Should I Encapsulate my Crawlspace?
The short of it is YES, however, different companies may have different definitions or products aimed at the same objective – the creation of a clean, dry, healthy, and efficient crawl space. For FLC Energy, we often recommend “Conditioned Crawlspaces” over “Encapsulated Crawlspaces”
In my view, an encapsulation refers to a crawl space that manages bulk water and relative humidity. These crawlspaces prevent rot, mold, the smell of soil gases, and even some pests. They are not heated and cooled like the rest of the home, and although the moisture is under control, they are not within the home’s conditioned space. Typically, the insulation would still be installed in the crawlspace floor in this scenario, and they’re not as efficient as a conditioned system.
Controlling Bulk Water and Moisture in a Crawlspace
- Ground Water – often addressed by laying a vapor barrier or plastic on the crawl space floor.
- Condensation – Condensation forms when warm, highly humid air hits a cold surface like air ducts, plumbing pipes, HVAC equipment, etc.
- Foundation / Footer Water – this refers to water entering the crawl space through exterior cinder block or concrete walls, which can be resolved in various ways inside and outside the crawl space.
To control serious water issues in a crawlspace, you’ll need sump pump(s) and/or a French drain system. These solutions are frequently installed in crawl spaces with standing water.
Some it’s wise to install a sump pump without any standing water present in your crawlspace. If you’ve ever had a pipe-break, or a flood in your home, you know how difficult it is to remove the water once its under your house. A sump-pump could help capture that water and prevent the floor.
Regulating Humidity in a Crawl Space (No More Condensation!)
There are an awful lot of opinions out there, but FLC Energy always recommends installing a dehumidifier. Even when truly conditioning a crawlspace with the home’s HVAC system, or creating pathways between the inside of the home and the crawlspace, a dehumidifier should still be installed. This is especially important on newer, air-tight homes.
Even with a dehumidifier, it’s crucial to monitor its effectiveness. You should install a remote humidity reader or hygrometer to track the relative humidity in your crawl space daily. The same applies to a crawl space dehumidifier, fan, or conditioning with an HVAC supply and return vent. These systems can send alerts directly to your cell phone in the event of a high relative humidity, and even a low temperature (Maybe someone left the door open).
Preventing Mold and Rot
It’s actually very common to find both of these issues in most crawlspace, given the climate in which they exist. Most of these spaces are consistently damp and suffer from high humidity levels. However, if a crawl space is designed from the outset to efficiently manage water and humidity, the likelihood of mold or fungus is next to impossible. Unfortunately, most existing crawlspaces, and even those in new construction are being built based on outdated science and practices.
To wrap up, a crawlspace encapsulation is a process that can significantly enhance the health and efficiency of your home. This involves controlling water intrusion from various sources like ground water, foundation water, condensation, and even leaks from above. Regulating humidity is crucial, and this can be achieved by installing a dehumidifier and even conditioning the space with the central HVAC system. Monitoring these methods is vital to ensure their effectiveness.
One of the significant problems associated with uncontrolled humidity and water intrusion is the growth of mold and wood rot fungus. These issues are more prevalent in crawl spaces that are damp or have high humidity. Unfortunately, if this is left untreated, it can cause building defects and impact your family’s health.
Thus, for optimal energy efficiency and health benefits, it’s crucial to consider encapsulating or conditioning your crawlspace.