Your property’s crawl space is the epicenter for your home’s internal systems. Your home’s plumbing, electrics, HVAC systems and vents, and drainage systems all congregate in this space. As such, it is important to ensure this area is protected. The good news is encapsulation is one of the most effective ways to protect your crawl space (and by extension, your home) from the changeable seasons in Mobile, Alabama.
Encapsulation is a preventative solution to dampness, humidity, and flooding in your property’s crawl space and is a common procedure in newer and older homes. In fact, most homes in the U.S. have some level of waterproofing and encapsulation in place already, unless they are older properties in need of serious renovation. Understanding the methods of encapsulating your crawl space is key to reaping the benefits it provides.
What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation?
Crawl space encapsulation is a process of waterproofing that involves lining the walls and floor with sheets of thick, tear-resistant polyethylene plastic that essentially seals the inside of the crawl space. This has many benefits for a home and has become one of the most common home improvement procedures in Alabama, and the rest of the United States.
Encapsulation v. Waterproofing
Waterproofing and encapsulation go hand in hand and share many principles and processes, but there are a few key differences. The process of encapsulation refers to the installation of products that seal your crawl space and create an interior bubble of sorts. Installing vapor barriers and vent covers, for example, are encapsulation processes.
Waterproofing, however, tends to be a process of wider scope and refers to anything that prevents water from making its way into your home or removes it from your home, either in liquid or gaseous form. Upgrading your drainage systems, installing a dehumidifier, and insulating your crawl space can all be classed as a waterproofing process, for example.
How Are Crawl Spaces Encapsulated?
While the actual process of encapsulation is short and simple, there are a few processes that are often carried out in conjunction with encapsulation as a part of wider waterproofing measures. They generally include, but are not limited to:
Insulation is an integral part of any crawl space encapsulation for several reasons. Insulating exposed pipes, for example, can play a huge part in preventing them from cracking and bursting during the coldest months of the year. Meanwhile, insulating your floors and walls will stabilize the temperature inside your crawl space and contribute to generally lower levels of humidity, thanks to the water-retardant nature of foam insulation.
Vents and Doors
Properties that have exposed or open crawl space vents and external access doors in their crawl spaces are far more likely to experience issues with dampness, humidity, and all the issues that they can contribute to. This is partly because of how they allow water to get into your crawl space during storms, but mainly because of the stack effect and how it can cause condensation.
As such, covering crawl space vents and upgrading crawl space doors to be waterproof and weather resistant is an important part of waterproofing. This will ensure the encapsulation process gets the desired results in the long run.
Drainage and Dehumidification
Upgrading your property’s drainage capabilities and dehumidifying the space is crucial to ensuring that the process of waterproofing and encapsulation is successful. This can mean installing drainage mats and perimeter drains or even installing a sump pump system. Proactively removing water from your crawl space will seriously reduce relative humidity, but if your crawl space is still a little humid, our specialists may also suggest that you install an energy-efficient dehumidifier. These come in all sizes and power levels and will ensure a safe, dry, clean space in your home.
Once all these tasks have been undertaken, your home will be far less prone to dampness, humidity, and all the associated issues that generally go hand in hand with them (like mold and mildew, for example).
When Is Encapsulation Needed?
These days the majority of homes already have some level of waterproofing and encapsulation. There are still some older properties that have exposed crawl spaces, but this is uncommon. These are the most common reasons for waterproofing and encapsulation:
If you already have waterproofing and encapsulation measures in your home, one of the main reasons that you may need to revisit it is because of damage. Sump pump breakdown, a loose or cracked crawl space door, internal plumbing leaks, and foundation damage can all cause a previously dry, safe, secure crawl space to become damp, humid, and unhealthy. In these cases, the underlying damage will need to be dealt with before you can replace or repair the waterproofing measures in your crawl space.
Some older properties and properties that have been empty for a prolonged period may still have exposed crawl spaces. In these cases, you will need to encapsulate and waterproof your home for the first time to ensure that your home is protected, but first, it will be necessary to have a professional look for signs of damage. If you simply cover up the damage with vapor barriers and insulation, it will grow unseen and unchecked inside your home. This will cause a world of trouble further down the line.
Most waterproofing and encapsulation products have long lifespans, but there is a point at which they will start to become less and less effective. This process of deterioration is natural, but it will put your home in danger as it progresses. Having your home assessed and maintained regularly is important to ensuring that your home stays in good condition even when the weather is extreme.
The reasons for choosing to encapsulate your property (either for the first time or to upgrade your current waterproofing systems) can differ greatly depending on your situation. Therefore, we recommend that you talk to a professional about the process and its potential benefits as well as the costs.
What Are the Benefits of Crawl Space Encapsulation?
The benefits of crawl space encapsulation and waterproofing are many, and the benefits you personally see most may differ based on several factors. Nonetheless, there are positive effects that you can expect to see, no matter the size or state of your home.
Lower Crawl Space Humidity
One of the biggest benefits of crawl space encapsulation is how it drastically cuts dampness and humidity in your crawl space. This is a benefit that you will see almost immediately, but its effects will be amplified over time. Dry crawl spaces are, primarily, less prone to fungal growth and corrosion, but they are also less attractive to most pests. What’s more, if your crawl space is fully encapsulated, it will also be much harder for pests to gain entry at all. This makes your crawl space safer, cleaner, and generally more pleasant.
Increased Energy Efficiency
One of the less-discussed benefits of crawl space encapsulation is that it impacts the energy efficiency of your home in a positive way. Arid air is easier to process than humid air. That means that your HVAC system can produce a better result using the same amount of power, or less than it needed when humidity levels were higher. This will not only lower your energy bills but will decrease the rate of wear and tear your HVAC systems experience.
Stable Internal Climate
While your crawl space can feel like a separate space entirely, it has a significant impact on the rest of your home. As the humidity levels in your crawl space drop, so will the levels of humidity in your home. This will have many impacts, but the most noticeable one is likely to be how your property’s climate stabilizes. Temperature fluctuations and humidity fluctuations will be less common because the stack effect will no longer be at work. This will also contribute directly to your energy efficiency levels by increasing heat and cold retention within your property.
One unique benefit of crawl space encapsulation is the fact that using the right vapor barriers (thick, tear-resistant, and reinforced) will allow you to use your crawl space as a storage space. This is something not many people consider, but when you think about the bulky seasonal items that clutter our homes throughout the year, being able to tuck them away safely in the crawl space is a huge benefit.
Crawl space encapsulation and waterproofing are incredibly beneficial processes for any home, especially when they are undertaken by trained professionals who know exactly what they are doing. Finding the right professional to help you is key. This is where we come in.
Crawl Space Encapsulation
Crawl space access points and vents are some of the leading causes of dampness and humidity in crawl spaces around Knoxville, Tennessee. In fact, they are one of the most common causes of dampness and humidity across the U.S.
The Stack Effect
One of the most subtle ways that open vents in your crawl space can cause humidity is via the stack effect. The stack effect is a phenomenon that we started to observe in the early 1990s and it was, in fact, one of the reasons that it stopped being best practice to install crawl space vents into newly built homes. Also called the chimney effect, the stack effect creates a channel of moving air from the top of a property to the bottom, which in turn disrupts the balance of your home.
This has a lot to do with thermal changes. When you use your HVAC system to heat your home, for example, the warm air rises. In a home that is not being impacted by the stack effect, this air movement will continue until all the air is roughly the same heat, at which point it will settle. When the stack effect is at work, warm air will continually rise until it exits your home and draws in cold air from below. This colder air is often damp and will, over time, create a damp and humid environment. In summer, this process reverses and causes cooled air to sink and exit the home while pulling in warm air from outside.
There is also the matter of storms, heavy rainfall, snowmelt, and flooding. While crawl space vents were designed to minimize the amount of actual water that passed through them, they do little to prevent it. This means that a very heavy thaw or a period of stormy weather can lead to a crawl space flooding with surprising ease. Once a crawl space has taken on water, it will need to be fully drained and dehumidified to prevent issues.
The problem is that many crawl spaces that are not encapsulated do not have robust and proactive drainage and dehumidification systems in place. This means it can be hard to fully remove water once it has made its way into a home. This is one of the more obvious ways open vents can damage a home over a relatively brief period of time.
Whether you have just bought a home with open vents or wooden crawl space doors, or started to become concerned about the health of the property you have been living in for years, there really is no time like the present. Acting quickly could save you a lot of money as well as additional problems down the road.
Waiting Can Cause Problems
We urge you not to wait when it comes to your crawl space. Covering your crawl space vents and encapsulating the space is a relatively small task that any professional can undertake in a brief period at a relatively low cost. Waiting, however, can be very expensive indeed.
Once dampness has taken root in your crawl space, it is likely to develop at an alarming speed. Homes with damp crawl spaces are far more likely to experience issues with pest infestation, mold, wood rot, and appliance breakdowns. All these issues are avoidable with the proper crawl space encapsulation.
Prevent Damage with Speedy Action
The benefits of crawl space encapsulation are incredible when you consider how easy and cost-effective the process is. Acting quickly when you notice issues with your property’s crawl space is one of the best things that you can do to minimize and prevent damage. In fact, it could even protect your health and well-being by preventing toxic fungal spores from spreading through your home.
While wood rot will lead to sagging floors and walls, black mold is virulently toxic and durable. This fungal growth could cause migraines, headaches, dizziness, fainting, respiratory issues, infections, and even seizures. As is generally the case with these things, those who are already vulnerable are the most at risk of serious side effects when it comes to mold exposure. If you have young children or elderly in your home, encapsulation should be a priority.
If you are looking to encapsulate your crawl space, we recommend that you contact a professional to undertake the process on your behalf. This is far more effective and efficient. Trying to go it alone could have disastrous consequences.
DIY Encapsulation Can Go Wrong
Waterproofing and encapsulation are straightforward processes, but that doesn’t mean this is an easy task that should be undertaken by just anyone. This process can go wrong very quickly and will cause serious issues when it does. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is to skip the inspection phase or to fail to inspect homes thoroughly. In order for encapsulation to be successful, it is important that you diagnose all damage and repair it.
If you do not notice and repair all structural and internal damage, you will either cover up the warning signs or create an environment that traps moisture and incubates any spores that find their way inside. When this happens, the process of things like wood rot will be accelerated. Worse still, the signs of structural damage or underlying issues will be covered up until they cause some form of collapse in the wider structure of your home.
Professionals Have the Right Skills
As well as having the ability to diagnose all underlying and co-occurring issues, professionals have the tools and skills to repair things like foundation damage and wood rot in a safe and effective manner. This means that by the time they start encapsulating your crawl space, your home will be in better condition than before they arrived. This guarantees that your waterproofing and encapsulation will be more durable in the long run.
Call AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists for Expert Encapsulation
If you have heard about the benefits of crawl space encapsulation and you want to find out what this process will look like for your home, a call to AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists should be at the top of your to-do list. Our team has been helping property owners to waterproof and encapsulate their properties since 2000 and has built relationships with some of the best product manufacturers in the country.
When you work with us, you can be certain that you will get the best possible results for your home, no matter how big or complex the job is. Every process starts with a free inspection appointment. This is undertaken so that our team can arrive at your home with all the information they need to begin work right away. All appointments come with a written estimate of the costs and no obligation to book. We’re happy to serve Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama, and Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, Tennessee.
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