When homeowners seal up their vented crawl space, they quickly forget how cold or musty their living rooms were. So they sit back and relax, enjoying the fresh air and comfort of their homes. Concern can quickly give way to neglect, and when neglect runs its course, your crawl space can start falling apart. Ultimately, you’ll find yourselves dealing with the same problems you were trying to avert.
Taking care of your plastic vapor barrier is the first step toward creating a healthy and dry crawl space that is less hospitable to mold and pests. In this post, we’ll highlight signs of defective encapsulation and measures you can take to protect yours.
Signs of a Damaged Crawl Space Encapsulation
A damaged crawl space vapor barrier will always announce itself. A once-warm home may start feeling cold. You may also find yourself running your heater longer in colder months and constantly running the air conditioner during the warmer summertime. Other telltale signs that suggest something is wrong with your encapsulation include:
- Damp insulation material
- Rotting wood beams and joists
- Mold and mildew growth
- Peeling wall paint
- Cold floors and walls
- Pungent or musty smells
- Scratch marks (suggests pest activity)
Many homeowners assume that a crawl space vapor barrier can hold up for 20-25 years because it’s made of heavy-duty plastic. Accidents can happen, pests can tear up this space, and leaky pipes can introduce moisture. In other words, sealing the crawl space doesn’t take away the risk factors.
Taking Care of Your Crawl Space Encapsulation
With your crawl space all sealed up and clean, the hard part is now over. You’ll start seeing this space in a new light. Some people even fancy converting it into storage or a pantry. Don’t bring any food down there or any sharp workshop tools. Food may attract pests, while pointed tools can rupture the plastic barrier. Get a toolbox and leave your food in your kitchen or pantry.
Encapsulating the crawl space doesn’t totally eliminate the other risk factors that could propagate moisture or water. We’re talking about leaking pipes and ducts and cracks on your walls. All these can still introduce water into the crawl space. Ensure that you seal cracks and insulate your water pipes and ductwork.
Summers are typically hot and humid across Virginia Beach, VA, meaning humidity levels can go through the roof. You need to maintain a healthy humidity level, usually in the range of 45-50%. Otherwise, moisture can lead to condensation and other problems that can affect your health or damage your home. To condition the crawl space and tame moisture, install a dehumidifier.
Ensure your gutters channel water away from your home and that sidewalks slope so water can flow away from the crawl space. To prevent flooding, which can happen when a water pipe bursts, install an interior drainage system and sump pump.
Insulate the Crawl Space
Crawl space insulation is the key to regulating indoor temperature. Insulating the underside of your home via the crawl space will significantly improve the indoor climate. Summers will feel cool while winters will be warm. Different materials exist for different scenarios. Go for rigid panels with R-10 insulation material like ExTremeBloc™. Ensure it doesn’t obstruct foundation vents as it could lock in radon, a dangerous gas.
Decrease Pests’ Interest In Your Home
Ensure pests and crawling insects have a difficult time trying to get into the crawl space. Sealing helps, but it’s not enough to deter them. Clear any bushes or hedges around the home and block the path of pests. Set mouse traps to catch rats and mice, or eliminate them using pesticides. Once pest numbers go down, they won’t be as much of a threat.
As you clear debris on the inside, don’t forget the rocks and jagged wood on the outside. These can tear up and damage your plastic barrier, and open up your crawl space to pest infestation. Don’t forget organic materials such as newspapers or old carton boxes. Termites love these, so you can be sure they will chew them before setting their eyes on the crawl space.
Not only does crawl space maintenance keep your air healthy, but it can also save you money on repairs and electricity. If you have questions concerning your crawl space or need help with crawl space care, get in touch with us to schedule a free crawl space inspection in Virginia Beach, VA.