The Crawl Space

In our area of Virginia, a large percentage of homes are built with a crawlspace. This dark, damp area is a place where only the brave dare to visit and is sometimes never seen or visited by a home buyer or owner. Because it’s so seldomly visited, if neglected, it can become the bane of the home’s existence. During a home inspection we believe it is of utmost importance to thoroughly inspect the crawlspace as it is often where the most telling signs of the home’s health and well-being are found.

What is the purpose of a crawlspace? The crawlspace provides ventilation for the home, putting space between the living, conditioned area of the home and the ground. It allows for space to route HVAC trunks and ducts especially with packaged heating and cooling units. Supply, drain and vent pipes for the plumbing and electrical wires are conveniently routed through the crawlspace. This dark, cool space if not maintained can host a myriad of problems for the home even making the home less safe and habitable, often resulting in expensive repairs.

Many deficiencies are found in the crawl. Some that we find from natural causes and conditions include moisture issues from runoff, high humidity, poor ventilation, termite damage and major settling. Leaking drain, waste and distribution pipes, torn HVAC ducts, pest infestation, electrical problems, foundation issues and damaged structural components are other deficiencies we find.

Many wonder, because it’s not a habitable part of the home, why it’s important to have a safe environment in the crawlspace? Studies show that up to 50% of air on the first floor comes directly from the crawlspace meaning that cleaning up and rectifying any moisture issues is of utmost importance. To begin with humid, warm air flows into the crawlspace and collects on the sheathing and floor joists. This environment is conducive for mold and fungi growth even if there is a vapor barrier properly installed. The crawlspace is often where rodents enter and take up residence. The rodents can chew holes in the HVAC ducts which then allows the moist air to enter the crawlspace which also causes mold and fungi to grow. Leaking pipes, poor ventilation, groundwater with no vapor barrier creates a breeding ground for mold and fungi. Rodents also nest and defecate in the crawlspace and breathing the byproduct of that and/or mold can contribute to health issues if not addressed.

A moist, wet environment is also a breeding ground for wood destroying organisms especially termites. If not caught early, these insects can cause extensive damage to structural members. This type of damage occurs slowly and without the homeowner until one day there is uneven flooring or wall damage. If there is insulation in the floor joists, high moisture can also cause the insulation to get wet and be ineffective, often needing replacement or removal.

A professional can help remedy the moisture situations by encapsulation and a dehumidifier, drainage tips or adding trenches and a sump pump. It is a good idea to have your crawlspace checked once a year by a home inspector and to maintain a pest control contract. As a homeowner, good maintenance is the best practice which will allow your crawlspace not to become a burden. At Summit Home Inspections the crawlspace is a normal part of our standard inspection process. Call us today.

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