Does your home have a crawl space? Have you ever wondered about the condition of your crawl space or if your crawl space is affecting the energy efficiency of your home? Crawl spaces are a common foundational aspect of residential homes that when not maintenanced, can have a negative impact on your homes energy levels, structural integrity and ventilation systems. Understanding the science behind crawl spaces and what you can do to ensure your homes stability in all these areas is key. Here we will overview the science behind crawl spaces and why a crawl space may need to be encapsulated.
Crawl Space Science
What many people don’t know is that crawl spaces can affect your home air quality, in fact, up to 50% of the air they breathe on the first floor of their home comes from this space. This means that people are breathing in whatever is under their homes. Crawl spaces were once thought of as a solution to relieve built up humidity and moisture levels in the home by creating vents that opened up the crawl space to receive fresh air flow. These vents are often seen around homes with metal, mesh or wood coverings along the outer exterior of the home, resting just underneath the main floor. Though these vents do allow for circulation, they also allow for spiders, carpenter ants, fleas and other small insects as well as a pathway for small animals and rodents to enter the home.
Outside of the possible critters and insects that can enter, the vented areas don’t just allow for fresh circulated air. During the colder fall and winter months, frigid air is allowed to enter into the crawlspace causing cold flooring on the first floor as the air rises. Hot water pipes, heating ducts and water heaters become exposed to this cold air causing utilities to work overtime and therefore increasing energy expenditure. In warmer, hot seasons the air becomes humid causing condensation on exposed wood beams, pipes and cool surfaces. When this happens it becomes a breeding ground for mold which can travel quickly to common living spaces and affect those living inside the home. Furthermore, if a homes ducting system is located within the crawl space, any potential leaks will allow for unconditioned air to be drawn into the conditioning system increasing energy expenditure up to 30%. This air contributes to higher humidity levels and moisture within the crawl space which over time can lead to damage in your homes structural integrity.
What is Encapsulation
Crawl space encapsulation is the use of vapor barrier (industrial-tear resistant polyethylene) that covers and seals the surface of your crawl space to keep out moisture. The vapor barrier is laid down covering the entire floor of the crawl space as well as lining the foundational walls and sealed with vapor barrier tape or chalking. Any plumbing that comes up from the ground as well as supports are typically covered.
Why Crawl Spaces Need to be Encapsulated
The purpose of vapor barrier is to control the environment of the crawl space, so humidity and moisture do not build up, causing damage to a homes foundational structure. This, along with creating energy efficiency, is why crawl spaces need to be encapsulated. Encapsulated crawl spaces are proven to be better at controlling moisture that enters via the ground or air that intrudes from the outdoors. This aids in reducing musty smells and allergens that are caused by mold; improving the quality of air that you breathe. When vapor barrier is put into place your home is healthier for the entire family and structurally reassured.
When thinking of having your crawl space encapsulated you will want to take into consideration the area that is being covered. The amount of space covered with vapor barrier is what generally plays a part in the cost of installation. Crawl space encapsulation is a labor intensive job, so the square footage underneath your home matters. Quality vapor barrier should be used to ensure the longevity and durability of the product.