Benefits of Crawl Space Encapsulation & Vapor BarriersAug 26, 2016
Ascrawl space contractors and repair experts, we have seen what happens when moisture is left unchecked in a home’s crawl space. And we’re willing to bet that everyone in South Carolina has at one point or another said, “Man, it’s just too humid today!” We know the feeling. And interestingly, your house does too.
Crawl spaces are generally vented to allow moisture to evaporate. Eventually, the moisture that accumulates under your house will dry when the conditions are right, dispersing through the vents and away from your home. While this method is certainly viable, many homeowners are now opting to completely prevent the moisture in the first place by proactively installing a vapor barrier. The goal of installing the vapor barrier is to “seal” off the home’s crawl space – this is called encapsulation.
What is Crawl Space Encapsulation (Vapor Barrier)?
Crawl space encapsulation is the process of forming a protective barrier in the crawl space beneath your home. Our technicians do this by installing a number of vapor barriers in your crawl space. We line the ground, walls, and piles under your home with a heavy duty, 6 mil polyethylene plastic, creating a vapor barrier and sealing it off from the elements and pests around your home. The vapor barrier works to keep out moisture and help the crawl space stay dry.
Why Should You Consider Encapsulating Your Crawl Space?
There are multiple benefits to crawl space encapsulation, but the problems that you may encounter when a crawl space isn’t sealed, like mold, mildew, or pests, are all actually just a byproduct of the real problem – moisture. There are quite a few ways that moisture becomes trapped under your house. A heavy rain or consecutive days of rain are common reasons for sustained crawl space moisture. Another particularly relevant way for moisture to form, especially in the Lowcountry, is through excess humidity. When the air becomes hotter than the surfaces of your crawl space, condensation occurs, trapping moisture beneath your home. Consider these problems that are a direct result of too much moisture in a crawl space:
- Mold and Mildew – Mold spores are everywhere, but only grow under certain conditions. What many people forget about both of these organisms is that they are living things, and require multiple things to be present in order to survive. Mold and mildew need oxygen, warmth, food, and moisture to grow and thrive. When a crawl space is encapsulated and the moisture is under control, mold will find a different place to grow.
- Odor and Allergies – Reducing mold and sealing off the bottom of the house will stop any unwanted odors or particles from leaving the crawl space under your home for the cozy environment above. Many homeowners who have encapsulated their crawl spaces report less sneezing and coughing, as well as a general improvement to the air quality inside their homes.
- Pests – Some pests love the same dank environment that mold enjoys too. Crickets, cockroaches, and worst of all, termites, all thrive in a moist crawl space. As with the mold, if you remove the moisture, the environment that these pests crave in will dry up and they’ll either die or find somewhere else to live.
- Rust – The connection between rust and moisture is pretty obvious. With encapsulation, the metal structures beneath your home will be protected from the elements as well.
In addition to preventing the possible problems listed above, encapsulation provides the following benefits, too:
- Increased Structural Integrity – If the wood beneath your home becomes dry rotted, both the floors of your home and the piles bearing the weight of your home can dramatically weaken. Dry rot will attract termites, and the combination of the two can be a very costly problem. Ultimately, the structure becomes less effective at supporting its load and may have to be repaired or even replaced. Compared to a termite infestation, the cost of encapsulating your crawl space is a bargain.
- Dramatically Increased Energy Efficiency – Speaking of bargains, studies show that homes with encapsulated crawl spaces save around 15% annually on energy costs compared to homes with a vented crawl space. Air conditioning doesn’t work as hard to heat and cool your home and drafts that tend to seep through cracks in the house are sealed and no longer allow unwanted air flow. Basically, an encapsulated crawl space keeps more of the good air in and the bad air out.
We could go on and on about the advantages of crawl space encapsulation, but we think that by now you can see the benefits for yourself. Even if your home was encapsulated when it was built, the initial vapor barriers that were installed may be damaged and in need of repair. At CNT, we both install new vapor barriers and repair old ones.
If you’re thinking of having your crawl space encapsulated or repaired, or want to learn more about the benefits of vapor barriers in your crawl space, please call CNT Foundations in South Carolina for a free estimate. Stay cool everyone!