Crawl spaces allow humidity into the crawl space in the summer and cold air into the area during the wintertime. This leads to mold, rot, and decay in the space, and a continuous drain on your utility bills. Additionally, open crawl space vents will allow animals and insects into the home, creating a significant problem in your home. However, these problems can be solved by eliminating humidity. Click to read about why crawl spaces rot and vented crawl spaces don't work, Click to read about pests in crawl spaces, Click to read about crawl space mold, or you can read on to learn the steps of crawl space encapsulation.
Because of the crawl space vents, simply putting a dehumidifier in the space cannot do the trick- new air will simply continue to flow in from the outside. There are four important steps to fixing a moldy crawl space before it becomes a major problem.
Step 1: Seal off the Crawl Space Vents and Doors
Sealing off crawl space vents will stop the vicious cycle of moisture and cold from coming into your crawl space. Your home will become more energy efficient, and the humidity entering into the space from the outside will be greatly reduced. However, moisture will still enter the crawl space through the walls and floors, and much of it can be trapped there.
Old-fashioned crawl space doors are rarely airtight. Be sure to remember to seal off the door with a new, airtight door when you're sealing the vents. This will ensure that the entire crawl space is protected from outside influences.
Step 2: Stop Crawl Space Flooding and Remove any Standing Water
If you have flooding in the crawl space, it must be stopped. Installing a sump pump in the crawl space with a drainage swale running to the mechanism is a great way to take care of groundwater flooding into the crawl space. Click to learn more about sump pump systems.
Plumbing failures can also be a problem in the space. Since most homeowners do not enter their crawlspaces on a regular basis, days, weeks, and sometimes months can pass with a leaky pipe that goes undetected. Be sure to fix all existing plumbing leaks as you repair the crawl space.
Step 3: Encapsulate the Crawl Space
To prevent moisture from coming up from the crawl space walls and floors, a tough, durable plastic vapor barrier should be installed on all the walls and floors. This barrier should be at least 15mil thick to be able to withstand regular use from the homeowner and servicemen without tearing or ripping. Ideally, the barrier would also be white in color, as that makes the best use of available lighting. A clear plastic cap can be installed on the tops of block walls to allow vapor barrier protection while still allowing termite inspectors to inspect the area.
A good vapor barrier should be installed along with a drain in the bottom and a water alarm. This will ensure that, in the case of a plumbing failure, the water does not fill up the inside of the barrier without your knowing. The drain can send the water away, while the alarm sounds off, warning you of the problem.
Step 4: Install a Dehumidifier
With the vents sealed off and the space surrounded by a vapor barrier, you will still need a way to keep the area dry and free of trapped moisture. A reliable crawl space dehumidifier should be installed in the space to take care of any potential problems. Be sure to install one that is self-draining, as you wont' want to be going in the space every day to empty a collection tray. Click for tips on buying a dehumidifier!