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Don't Let a Wet Crawl Space Ruin Your Home

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Whether you have a dirt or concrete crawl space, moisture in your crawl space is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Ever-present moisture can cause problems with your home's foundation and the air you breathe. Ultimately, a wet crawl space can ruin your home and destroy its value. In fact, if you try to sell your home, the buyer won't be able to secure a mortgage loan until the crawl space is improved.

Moisture in your crawl space attracts animals small and large, ranging from dust mites, termites, and carpenter ants to snakes, rats, and raccoons. The damage that these animals cause is two-fold. First, they can eat away at your insulation and even the foundation itself, weakening your home's structure. Second, they leave droppings that can get into the air you breathe, exacerbating breathing problems like asthma and allergies. A moist crawl space is also the perfect condition for mold to grow. Mold can eat away at your foundation and release millions of microscopic spores that can sicken you and your family. So if your crawl space is wet, either with pooling water or constantly moist air, you need to repair it before it ruins your home.

Don't Let a Wet Crawl Space Ruin Your Home [infographic]

4 Steps to Repair a Wet Crawl Space

If you want to prevent a wet crawl space from ruining your home, you need to solve the moisture problem. While it is, in theory, possible for a handy homeowner to do this alone, it is a messy, demanding job. To make matters worse, most crawl spaces are no more than four feet tall, and many have only two to three feet of headroom. Just moving around the space can be a challenge. Add to that the challenge of accessing the area—typically through a hatch in an inconvenient place like a bedroom closet—and dragging tools and materials into the tight space, and it quickly becomes clear why most homeowners hire someone to do the job for them.

If you have a wet crawl space, the best thing to do is call a TrustDALE certified crawl space encapsulation or foundation repair company. These experienced professionals have the skills, the tools, and the experience to do the job right with minimal disruption of your home.

Whether you plan to do the job yourself or just want to know what the process is, we've laid out the four steps to repair a wet crawl space.

1. Stop the Water

Before you can repair a wet crawl space, you need to stop the water that is getting into the space.

One common cause of moisture in a crawl space is cracks in the foundation wall. The soil behind the foundation wall holds moisture, either from rain or a high water table. Whatever the source of the water, if you have cracks in the foundation, that lets moisture into your crawl space, either as standing water or just general humidity. Either way, you need to repair the cracks before you can begin to repair the damage caused by the moisture. It is a good idea to inspect your crawl space regularly, about once a year, to check for any new cracks. Cracks themselves are not necessarily bad for your foundation, but the moisture they can let in can cause problems.

Another source of moisture in crawl spaces is plumbing leaks. Leaks may be in the pipes in the crawl space, or water may be leaking in the home above and then dripping into the crawl space. In this case, to keep the crawl space dry, the first step is to identify and repair the plumbing leaks.

In some cases, the source of moisture in a crawl space is condensation. When warm, moist air gets into your crawl space, as it cools, it releases its moisture as water droplets that can gather into droplets and ultimately cause drips and pooling in the basement. If you have water pipes in your crawl space carrying cold water, condensation can form on the pipes. The solution is to insulate the pipes.

2. Drying the Crawl Space

Once you have stopped water from entering your crawl space, you need to remove the moisture or water that has gathered. If you have standing water, you may need to pump it out. Once the water has been removed, you need a dehumidifier to dry the air. A dehumidifier often takes several days to dry out a crawl space, depending on its size and moisture level.

As you remove water from your basement, you should prevent new water from entering the basement. Outside your home, check gutters and downspouts to make sure water is directed away from your foundation. Water that pools at your home's foundation can easily make its way into your basement.

Crawl space vents have become somewhat controversial in recent years. Many older homes are built with vents into the crawl space that are supposed to keep the air flowing. The idea is that adequate ventilation will prevent moist air from collecting in the basement. However, more recent practice has tended away from ventilation on the theory that vents actually allow in humid air. In fact, vents may even provide a direct entry point for water and pests. If your crawl space has vents and is still damp, you can try sealing the vents. In any case, avoid adding more ventilation.

3. Cleaning Up a Wet Crawl Space

Once the moisture is gone, the cleanup can begin. This step may involve handling some filthy and even toxic substances, so it may be best done by professionals. At the very least, a homeowner performing this step should have long pants and sleeves, thick work gloves, a mask with an air filter, and eye protection.

If your crawl space had standing water, there is likely to be an assortment of debris where the water was. Before you can perform the final steps of encapsulating the crawl space, you need to remove as much debris as possible. A moist basement is also a haven for animals, and that means plenty of animal droppings. Animal dropping can spread many severe diseases and should be considered toxic. Since moving around animal waste can send toxic materials into the air, it is vital that you wear eye protection and a ventilator. Finally, a wet or even moist basement may lead to ruined insulation. Many types of insulation can hold onto moisture and grow mold or fungi. Like animal droppings, mold and fungi can make you sick if you inhale them, so treat wet insulation as toxic material.

4. Encapsulate the Basement and Prevent New Moisture

Once the crawl space is dry and clean, the final step is to encapsulate the space to prevent new moisture. Encapsulation typically involves three critical components. First, you need to install drainage and a sump pump to deal with any water that may infiltrate the crawl space. Second, you need a thick vapor barrier to prevent water or moisture from seeping in through the soil. Third, many crawl spaces can benefit from a dehumidifier that runs automatically to keep the air dry.

While it sounds simple, it's easy to mess up this step. Full encapsulation is a demanding job that doesn't leave much room for error. In fact, if you mess up on this step, you could trap moisture in the crawl space instead of keeping it out. It's best to let a professional deal with encapsulation to prevent future damage.

Hiring Crawl Space Encapsulation and Foundation Repair Professionals

As you can see, repairing a wet crawl space is far from simple. It requires meticulous work with little room for error, all performed in tight spaces and hazardous conditions. But leaving a wet crawl space is never a good idea. The longer your crawl space remains moist, the worse the damage. You should never let a wet crawl space ruin your home. Instead, turn to a TrustDALE certified crawl space encapsulation or foundation repair company to get the job done right. When you work with a business in the TrustDALE Circle of Excellence, you are assured you're working with an honest, high-quality business that takes care of its customers. We only welcome businesses that demonstrate high-quality work, competitive pricing, and excellent customer service. And if a dispute arises that can't be resolved with the company, every TurstDALE business is covered by Dale's $10,000 Make-It-Right™ Guarantee.