Virginia is a state for lovers – and for rainstorms. Come winter and spring, you know the sky is going to be gray most of the time. For some residents, gray skies mean more than just a chance for rain. They also mean a flooded crawl space.
The good news is that both the insulating and encapsulating processes can protect your crawl space from excess precipitation. Which process is better, though, and what do each of these processes entail? Let’s break them down so you can decide how best to protect your crawl space from Virginia’s rain.
Insulating Your Crawl Space
The insulation process is a reasonably straightforward one. It requires roughly the same amount of work as the encapsulation process, but it doesn’t change the aesthetic of your crawl space as much. It also serves as a temporary and simple waterproofing solution should your crawl space experience minor leaks in the winter and spring.
The process of insulating your crawl space typically involves the following:
- Dry it out – You can’t start replacing your insulation if your crawl space is still damp. Take a shop vac and do what you can to remove water from the space. In more severe cases, you may need to install a temporary pump to remove water from the premises. Keep an eye out for mold clusters. A damp environment allows mold to grow all the faster, and any clusters will need to be removed and treated before moving on to the next step.
- Plug the leaks – Once your crawl space is dry, examine it for signs of a leak. How is rain runoff getting into your home? If you can find a leak in your wall or at your crawl space’s joints, you’ll need to fill it before moving forward. If you can’t find where a leak is, you’ll want to get in touch with a contractor. It’s possible that water may be coming up through your foundation. If this is the case, your waterproofing process is going to be more complicated – but your insulation process won’t be.
- Rip out old insulation – With the leaks plugged, you’ll need to remove old insulation from your crawl space. This insulation may have been damaged after long-term exposure to water and could be releasing allergens into your home.
- Replace with new insulation – Once you’ve gotten rid of your old insulation, you’ll need to choose an insulation to replace it with. Talk to your contractor about the kinds of insulation you have available to you, but try to find a type that’s waterproof.
Insulate your pipes (and avoid your outlets) – As you install your insulation, be sure to tuck in your pipes. By protecting your pipes from the cold, you’ll be preventing future bursts and leaks. In a similar vein, be sure to avoid insulating electrical circuits or outlets. Insulation is flammable, and the last thing you want to do is go from a leaky crawl space to a crawl space that’s on fire.
- Consider additional waterproofing solutions – Once you’ve finished installing your insulation, consider stacking other waterproofing solutions. You can easily invest in temporary solutions at this stage, including sealants, a French drain, dehumidifiers and more.
The insulation process will do more than just lower your heating bill. When you properly install insulation in your home, you should see fewer leaks coming from your walls and crawl space joints. Again, though, if leaks are getting into your crawl space via the foundation of your home, you’re going to want to talk to a contractor about the more extensive waterproofing options available to you.
Encapsulating Your Crawl Space
If the insulating process is so easy, why would you bother encapsulating your crawl space? The encapsulation process is strictly waterproofing-oriented. While the process will also lower your heating bills, it will do so by removing water from the air and ground in your crawl space.
The encapsulation process usually includes the following steps:
- Dry it out – As with the insulating process, you’re going to need to remove standing water or dampness from your crawl space before getting started. You can install a temporary dehumidifier, at this point, to drive the moisture out of the air.
- Plug the leaks – Similarly, you’re going to need to plug any wall or joint leaks you’re able to find in your crawl space. If you can’t find these on your own, reach out to a contractor. Again, a leak could be coming from your foundation.
- Remove old insulation – Once you’ve plugged the visible leaks, it’s time to remove the old insulation from your crawl space. Again, you need to do so because that insulation may have been damaged by previous flooding.
- Install vapor barriers – Once you’ve finished, you’re going to replace that old insulation with a water barrier. A water barrier looks like a large sheet of white plastic. Coupled with a perimeter drainage system in the crawl space floor and a sump pump system, it helps redirect water away from your home and back out into your lawn.
- Install a dehumidifier – You may optionally consider permanently installing a dehumidifier in your crawl space. Dehumidifiers pull excess moisture from the air and will make your encapsulation work last a while longer.
Consider additional waterproofing solutions – Finally, consider further waterproofing your crawl space, especially if your leaks have been severe in the past. Your various options include a French drain, sump pump, temporary sealants and drainage mats.
Insulation Versus Encapsulation: Which Is Better?
As you can tell, the insulation and encapsulation processes are reasonably similar. Which one, though, is better for your crawl space?
That depends entirely on your home’s needs. Does your crawl space frequently flood to the point where you’re worried about the safety of the belongings you have stored there? Then you’ll want to encapsulate your space. Are your leaks minor? Then the insulation process should serve you well.
Don’t let Virginia’s rains get you down. You can keep your belongings safe in your crawl space, as long as you have the right waterproofing solutions in place.