Ask a Tech: What's Happening in My Crawlspace?

March 7, 2019

If you're reading this, your home probably has an out-of-the-way space that is used to store large or unruly appliances (such as your furnace or hot-water heater), be that a basement crawlspace, an attic, or both.  It's not uncommon for these spaces to end up somewhat neglected; they might contain the sort of "vital organs" of the home, but they aren't exactly spaces that you want to spend a lot of time in.

That might not seem like such a big deal, until you're sitting in your living room one night and hear a scratching sound from that part of the house.  Suddenly, you find yourself worried that some kind of pest has made its way into your home, and you're more than a little freaked out.  Luckily, you can avoid finding yourself in a scratch-induced fear by doing one thing: keep that space dry!

Why Does it Matter?

As a tech for A-1, I can tell you it's very important to keep these small spaces as dry as possible.  I've seen enough crawlspace horror stories in the past to know that, in an environment heavy in moisture, a number of serious problems can arise:

  • Mold: Mold thrives in moist, damp areas, which makes your crawlspace ripe for growth if it isn't properly dried out.  Mold in any part of the home an cause health issues and sickness, particularly if you're someone with allergies or are asthmatic.  Even if you don't have either of those afflictions, mold spore inhalation can still irritate the eyes, nose, lungs, and throat.  Young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to mold--it's not something that you want growing in your home.
  • Rotting: Mold caused by moisture in your crawlspace or attic greatly increases the chances of the rotting of any organic material, particularly wood, in the area.  Because support beams and floor joists are often constructed with wood material, this rotting can cause serious structural damage, or even partial collapse, if not treated properly.
  • Pests: There's another reason that you don't want your crawlspace or attic to become wet: pests!  Standing water and moisture is one of the things that most attracts a range of pests, from rodents like mice, rats, squirrels, possums, to insects like termites and spiders--as well as other critters like skunks and snakes.  If you want to keep critters, rodents and bugs out of your crawlspace or attic, then you'll want to keep those spaces dry.

So How Can I Keep it Dry?

This is a fair question; these areas are generally naturally wet, either because of ventilation systems that allow for humidity to enter, or because of condensation caused by the home appliances (furnace, hot-water heater) that are stored in these parts of your home.

Luckily, there is something we do here at A-1 Pest Control called, "crawl-space encapsulation", which is a method of eliminating excessive moisture in these home areas that are susceptible.  This method takes a multi-step, multi-faceted approach to fixing home moisture problems:

  1. Inspection: The first step to any encapsulation process is going to be inspection and assessment.  A professional will need to come look around the space you are looking to encapsulate to figure out the source of the excessive moisture, and then create an action plan to fix it.
  2. Polyethylene Lining: Next, you'll have your floor and foundation lined with a polyethylene liner to block moisture from entering the vulnerable space.  Polyethylene is an extremely versatile kind of plastic that is excellent when it comes to creating a long-lasting, effective moisture sealant.
  3. Sealing Other Openings: That same polyethylene liner is then used to seal all other openings that are allowing moisture to enter the area.  This includes things like vents and doors that are allowing the entrance of the outside air into the space, which creates problems.
  4. Dehumidifier Installation: The final step is installing a dehumidifier into the space, as a sort of back-up plan to ensure that any remaining moisture or humidity that can or has caused problems in your crawlspace is completely removed.  Installing a dehumidifier is also an effective way to create a space that is not comfortable or appealing to different critters pests, and rodents.

Crawl-space encapsulation is dual-purpose: it not only prevents the growth of mold and degradation of the structural integrity of your home, but it also discourages pests from taking up residence in your crawlspace or attic.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you have pests occupying your crawlspace or attic, you'll want to get taken care of before you take the steps to de-moisturized parts of your home.  Once your home's vulnerable areas are properly de-moisturized, you won't have to worry about mold and rotting causing home damage or health concerns - and you won't have to think about some critter skittering about you house and raiding your food cabinets.


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