There are many distinct areas in any given house, but the crawl space us most commonly the least desirable of all places to enter. This explains by they are usually one of the most neglected household areas in regards to maintenance.
In addition to the unattractiveness of the typical craw space and the unpleasant idea of crawling through it, the general lack of understanding as to what its purpose is and what problems can occur in it work to keep it a much neglected area.
Purpose of a crawl space
First, we will review just what is the purpose of a crawl space. All houses have operational systems such as the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Such systems need an area for relatively easy and quick access for maintenance. Houses that do not have a basement (and are not built on a slab) depend on the crawl space to provide accessibility. Being less expensive than a full basement, they are quite common in many parts of the country. The other main function of crawl spaces is to help provide adequate ventilation through out the house. Without ventilation, a slew of problems can occur.
Narrowing our attention on the ventilation issue and leaving the operation systems to experts in those fields, there are several benefits it provides. When there is not adequate ventilation, moisture will eventually build to harmful levels. Moisture is one of the most damaging elements to a house. Excess crawl space moisture can eventually lead to mold and mildew. The intrusion of mold will not be limited just to the crawl area but will slowly work its way to other areas of the house, potentially causing thousands of dollars of damage. Beyond the property damage, mold can cause allergic and respiratory heath issues to the inhabitants.
Another major problem from excess crawl space moisture is that it makes the area more hospitable to pests. From rodents to ants (carpenter and odorous) and termites, pests prefer the damp environment. It is very common for a large pest infestation to take hold before the first signs are noticed.
There are some ways to correct the situation, however. At good starting point is to recognize that the foundation vents are there for a reason. Avoid blocking or sealing them off. Do not assume that the house has enough and can do fine with one or more blocked. The location and number of vents is designed to allow a proper flow. Review the perimeter of your foundation and make sure that all vents are unhindered. If any vent screens are clogged with matter, remove and clean or replace with a new screen
Next, review the crawl space to see if it has a vapor barrier. Often you can get an adequate idea of the general condition by simply leaning into it with a good flashlight can be sometimes be sufficient. If it is in either very bad or very good shape, this often is evident from just a cursory viewing. However, if it is a long or sectioned space with some obstructions, you may be wise to actual get fully inside the space and crawl around inspecting.
A vapor barrier might sound complex but is actually simple enough. Most commonly it is a visqueen barrier laid evenly and securely over the bare dirt. This barrier help stem ground moisture from entering the crawl space. As simple as it sounds, a huge difference in moisture level is accomplished by the proper installation of a vapor barrier.
Furthermore, you might be surprised at how much debris can often end up in a crawlspace during the building process that never gets removed. If some of that debris is wood, particularly if sitting on moist dirt, the eventual rot can be an attraction to pests such as carpenter ants. Rodents can severely disturb or damage a vapor barrier. A good rule of thumb is that every 10 to 15 years the barrier should be changed out or at least thoroughly inspected.
Last of all, an inspection of the foundation for any inadvertent points of entry, such as missing screens or large cracks, will help keep the crawl space pest free.
Paying a little attention to this often-neglected area will help your home thrive as it was intended and avoid some expensive issues.
If all of this sounds good except the part that involves you getting into this cramped, musty space to actually do the work, please give us a call. We will be happy to inspect and correct your crawl space issues. Call us today – 503-968-5950.