Pros and Cons of Crawl Space Encapsulation

For most people, their home is their biggest investment and their greatest asset. Not only is our home a shelter from the wind and rain, but also a refuge from the frustrations of daily life. Your home plays an important role in protecting you and your family, along with all of your personal property. By investing in the protection and maintenance of your home, you are preserving your investment in the future.

In this article, we are going to go over what crawl space encapsulation is, show you why it’s important for your home, and go over some of the advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, we will help you decide if this is a project you can attempt yourself or if you should look into hiring a professional contractor.

The crawl space can be one of the coolest parts of the home when you’re a kid, and also very useful if you like having the extra storage space. Unfortunately, this part of the home is often overlooked and can cause you a lot of problems if it is not well maintained.

Of all the projects and possible upgrades you can do within your home in hopes of improving the durability and lifetime value, all too often encapsulating the crawl space is one that is neglected. However, when done correctly with a bit of forethought, encapsulating your crawl space can play an important role in protecting the foundation and underlying structure of your home for many years to come.

Common Issues with Crawl Spaces

Depending on the soil conditions, many homes are not able to have a basement or are not able to be set directly on top of a concrete foundation. It is within these homes that crawl spaces are found most often. This area underneath the home usually has about 1to 3 ft of vertical space and usually allows for some air flow to access different parts and components of the house. Crawl spaces can often be found under manufactured homes as well as ranch-style homes. They may also be found underneath various other styles and sizes of homes.

Having a crawl space underneath your home isn’t necessarily a good thing. The low ceiling, seclusion, and relation to the ground can make them a cozy place for pests, including rats and mice, chipmunks, raccoons, and even birds. 

The unfortunate fact is that many crawl spaces are not well insulated. This could be a big source of energy loss, as some of your heating and cooling energy may be sucked right out of the floor, reducing the overall energy efficiency of your home.

If the area under your home is not properly ventilated, it may be prone to the accumulation of moisture. Moisture combined with the dark environment of a crawl space makes for a recipe that is ripe for the growth of mold, mildew, and eventually rotting floorboards. Worst of all, unless you do regular inspections of your crawl space, you may not even be aware of the developing problem until you’re overpowered with the smell of mildew, or do you begin to notice that your floorboards are rotting out completely.

You can avoid some of these issues altogether by encapsulating your crawl space.

What is Encapsulation?

Encapsulation is a term used in the construction industry to describe the process of completely sealing out any area of your home against the infiltration of air and water. A vapor barrier, which is essentially a high-grade piece of plastic, is stretched across the bare floor of your crawl space and secured around any supporting beams. The job is best completed with a coat of spray foam insulation around the walls overlapping onto the vapor barrier which has been laid across the floor to create a completely airtight seal. 

Not all homes have their crawl space encapsulation done during the building process. It is not something that contractors typically do by default, as it isn’t typically required by building codes, and requires an additional cost. However, encapsulating the crawl space has become an increasingly popular way to protect the longevity of the home, and homeowners are opting to have it done more and more.

Why is Encapsulating Your Crawl Space Important?

Encapsulating the crawl space protects the underside of your home against anything from rodents to moisture causing mold from coming in. It can also help to improve the quality of the air within your home as well as save you money on your monthly utility bill.

Reduce Allergens

You can keep allergens such as pollen from entering your home by encapsulating your crawl space. The vapor barrier combined with spray foam insulation work together to block any drafts from coming in, which keeps pollen and other outdoor allergens outside where they belong.

Humidity Control

Any good crawl space encapsulation setup will include a dehumidifier. This appliance will help to control the moisture that can form as a result of fluctuating temperatures.  While a vapor barrier will stop any moisture coming in from the outside, a dehumidifier will take care of any warm damp air that may precipitate water onto the cool insulated surface inside of your crawl space. 

Protection From Moisture and Insects

If yours is like most homes, you probably have a wooden flooring structure. If so, the two biggest threats to the structural integrity of your home are moisture and insects. If you’ve ever been inside a home that had sagging floors, chances are likely that the cause was due to one of these pesky problems.

Not only does a crawl space which is encapsulated keep out moisture with the help of a dehumidifier, but it also helps to eliminate the potential for infestations for insects like termites. That’s because termites prefer damp wood which is softer and easier for them to digest. 

Energy Efficiency

While it may seem that encapsulating your crawl space is going to require a significant upfront investment, you may find that over time your investment will pay for itself. Including that extra layer of conditioned space beneath your home will provide you with an additional barrier between the ground and the floor of your house during the cold season. This will help to minimize the escape of conditioned air during the hot summer and hold in more of that precious heat during the winter. 

Why Isn’t This a Standard Practice?

By now you’ve probably realized just how great crawl space encapsulation is for your home, so you may be wondering why this isn’t standard on all homes.

The truth is that the biggest downside to encapsulating your crawl space is cost. Most homeowners aren’t aware of the dangers that having an uninsulated crawl space pose to the integrity of their home. And since the crawlspace is rarely visited and typically out of sight, updating a part of your home that you don’t even use may seem like an excessive expenditure. Most often, the owner of a home will only learn the importance of having an encapsulated crawl space when they start to run into problems like rotting or sagging floors.

If you’re not running into these problems already, encapsulating your crawl space may seem like a project that’s okay to put off. However, in most cases, prevention is the best treatment, and we recommend that you have your crawl space encapsulated before any issues begin to manifest themselves. If it seems like a project like this is too expensive, a good insulation contractor will be able to offer you financing options. 

Do-it-Yourself vs. Hiring a Professional

If you are considering encapsulating your crawl space without the help of a professional, you will want to remember that there is most likely plumbing and electrical wires under your home. You want to be careful not to disable or damage any of these vital systems if you attempt to do the work yourself. Make sure to carefully plan around any of these obstacles if you do decide that a do-it-yourself job is the way to go.

If you notice that there is a furnace, ductwork, or plumbing in your crawl space and you’re unsure about how to go about the encapsulation process while working around these obstacles, you might want to consider hiring a professional contractor. Be sure to check ratings and reviews of local contractors, and get quotes from several different ones before making your choice. If possible, go with a contractor who will provide a warranty for the work they do.

Once you’ve finished your crawl space encapsulation job, there’s not much left to do!. You will want to check in on your car space from time to time to make sure there are no issues developing, such as moisture accumulation, mold, or cracks.

While it may take a significant upfront investment to have your crawl space encapsulated, you can reap significant benefits. Saving money on your monthly utility bill and protecting the longevity of your home are the biggest boons. Take some time to crawl down in your crawl space and plan your encapsulation project today.