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Top 8 Most Common DIY Crawl Space Mistakes

By Chuck Henrichsen on November 10, 2016

Over our years of work with crawl space repairs and restorations, we’ve witnessed many crawl space mistakes that DIY homeowners make. These often result in the serious consequences that affect both their health and economic stability.

While DIY projects can be a great way to save money, there are some repairs that can end up instead costing you a lot of money. If you don’t have the skills, know-how, or the appropriate tools, it’s sometimes best to leave things to the professionals.

We’ve compiled a list of the 8 most common crawl space mistakes homeowners make, why they are risky, and what to do instead. These tips should help you identify any major problems, and think about certain factors that most DIYers don’t consider.

With no further ado, we bring you the most common crawl space mistakes that DIYers make.

DIY Crawl Space

1. Adding Vents to Improve Humidity

The logic behind this common mistake is that adding vents will increase airflow and force moisture from the crawl space. Unfortunately, studies have shown that homeowners that install additional vents in the foundation are usually met with increased humidity levels and a damp crawl space.

There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that the air is warm and humid, especially in the summer months. More vents mean more of damp air will enter your crawl space and condense in this cool environment.

Also, many homeowners are under the impression that air travels in and out of their crawl space through their vents. This is not the case. The Stack Effect in homes actually draws this moist air up and into the living space of the home, not back outside.

Finally, drilling holes in the foundation and installing your own vents is highly discouraged by professionals. Without the knowledge of a structural engineer, it is very easy to damage the structural integrity of your home. Keeping your current vents clean and in working order is a better use of your DIY skills, and it’s very important to the well-being of the crawl space. But adding additional vents will not get the results you’re looking for and is more likely to cause trouble!

2. Stapling Vapor Barriers to Floor Joists

Homeowners have blindly followed this myth for years, and it always ends up costing them a lot of money in the long run. By securing vapor barriers to the floor joists, homeowners usually trap the wooden supports underneath the vapor barrier. This exposes the wood to the moisture and water below the barrier. This mistake almost always requires floor joist repairs, not to mention mold cleaning crews to come in and remove the moldy, rotten joists.

To avoid making this mistake, homeowners are encouraged to utilize the skills and expertise of a local crawl space team to help them lay down a proper vapor barrier. Vapor barriers need to be meticulously installed for them to work properly. Getting a professional to install a vapor barrier will protect the floor joists and the rest of the crawl space from water and moisture damage.

DIY Crawl Space

3. Insulating Too Soon

One of the most common mistakes all DIY homeowners fall for is solving a problem before they know the source. For instance: the most common remedy for a damp crawl space is to install a vapor barrier and insulation, right?

Contrary to popular belief, installing fiberglass insulation in a damp, musty crawl space can potentially encourage wood rotting and mold growth. Instead of trying to treat the symptoms, consider how the water got there in the first place. Did it come up through the floor? Through the cracks on the walls? Or maybe through the sealing around the vents? The best way to identify the source of the moisture is to invite a team of professionals to inspect your crawl space. Once the sources have been identified and repaired, the insulation and vapor barrier can come in to protect against future leaks and moisture damage.

4. Improper Drainage System Installations

There are a lot of crawl spaces that unexpectedly experience sudden flooding. At Clean Crawls we work diligently to protect homeowners from the consequences of a sudden flood. However, DIYers are often taken by surprise, and they’re not sure how to handle a flooded crawl space. One of the biggest mistakes DIYers make is to ignore the problem, or they try and solve it with a sump pump and stand alone pit.

Without a proper drainage system, these collections of water can result in unwanted growth, like mold and mildew. Airborne mold spores to can quickly spread the mold through your house and cause grave health issues to your household. In most cases, the draining system is not designed properly, and it often needs to be changed in order to prevent future damage.

5. Gutters and Downspouts Drain Too Close to Your House

Gutters and downspouts are designed to direct water flow off the roof of your house and away from the foundation. If your gutters are clogged, water will overpour and enter the ground around your home’s foundation. When your gutters are too close to your house, the water can easily enter your crawl space. You need to protect the foundation and crawl spaces of your house by extending the downspouts or gutter.

If you don’t protect or maintain your home’s gutters or downspouts, you will likely have water leaking into your crawl space. The moisture can build up over weeks and even months before you notice the symptoms of water damage. Again, this can result in mold, mildew, rotting wood and other property damage in your crawlspace.

6. Venting Dryer into Crawl Space

Dryers take all the water out of our clothes in order to leave them soft and dry. The water that was in our clothes is turned into moisture and vented away from the dryer. But where does the moisture go? Unfortunately, many homeowners direct the warm, moist air directly into their crawl spaces.

Most DIY homeowners don’t consider dryers when planning on reducing moisture in crawl spaces. The excess moisture from a dryer can single handedly produce the perfect conditions for mold to thrive. If you don’t take care of the issue before hand, you can end up pumping gallons of water directly into the crawl pace through your dryer vent. The warm, moist air will quickly condense in the cool confinements of the crawl space, and it will most certainly wreak havoc on houses with wood structures. Contacting a qualified professional is the best way to know if your dryer vent is safely installed, or if it needs to be changed.

DIY Crawl Space

7. Failing to See Other Influential Factors

Many DIY homeowners fail to recognize the source of moisture properly, and they end up blaming drainage or other possible sources. But, there are many other sources of moisture inside, around, and outside of your crawl space. If ignored, these factors will continue to damage the crawl space and even the foundation of the house. Some of these external and often disregarded sources are:

  • Excess water from gardens, flower beds and shrubberies around the foundation wall
  • Excess rainwater accumulation (especially true in the Pacific Northwest)
  • Your house was built on a slope or at the base of a slope
  • A spring or body of water was covered by the developer around your house
  • Nearby spring or body of water overflowed due to rain
  • Your foundation works as a dam to a natural or man-made body of water

Most of these external factors cause water to accumulate around and below a house’s foundation. The water then seeps up through the ground and into the crawl space, causing humidity build-up. Crawl spaces that are not checked regularly, or properly serviced, can become a source of mold and pests. In turn, these can damage the HVAC ducts, joists, insulation, foundation, basement and underfloor.

8. Insulating Heat Ducts with Fiberglass

Many homeowners insulate the heat ducts that are laced throughout the crawl space with fiberglass insulation themselves. However, if their crawl space conditions have not been well tended to, moisture and water in the crawl space will be absorbed by the fiberglass. The excess moisture will encourage mold to grow in the fiberglass.

This mold can easily spread throughout the rest of your crawl space and significantly affect your home air quality. Severe mold and moisture accumulation problems can lead to pests and hazardous living conditions. Structural damage is common in extreme cases, which can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars.

To protect your home from water and moisture damage, it is critical that all of your crawl space needs be met in a thorough and expert fashion. Here at Clean Crawls, we specialize in crawl space inspections, cleanouts, and restorations so you can enjoy the comfort and safety of your home. To learn more, give us a call at 866-606-2914 or fill out our contact form, and our team will be more than happy to help you out. Contact us now!

Chuck Henrichsen

President and CEO of Clean Crawls, Treasurer of E3 World Wide, proud husband and father.

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