How To Encapsulate A Crawl Space

You’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time. It’s sure to be one that you won’t soon forget.

It has taken hours for you to prepare this meal to the utmost perfection. It took days to get the decorating just right and the house looking spotless. The invitations and party planning were all weeks in the making.

It’s been a lot of hard work, but as your guests file in, thoroughly impressed, you think that it will have all been worth it.

And that’s when it happens.

Maybe one of your air ducts has become backed up. Maybe one of the fans in your HVAC have failed. Maybe your crawl space has become clogged and cluttered. Whatever the reason may be, your guests soon start to notice that there’s something not quite right about the air quality in your home. Dust fills the air, leaving guests coughing away and wrinkling their noses at the nasty odor and your suddenly-unsavory home.

You’d been looking forward to this night for a long time. It’s certainly now one that you won’t soon forget.

For all the wrong reasons.

You never want an evening to go like that, which is why it is of the utmost importance to make sure that the air quality in your home is maintained at maximum freshness. That means making sure that your HVAC, air ducts, and crawl space are all spotless and working in top shape.

That’s why you’ll want to invest in crawl space encapsulation.

What Is Crawl Space Encapsulation?

First of all, it’s fair to ask – what exactly is crawl space encapsulation, and how does it work? Simply put, crawl space encapsulation is the process by which your crawl space is more definitively separated from your living space. While your crawl space is typically below your living space, and thus separated to a certain extent already, dust, mold, pests, and other small particles and home invaders can nevertheless sometimes slip through the cracks and cause problems. By properly encapsulating your crawl space, you’ll be able to keep these two areas as separate as possible.

The Dangers of Not Encapsulating Your Crawl Space

So, what can go wrong if you don’t encapsulate your crawl space? Surely that apocalyptic party scenario can’t happen every time?

As a matter of fact, there is a significant chance things could become even worse.

Encapsulating and decontaminating your crawl space is an essentials step for ensuring that those aforementioned contaminants don’t seep into your living space. While there are ways to clean up your crawl space which we’ll touch on a bit later on, it’s also fair to say that this area of your home is typically far from the most pristine. As such, if your home is indeed subject to an infestation of insects, asbestos, mold, and other contaminants, this is one of the easiest ways it can spread. At “best” it can lead to major odor and cleanliness problems. At worst, you may have a full-blown sanitation crisis on your hands which can, in the worst cases, even lead to property damage.

Common Crawl Space Encapsulation Errors

Another pitfall that you’ll want to avoid is going about crawl space encapsulation the wrong way. Here are some of the common mistakes those new to the concept of crawl space encapsulation are prone to make:

  • Limited Barriers: So, you know that crawl space encapsulation means adding barriers, and that makes sense. As such, you set about adding in barriers that are good at protecting against things such as water vapor and humidity seeping through. The only problem with this is that these types of barriers far too often don’t protect against other potential hazards. It is an incomplete form of protection, which can be quite dangerous in its own right, making you think you’re safer than you really are.
  • Overlooking Existing Problems: Crawl space encapsulation is a preventative measure, not a cure-all. If you have pre-existing problems, you are going to need to address them first before you move on to this step. Oftentimes those new to crawl space encapsulation read that it can help deal with problems like water damage and mold and set to work encapsulating their space immediately. Unfortunately, if you already have standing problems in your crawl space, all encapsulation will do is trap it in there and allow it to fester even further. First, remove and all mold or buildups of water in your crawl space. Once that and any other problems are cleared away, you’ll be ready to begin.
  • Dehumidifying Problems: Another tool that often gets homeowners looking to revitalize their waterlogged crawl space excited is dehumidification. Unfortunately, for as useful as this can be, it comes with a caveat. Dehumidification only works in an enclosed space. If your crawl space is connected to your outdoors via an exterior vent or other apparatus, all you’ll be doing is pumping that dehumidifying air through your crawl space and straight out of your home again without doing much in the way of resolving the actual issue.

Checking and Addressing These Problems

As demonstrated, you can’t just leap into crawl space encapsulation. Sometimes, you have to take a step back and deal with extant home issues first. Here are a few quick and effective ways to deal with some of the problems listed above.

  • Insufficient or Improper Drainage: One of the most common causes of water-related problems in crawl spaces is, you guessed it, faulty drainage. How you go about fixing your own drainage problem is going to depend on your degree of expertise, as well as the extent of the damage. If the damage is severe or you feel like you’re “in too deep” dealing with massive pools of standing water, you’ll want to contact a drainage specialist to help sort things out.
  • Mold: Few things strike terror in the hearts of homeowners quite like a mold infestation. If you do indeed have a mold infestation on your hands, you’ll want to deal with that and the cause of the infestation before anything else. You will almost certainly have to call in trained mold removal specialists. In addition, you’ll want to be sure to repair whatever the cause of your mold may be. For example, drainage problems and standing water such as those mentioned above can lead to these problems.
  • Backdrafting: You never want to fool around with the possibility of a back draft of gas leak. As such, if you have any signs of this occurring, you’ll want to address them straightway.

Once you have carried out these steps, or your crawl space is otherwise rendered free of these problems, you’ll be ready to move on to the encapsulation process.

How To Encapsulate A Crawl Space

Now, at long last, we’re ready to go through the crawl space encapsulation process itself. When going about encapsulating your crawl space, you’ll want to completely seal off any doors or vents. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to:

  • Add a plastic vapor shield and attach it to the walls so as to create a solid barrier. You want to make sure that the crawl space is completely shut off from the surrounding area.
  • Add a thermal shield to perform much the same task as the vapor shield does for moisture with respect to temperature.
  • Seal up any gaps or penetrations in your plumbing system. Spray foam can be a great way to accomplish this. Icynene is a good example of a prime material to use here.
  • Install a mechanism that can dry out the crawl space and keep it that way. We’ve already said that you’ll want to clean out any moisture that might have built up in your crawl space ahead of time. That being said, even though you’ve sealed the area off to the best of your abilities, these areas are still vulnerable to humidity, which can in turn lead to moisture and all the problems that stem from that.
  • Install a dehumidifier and humidity monitoring system. These are the one-two punch you’ll use to deal with the potential humidity issues which may arise. Now that you have sealed off the vents, doors, and other areas, your dehumidifier should be able to tackle any humidity issues more effectively. Of course, you won’t necessarily want to seal off those vents and doors forever, so you’ll want to be selective about when you deploy it. Installing a humidity monitor can help you know when you need it.

Once completed, some of the other benefits of crawl space encapsulation include:

  • Fewer insects due to your crawl space now being inhospitable to many of the most common pests
  • Better air quality
  • Protection against mold
  • Protection against foul odor arising from rust, mold and moisture, and everything in between
  • More efficient HVAC work

Your crawl space may not be flashy, but you certainly don’t want it undermining your home décor and property value. Is one of the most important parts of your home, and with crawl space encapsulation, you can keep it in better condition than ever.