One of the most overlooked and forgotten areas in a house is the crawlspace, yet when damage occurs to this little area, significant problems in the rest of your home can arise. Crawlspaces are the perfect haven for nesting rodents and pests and are breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Between these hidden destroyers and the often silent settling of your foundation, by the time you realize there’s damage to your crawlspace, it’s often an expensive fix.
Ruined insulation due to rodent infestations or mold can create health concerns for you and your family, but fixing the damage can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Other crawlspace issues, such as repairs necessary due to settling foundations or moisture, can come with a price tag that runs up to $15,000.
With these costs, it’s tempting to try to repair your crawlspace yourself. But there’s a reason for the hefty prices – a professional is getting to the root of the problem to prevent additional, possibly devastating, damage to the rest of your house. If even the tiniest mistake is made, the damage can spread beyond your crawlspace.
What’s the Big Deal Behind the Crawlspace, Anyway?
The importance of crawlspaces was understood quickly centuries ago. This small area, typically high enough for the occupant to literally crawl around in, works similarly to a basement. It acts as your home’s foundation if it wasn’t built on a slab. Crawlspaces are necessary in order for air to circulate and for repairs to be made to plumbing, installation, and electrical needs.
The location of your crawlspace can vary depending on how old your home is, how high it is, where it is geographically located, and what it’s used for (commercial buildings will have different crawlspace locations and uses than homes, for instance).
In some situations, crawlspaces can be used for storing items you don’t use often, like holiday decorations. But if your crawlspace is built on nothing but earth, many types of materials can get ruined. The damp soil can permeate cardboard boxes, certain insulations, some wood flooring, and other items.
Your crawlspace has access to your entire home in one way or another, so any damage to this important area must be addressed quickly.
How Can a Crawlspace Have Damage?
If it’s a simple area made of earth, surely it couldn’t be that difficult to fix, right? Absolutely wrong. There are so many ways your crawlspace can become damaged, and that damage can quickly spread to the rest of your house. Here are just a few of the typical types of repairs professionals commonly see in homes and businesses.
- Foundational settling. When your foundation settles or sinks, which is common, especially in the early years of a new home, you’ll need professional help fast. These signs are usually spotted in the form of cracks or leaks.
To fix a settling or sinking foundation, the professional will have to secure it with a pier or pile or may be able to mudjack it. These fixes can range from $500 to $5000, depending on the damage already done.
- Damage from infestations. No matter where you live, there are pests that will infiltrate your home for shelter and warmth. Squirrels, rats, birds, insects, and other animals are attracted to your crawlspace because it offers the magical safety of both warm air and moisture.
Trying to eliminate pests yourself isn’t easy and it’s also not the preferred choice of the squeamish or soft-hearted. Without pest control, though, you’re looking at significant damage to your home. A professional pest control expert will cost you between $100 and $400, depending on the level of infestation. This is a steal compared to the thousands of dollars of damage rodents can do in a short period of time.
- Mold damage. Mold reproduces through spores in the air, which makes it difficult to detect early on and almost impossible to get rid of yourself. It’s also a serious health hazard. The mold spores will spread throughout your house via your air ducts and you’ll be breathing them in for days, weeks, or even months before you become aware of it.
Mold removal costs depend on the extent of the damage. They can run anywhere from $500 to $3,000. But preventing the health problems that are caused by mold is priceless.
- Water damage. Water can infiltrate your home as sneakily as pests do. Minor leaks in your crawlspace will spread quickly and cause damage if not detected early. Flooding caused by natural events or pipe damage can be extensive, too.
Because water damage is expensive, many people choose to waterproof their crawlspaces. This prevention deters problems caused by water and can reduce your exposure to mold. Not every crawlspace is waterproofed. If you are concerned that yours could benefit from this preventative measure, get help from Helitech Online or another professional expert.
How Do You Know if You Need to Waterproof Your Crawlspace?
Scientists who study energy efficiency in buildings recommend adding waterproofing to crawlspaces. With the added focus of reducing your carbon footprint and helping the ecosystem, waterproofing is an important step. This prevention reduces wasted energy that gets through your crawlspace and deters problems like pests and moisture.
Look for signs that your crawlspace may benefit from waterproofing. Some signs are subtle but others are more obvious. They may include:
- High electric bills that hint at a leak somewhere in your home,
- Standing water on the floor of your crawlspace,
- Wet soil on the ground in your crawlspace,
- Mold and mildew in your home,
- Wood rot damage,
- Problems with your floor that may be attributed to shifting foundations or rotting wood,
- Decreased insulation,
- Odd smells that point to possible moisture issues,
- Prevalent insects that just don’t seem to go away,
- More dust mites than the average home should have, often showing up as increased allergies, and
- A noticeable decline in the quality of your indoor air.
When any of these signs are regular problems, you should consider waterproofing your crawlspace.
What Does Waterproofing Include?
The solutions that come with waterproofing depend on the system and company you go to for help. Most crawlspace repair solutions include basic components such as:
- Sump pump systems – To prevent water from causing damage if it ends up in the crawlspace and to get rid of the damage that’s already there, waterproofing should include a sump pump system with a battery backup.
- Dehumidifying systems – Dehumidifiers are necessary to dry out your crawl space. This is crucial if you have a crawlspace built on bare earth since it will always be at least slightly damp. A dehumidifying system is set in place to dry out the air and then keep it maintained at a predetermined humidity level to control the air conditions and prevent mold and mildew growth.
- Drains along the perimeter of the crawlspace. These specifically placed drain pipes are created to catch any seepage that comes from the wall or the floor in your crawlspace.
- Floor matting. Matting is necessary for drainage, but it comes in different materials. Most drainage matting is in the form of a specially designed plastic sheet that enhances the drainage process. It’s an important component of the whole system since if the floor doesn’t drain well, the entire crawlspace is in danger of being damaged.
Whichever company you choose to work with, make sure that their waterproofing system includes these basic components at a minimum.
Other variations of waterproofing include vapor barriers and encapsulation systems. Encapsulating a crawlspace seals the surface from the outside with a vapor barrier. This process encompasses the sealing of any vent, crack, seam, or hole that lets air or moisture into the crawlspace.
Vapor barriers can be installed on their own, but the sealing is thinner and some moisture may be able to get in. With sealing and encapsulation, you can prevent termite damage, electrical damage caused by rodents and pests, and decreased air quality.
An Ounce of Prevention…
As with everything in life, spending a little extra from the start to prevent problems will save you headaches and money in the long run. Waterproofing your foundation will cost you between $1,000 and $5,000 on average, but the potential to save you thousands of dollars in damages is well worth the upfront costs.
Sometimes your crawlspace can double as a basement or storage room if you want to renovate it completely. To remodel your crawlspace and turn it into a basement, you’ll want to have a professional make the structural changes and ensure it is waterproofed fully. Being proactive with your renovations will let you avoid significant damage in the future.
Of course, the importance of waterproofing your crawlspace depends on a number of factors that are individual to you and your home. If you’re looking into waterproofing, repairing, or cleaning this important area of your house, contact a reputable professional. Any investment you make into upgrading your crawlspace is money well spent; after all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.