Crawl spaces give convenient access to heaters, air conditioners, electrical wiring, ductwork, plumbing and drainpipes. Other than that, how much thought do you give to the crawl space under your home? For many homeowners, the crawl space is out of sight and out of mind.
Why Inspect Your Crawl Space?
Ignoring your crawl space is like neglecting a basement. All sorts of problems can arise and lead to costly repairs. Even though we may not enjoy having to crouch and crawl through the musty space below the house, it’s a necessary part of owning a home. Inspecting your crawl space should become a regular habit, just like you would inspect your basement, attic, roof, or gutters.
Neglected crawl spaces can lead to problems inside the actual house. You might notice an increase in dampness or humidity. You could start to see signs of rodents in your cupboards. You might start to notice your floors feel “soggy” or “squishy.” You may be shocked when you open your utility bills and see they have doubled or tripled. You may experience problems with mold and mildew, which can be hard to remove.
What Causes Crawl Spaces to Require Inspections and Maintenance?
Nature and the normal wear and tear of your home’s systems are what cause crawl spaces to require regular inspections and maintenance. All the problems mentioned above are easily preventable in most cases, with routine crawl space inspections and maintenance.
- Water/Moisture: Excess water and moisture in the crawl space can lead to problems with mold and mildew. If the cause of the water or moisture is from leaky plumbing, it can also damage insulation and the wooden supports under the home. Most leaks can be easily fixed, and it’s best to stop them as soon as possible.
- Pests: From annoying water bugs and roaches and termites, all sorts of pests can find their way into this space under the home, which can also provide access to your home’s interior. If the wood under the home is damp, wet, or rotting, it can attract various species of termites and other wood-eating insects.
- Rodents: Mice, rats, raccoons, and even the occasional squirrel can all get inside crawl spaces. Once in this space, they can seek out warmer areas to build a nest and reproduce. Rodents also like to chew on electrical wiring and PVC plumbing, and they can destroy insulation as well.
- Electrical and Heating/Cooling Problems: If you are having problems with any of these home systems, the cause may have begun under the home. Electrical system issues can lead to fires, and HVAC problems can cost a lot of money in repairs or inefficiency if allowed to continue.
- Insulation Problems: If your floors feel cold in the winter and warm in the summer, this could point to areas where the insulation in the crawl space has fallen down or gotten damaged by rodents or water. Fortunately, insulation isn’t typically very expensive to replace.
- Excessive Rain/Snow/Flooding: Any time there are excessive amounts of rain or snow, water can invade crawl spaces and lead to further problems.
What Types of Inspections Should I Perform on My Crawl Space?
As you can see, there are numerous causes that should prompt you to conduct regular inspections and maintenance of your crawl space. Inspections require spending some time under the home. It is not sufficient to simply open the access door and shine a flashlight under the home. You must get under the home and inspect every section there.
TIP: It is recommended to wear comfortable protective clothing. You want to wear jeans, socks, and a long-sleeve shirt. It is also a good idea to wear work gloves, goggles, and a hat. If lighting is insufficient, you will want to wear a head lamp. This gives you light but keeps your hands free.
- Look for signs of moisture. Look on the exterior walls and exposed wood for discolorations. This often indicates water was present at some point. You should touch the walls and exposed wood to check to see if it feels damp or wet.
- Look for signs of pooling/standing water. If you notice any pooled or standing water under the home, there is a drainage issue. Not only will you want to discover the source of the water but also resolve drainage problems.
- Verify all insulation under the subflooring is in place and not damaged. If you notice insulation hanging down or lying on the ground, it will need to be replaced.
- Look for signs of insect and rodent activity. Look around for rodent droppings and pin-like holes in exposed wood supports. These indicate you could have problems with rodents and/or termites.
- Inspect any exposed plumbing pipes, gas pipes, ductwork, and electrical wiring. You want to make sure there are no water leaks, and pipes are properly insulated. With ductwork, verify that each section is securely connected, and the ducts are not loose and do not move excessively. With electrical wiring, look for cracked plastic insulation and exposed wiring.
- Look for openings and gaps around the exterior walls. This is easy to do by turning off your flashlight and looking all the way around the sides of the crawl space. If you see light coming in, other than through an air vent, there is a hole that will need to be sealed.
What Types of Maintenance Should I Perform on My Crawl Space?
Depending on what, if any, problems your inspections uncovered, this will determine the types of maintenance you should perform.
Moisture and Water Problems: For these types of problems, you should get crawl space encapsulation and waterproofing completed. Encapsulation involves using moisture barriers to block out the moisture, while waterproofing seals the exterior walls and other areas of the crawl space to keep water out.
- Water Drainage Problems: If you have standing or pooling water under the home, this problem may require having a sump pump installed to pump the water out from under the home and away from it. Sometimes the issue can also be resolved by elevating the landscaping around the home, so water does not pool around the home. You may also want to consider getting gutters and downspouts installed.
- Rodent and Pest Problems: You will want to call an exterminator to eliminate the rodents or pests before making any repairs. After making repairs, verify all wood has been treated to prevent future problems.
- Damaged or Missing Insulation: Simply replace any damaged or missing insulation. You can also add more insulation if you only have a single layer of protection. Additionally, insulate any exposed water pipes to help protect against freezing in the winter.
- Leaky Pipes: Have a plumber fix any leaks, which can require having part of the home’s existing plumbing replaced. Once replaced, make sure it is well insulated.
- Newly Discovered Gaps and Openings: For this issue, waterproofing can remedy any gaps or openings you discovered around the exterior walls of the crawl space.
When Should Inspections and Maintenance Be Performed?
The best time to perform inspections and maintenance is in the springtime, as it’s generally not uncomfortably hot or cold. However, if you discover problems, but not their cause, then you may want to perform inspections under different conditions, such as on a rainy day to see if this is the cause of water in your crawl space.
Another good time to do an inspection is in the fall before the cold winter days set in. You want to make sure your subflooring and water pipes are properly insulated. Plus, if you did an inspection in the spring, you’re confirming that you’re ready for winter and there are no new issues to address.
If you ever need professional crawl space inspection or assistance, Budget Waterproofing can help. In addition to waterproofing, mold remediation, mold cleaning, and crawl space encapsulation, we also provide foundation repair, going beyond patching cracks to find the source of the problem. We also offer installation of the EZ Breathe home ventilation system, to clean the air inside your home. At Budget Waterproofing, we have more than 55 years of experience servicing both commercial and residential customers throughout Maryland. We’re proud of our craftsmanship and confident in our skills, and all of our technicians are fully licensed and insured. For more information, contact us today.