provide living quarters, but often times it is sufficient to provide for extra storage space for items that are not used on a regular basis. However, you should be cautious as to what you store in these areas as they typically consist of soil which can become damp by the humidity as well as moisture that comes from the concrete. This also creates the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew to form. This can occur on many surfaces such as cardboard, wood floors and even on insulation.
Why Are Vented Crawlspaces No Longer Recommended
It was actually a requirement by the International Residential Code that dwellings contain crawlspaces and be vented to the outside. The reason was to allow fresh air to circulate within the crawlspace and allow for moisture that has accumulated to escape. For a while, homeowners who still had problems with mold and moisture actually amplified the problem by allowing more air into the area. This of course increased the mold and decay and invited more problems such as termites and other pest control problems with the increase of condensation.
Many of the older homes today did not have central air/heat and were simply cooled with window fans. In the current age, many people now consider air conditioning a necessity. With that being said, the older homes are opting to put in central units. The crawlspaces are then utilized to install the necessary duct work so that access to all rooms is easily accomplished. In doing so, this actually changed the environment within the crawlspace.
With current studies, we now know that venting is not the solution to keeping your crawlspace dry and clean. If the air outside is drier than the air inside, it will indeed create more moisture. Studies have also proved that the air that comes in through the foundation vents and consequently comes in contact with the air that has been cooled by the central unit vents, will reach a dew point and condensation then occurs, which in turn increases the amount of moisture found in the crawlspace. And as we discussed earlier, the moisture creates the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Homes that are built on crawlspaces are often found to have serious moisture issues due to the atmosphere. Since crawlspaces are often just dirt floors, it is subject to standing water or run-off water. Naturally, when moisture is around wood for an extended period of time, it takes its toll and becomes breeding ground for mold issues and termite infestations which in turn leads to deterioration of the dwelling. Since indoor airflow naturally rises, applying a vapor barrier and dehumidifier will drastically decrease the amount of soil and moisture that is present in the crawl space. The added benefit is that it will greatly reduce your risk for the following:
- Wood rot
- Floor failure
- Decreased insulation R-values
- Increased heating & cooling bills
- Dust mites
- Aggravated allergies
- Poor storage environment
- Poor indoor air quality
Water can enter the crawl space through a variety of sources, such as plumbing issues or moisture entering through the crawlspace vents. Since this occurs, you are essentially inviting a variety of pests such as mice, rats, snakes and other critters that enjoy a damp and dark environment, to enter your home and make themselves a home under your home. We know that warm air rises and exits through the upper levels, the crawlspace air is subsequently pulled up into your home. That means there is nothing to stop the humidity, mold spores, odors and dust mite waste from entering your living space within your home.
Insulating a crawlspace that is vented is a complicated situation. Insulation will not keep humid summer air or cold winter air away from a structure’s floorboards. Most standard insulation vapor barriers will allow moisture and mold to continue to get through the material, weighing it down and causing it to fall onto the floor. And, as we all know, that is no good for a home.
If your home or business is in need of moisture control in Central or South Side Virginia, call Premier Pest Control at 434-253-4122 for a free estimate today!