Few people have the desire to go and explore the dark underbelly of the home that hides beneath their floorboards. And why should they? Most crawl spaces are bare dirt and exposed ductwork, with scarcely the room to crawl about, much less walk with ease. Unfortunately, this lack of easy accessibility results in many homeowners forgetting about their crawl spaces entirely—a mistake that can sometimes cost thousands of dollars.
With that sobering fact in mind, let us set out to learn about what 10 things you are likely to encounter in your crawl space—and what you should do about each one.
If you are like most homeowners, you are likely to have a bare dirt or rock crawl space. Perhaps once, long ago, there had been a vapor barrier and insulation installed, but those years are long past and only the remnants of that insulation and plastic protection remain. In this case, you’ve got a lot of dirt, dust, and possibly feces to deal with.
What to do with dirt:
The floor of your crawl space should have a proper vapor barrier installed. This is most usually composed of thick sheets of plastic that are secured to the floor. This prevents the buildup of moisture in your crawl space, a condition which causes mold growth to invariably be a factor. If you can see dirt in your crawl space, it’s time to have someone come in and cover that up.
Many of your home appliances run out through the crawl space area. Washers, dryers, and plumbing pipes are often all to be found running along the ceiling of the crawl space, to be vented or piped to the outdoors or external holding tanks. Ductwork for the home heating and cooling systems are also often to be found here.
What to do with ductwork:
When you have exposed and poorly insulated ductwork in your crawl space, you run the risk of a) losing energy and increasing heating or cooling costs b) allowing excess moisture or temperature changes into your crawl space and increase the risk of developing mold, or c) allowing crawl space critters and invaders to damage your ductwork and diminish the air quality of your home.
If you have exposed and poorly insulated ductwork in your crawl space, it’s important that you call in professionals to properly insulate and protect these expensive and important parts of your home. Insulating around ductwork and piping is considered a portion of the task that our crawl space insulators perform whenever insulating a crawl space.
3. Plumbing Pipes
All of your home plumbing will often make it’s way through a section of your crawl space before being funnelled outside to your septic tank or into the sewer system. These pipes are usually heavy duty, and leave most homeowners unconcerned about their safety. In actuality, these pipes still require maintenance and care. The changes in temperature that they experience during the warmest and coldest months as water flows through them can cause condensation. Condensation and the increase of moisture in the air all too often leads to mold infestations.
What to do with pipes:
It’s best to have plumbing pipes be treated with the same care that your ductwork should receive—proper insulation. This will protect the crawl space from moisture and the pipes from any damage or corrosion.
4. Electrical wiring
Running along the ceiling and walls of the crawl space you may sometimes see electrical wiring. These cords, thickly coated in plastic, are the currents through which various aspects of your home’s energy will run. Keeping these safe from the gnawing teeth of crawl space invaders is important.
What to do with electrical wiring:
Keep electrical wiring snug against the boards and walls of the crawl space. Loose or low hanging wiring runs the risk of being snagged or caught on something as you maintain your crawl space. Additionally, it’s best if these wires are covered with the insulation that your crawl space needs to maintain the appropriate temperature and air quality of your home. Being out of reach of mice and other rodents is important, as these critters love nothing more than to nibble and gnaw.
Anyone with a crawl space will have noticed the various vents that are to be found along the bottom walls of your house. These vents allow for air movement and ventilation for your crawl space.
What to do with vents:
These are an important part of crawl space health, so it is important to be sure that the vents are not blocked. It’s also equally important to be sure that the wire mesh is secure, so that critters and bugs will not be able to get into the area and contaminate your home. Check all the vents of your crawl space to ensure that they are properly sealed and secure.
Insulation is one of the most important parts of your crawl space. If you peer down there and see nothing but bare beams and dirt, you’re in trouble. Up to 40% of your air comes up from the crawl space. You can lose up to 45% of your home’s heating and cooling energy through non-insulated crawl spaces. Non-insulated crawl spaces are more likely to incur mold growth and attract insects, rodents, and other crawl space critters.
What to do with insulation:
Keeping your crawl space well-insulated is a big deal. It will save you money on energy bills, and save you thousands on possible future damage to the crawl space area. The cost for good crawl space insulation is far less than all of the future costs and wasted energy bills. Call our crawl space insulation service to have your crawl space cleaned and insulated.
7. Vapor Barrier
Your vapor barrier is an important tool to maintaining the health of your crawl space and your family. Crawl spaces that are protected from excess moisture are less likely to develop mold or allow dangerous crawl space invaders into your home. Vapor barriers protect not only your crawl space, but ultimately, your entire home.
What to do with vapor barriers:
Have a professionally trained crawl space expert install your vapor barrier. While there is a large group of DIYers, crawl space safety is of high enough importance that, unless you are a professional handyman yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to achieve the level of excellence necessary to truly protect your home. Our teams of crawl space insulators know exactly the best ways to install an effective vapor barrier, so make your appointment for a free quote before attempting it yourself.
Beams, heavy wooden or metal support structures, are what keep your home structurally sound. These foundational beams run vertically and horizontally through your crawl space structure. Keeping these important pieces of your home in tip top shape is absolutely vital.
What to do with beams:
Check your support beams and foundation walls every few months for indications of weakening (such as cracks) or for mold growth. Mold and moisture will weaken the structural integrity of your home dramatically. It’s also a safe bet that you should never, under any circumstances, simply cut out beams or boards that are ‘in your way’. While it might not be apparent to your eyes, that seemingly pointless beam may be holding your floor up.
You may notice a drain in the floor of your crawl space. In most cases, this is a sump pump, a water pump designed to carry any excess water away from the house in the case of a flood. Drains function similarly, allowing excess water to drain away a safe distance from the house, usually 6 feet or more.
What to do with a drain or pump:
These pumps should never be covered, and should be checked each year to ensure that they are still functioning correctly. Plugged drains or broken sump pumps will only do you harm when it’s flood season and you find yourself wading or crawling through water to investigate the problem with your pump.
It’s all too common that a homeowner pokes his head into his crawl space to discover a happy population of insects, mice, rats, squirrels, or even snakes! Getting these invaders out of your home can be challenging. There are times that calling pest control is advised over handling the situation yourself. Of course, if you are a DIY-er, here is some information on removing rodents and snakes from your crawl space—and preventing their return!
What to do with invaders:
Trapping and killing crawl space invaders can take some time to accomplish. In addition, there is also the aftermath of the critter war to consider—rodents and insects often leave a lot of damage behind them. Chewed or ruined insulation, ripped vapor barriers, and animal feces are commonly found after an infestation is eradicated. In our opinion, it’s far better to leave this clean up job to the professionals that have all the appropriate equipment and skills necessary to take care of the mess.
Having a clear understanding of what is in your crawl space will go a long way in helping you to protect it. Recognizing potential problems before they become serious, practicing proper maintenance, and knowing when to turn to the services of the professionals are all part of good home care. If you’ve found that any of the areas of your crawl space listed above are suffering, take your opportunity to catch it before it becomes a serious issue—call our office today.