Introducing part two of series on saving on heating and cooling your home by fixing your crawl space. In part one, we learned why crawl spaces are a big energy waster and that building code regulations may influence what you can do about them. Part two gives us an action plan of just what to do to stop moisture problems and save energy.
This is guest written by Cynthia Freeney, who is a content developer at Basement Systems Inc the world’s leading developer and provider of basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, foundation repair and basement finishing solutions.
How to keep moisture out of your crawl space.
Now that we talked about problems caused by dirt and vented crawl spaces, we are ready to discuss the ways to solve them. And as you will see, you can reap all the benefits in health and savings without going through expensive and disruptive home improvement projects like the ones you’d eventually have to face if the crawl space was left open (replacing rotten or termite infested floor joists, flooring, carpet, mold removal jobs, etc…). But here’s some advice:
You can only do it yourself if:
Otherwise, find a good, reliable, and experienced contractor to do the job. Especially if you have combustion appliances (water heater, furnace) in the crawl space. And consider this as an investment that will pay for itself in energy savings alone.
There are 3 steps to completely avoid the problems caused by dirt and vented crawl spaces, and keep them from ruining your home, health and budget:
Step One – Locate and fix any existing water leakage
Step Two – Isolate the house from the earth
Step Three – Seal the vents.
Fixing ground water leakage means locating the source and providing a reliable drainage system to get the water out and away from your foundation. Check your crawl space for puddles, water marks or erosion patterns that might indicate water infiltration.
If there is ground water leakage, the next step is to have a sump pump installed and have the water diverted to it. The sump pump needs to be placed in a sump liner at the lowest part of the crawl space. Dirt can be moved around as to level up the other areas so that the water is diverted to the sump pump.
The choice of sump pumps and liners here will determine how efficient the drainage system is. We recommend at least a cast-iron sump pump, fitted in a sturdy perforated sump liner. The liner needs a sturdy airtight lid that will keep the water contained in the liner from evaporating back into your crawl space.
The ideal system would include a battery operated back up sump pump, which will work in case of power outages. Add an alarm for extra peace of mind. Basement Systems Inc. offers the UltraSump System that includes a battery operated back up pump, capable of pumping over 11000 gallons out of your crawl space, from the energy stored in the specially sealed, long-term standby battery.
Second Step: Isolate the house from the earth.
After solving your water leakage problem, and creating a good diverting route for any incoming water, the next step is to completely isolate your house from the earth. This is done by using a plastic crawl space liner. This will keep the moisture from the earth and outside air out of the crawl space.
Some building codes ask for the liner to be at least 6mil thick. 6 mil plastic is what many contractors use, because it is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. But, 6 mil liners are also known to rip as people crawl over them and they can be pulled down from the walls way too easily.
This is something to keep in mind if you have things like a water heater in your crawl space and need to crawl in frequently to maintain it. You might need to replace or repair the liner every time. I also don’t believe that any 6 mil liners have UV protection and thus become brittle and deteriorate within a couple years.
The best approach here is to choose thick, puncture-proof 20 mil liners like the CleanSpace. It was developed exclusively for this purpose. CleanSpace has multiple layers, is UV protected, and treated with a safe anti-microbial component that prevents mold growth.
A CleanSpace lined crawl space can be used as storage, something that home owners would never think of doing in a dirt crawl space.
Whatever your choice, be sure to remove any organic materials from the surface before installing the liner, as well as rocks, sharp objects, etc. Even if your liner is puncture proof, you wouldn’t want to kneel on these things when crawling around your encapsulated crawl space. We recommend you use mechanical fasteners, rather than just plain adhesives to hold the plastic over concrete walls. And then use mastic tape to completely seal the seams.
The photo on the left shows what your crawl space can look like.
Third Step: Seal those Vents!
Remember Energy Boomer’s findings about the energy savings obtained by plugging your basement windows with insulated tightly fitted covers? Guess what. That works for crawl spaces too.
You really want to keep the outside air out year round. In the winter due to cold air infiltration and in the summer due to high humidity and potential moisture build up. Trust me: your home will do much better without all that “fresh” outdoor air coming in through those vents for all the reasons we discussed in this series of posts.
Therefore, go ahead and seal the crawl space vents. The easiest way to do it is with CleanSpace vent covers. Make sure the doors or access hatches you use to get inside the crawl space are also sealed tight. Then proceed to seal every possible seam and joint that might allow the air to get in.
Depending on where you live and how bad the moisture is year round, you might want to install a dehumidifier in your crawl space. In some cases, a simple and less-expensive crawl space conditioning system like the Crawl-O-Sphere may suffice.
Attention! Crawl Space Don’t’s:
Don’t put a vapor barrier or rigid insulation board on the ceiling of your crawl space (unless your home is on stilts).
Don’t close the vents without sealing the earth off.
Don’t seal the earth off without closing the vents.
Never use a fan to blow outside air into your crawl space.
Don’t install a liner (or concrete) without removing all organic material from the dirt floor first.
Don’t depressurize a space that has combustion appliances (furnace, water heater) in it (more than one pascal). Those appliances need a consistent supply of air to burn. Some newer models come with venting ducts but for the old ones you will need to provide air vents, preferably installed in the ceiling of your crawl space as to suck in air from the floor above. A combustion air supply unit, like the “In-forcer” (www.tjernlund.com) is another good option. A carbon monoxide detector is also a must in those cases. If you’re not sure on how to do it properly and safely, please contact a crawl space encapsulation professional.
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