My wife and I purchased our first home at the end of December last year. As much as we loved the freedom of owning a home, we quickly realized that there are some responsibilities that we hadn’t yet considered. One of the first things we noticed is that the house, which is about 100 years old, had a crawl space. And during that first 100 years, the previous owners had gotten in the habit of putting a wide variety of junk down there – everything from leftover wood and bricks to old chairs and forgotten car tires. It was a mess. The crawl space had a dirt floor, and there were several places where the insulation had been put in upside down.
We were worried about the state of our crawl space, so we reached out for some professional advice. Matt Leech, founder of CrawlSpaceRepair.com, specializes in products for crawl space encapsulation. He explains that encapsulation refers to installing a vapor barrier and sealing the dirt floor, which will help keep pipes from freezing, improve your house’s air quality and make your home easier (and cheaper) to heat and cool.
What’s more is that encapsulation actually turns your crawl space into a usable space. Instead of having a dirty hole under your house, you have a large and dry storage area.
Leech says that the main problems homeowners face with crawl spaces are mold, crawl space odor, standing water and high humidity. In order to keep the underbelly of your house in top-notch condition, you should be taking proper precautions and being proactive. One of the best ways to do that is through crawl space encapsulation.
How to Encapsulate Your House
Encapsulation can either be done by a professional company or completed by the homeowner. In a video posted by CrawlSpaceRepair.com, we’re reminded that if you go with a professional, it will cost an amount that is “similar to roofing your home.” But if you want to do it yourself, the costs are cut significantly, and you can increase the life of your encapsulation with better products.
If you plan on going the route of hiring a professional to encapsulate your crawl space, you need to make sure you’re using a company or individual that has experience and that uses the proper materials. According to Leech, “The first place to start is meeting with them and hearing about what they think is the problem. If it makes sense to you, get a second and third opinion. Before you select someone, talk to their past customers, both recent and from a few years ago; see if they deliver results. There are lots of smart people out there that don’t have a huge advertising budget. Read their website …”
If, on the other hand, you’re more of a handy person or DIY-er, you should be able to tackle this project yourself. For clear instructions on how to encapsulate a crawl space, check out these 10 expert steps to making it a reality.
Warnings from Experts
Whether you’re working with a professional company or doing this project on your own, make sure the appropriate materials are being used. Specifically, the plastics and tape used to seal the crawl space and foundation need to help control the amount of moisture in the crawl space. Too much water could create mold, while too little could cause a weakened and dry floor structure. And all plastics are not alike.
When looking for encapsulation materials, make sure the company is actually selling the quality they advertise. Some companies will advertise a thicker 12 mil vapor barrier, but it will only actually be 8 mil. According to Leech, this difference will significantly change the longevity of your encapsulated crawl space. When searching for plastic, compare instead the quality by the MSF weight, or pounds of plastic per 1,000 square feet of product.
Other than encapsulation, you may also need a dehumidifier and/or a sump pump in your crawl space. Leech explains that good dehumidifiers will last 8–10 years, while sump pumps will need to be checked each year for slow response or excessive noise. “The ongoing expense is really not that bad and can be quite manageable if you are proactive,” says Leech.
Into the Depths (of the Crawl Space)
Whether you’re a regular to your crawl space or you’ve never gone inside, now could be the perfect time to make it work for you. Get rid of the dangers of mold and water damage while you simultaneously give yourself extra storage. My wife and I are starting the process this summer. We’ll begin by removing all the junk that’s been stored down there for a century. It’s going to take some work, but it’ll be worth it.
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