With so many home improvements on the market today, deciding what to choose can be overwhelming for homeowners. One option many are starting to consider is sealing or encapsulating their crawl spaces. However, before making this investment, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. This article will explore both sides to help you decide if crawl space encapsulation is right for your home.
Understanding Crawl Spaces
A crawl space is an area under your home that allows access to water, plumbing, and HVAC systems. It is made by lifting the wooden floor joists above the ground level and enclosing the space around the perimeter. This leaves an empty area under the house that is accessible by removing a panel or lifting a trap door. Most crawl spaces have exposed dirt floors, minimal ventilation, and uninsulated floors above. Over time, crawl spaces can become damp and moldy.
Pros Of Sealing A Crawl Space
1. Improved Moisture Control
Sealing your crawl space through encapsulation helps control excessive moisture, which is the leading cause of damage in crawl spaces. By sealing the walls, and floors, and adding a vapor barrier, water vapor can no longer penetrate into the crawl space from the surrounding soil. This reduces dampness, condensation, and mold growth that corrode beams and joists over time.
2. Increased Energy Efficiency
Uninsulated and damp crawl spaces allow conditioned air from your home to escape. By encapsulating your crawl space, you can insulate the floor and walls to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Adding R-10 to R-30 of insulation to the crawl space decreases heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer, lowering your heating and cooling bills year-round.
3. Reduced Air Infiltration
Unsealed crawl spaces allow outside air and allergens like dust, pollen, and mold to infiltrate your home. After encapsulation, air sealing.
- crawl space walls and adding a vapor barrier limit airflow into the crawl space, reducing unwanted particles that worsen allergies and asthma. This results in better indoor air quality for a healthier home.
4. Improved Foundation Support
When a crawl space remains damp for long periods of time, the wooden foundation structures like beams and joists begin to deteriorate more quickly. Encapsulating your crawl space helps preserve the foundation structures by controlling moisture and sealing out excess humidity that feeds wood rot. This extends the lifespan of your foundation.
Cons Of Sealing A Crawl Space
1. Higher Upfront Cost
Sealing a crawl space through encapsulation requires materials like insulation, vapor barriers, air-sealing caulks and tapes, and ventilation or dehumidification systems. All these components needed to properly encapsulate a crawl space significantly drive up the upfront project cost, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 or more depending on the size of your home.
2. Complex Installation Process
While the materials needed for crawl space encapsulation may be simple, properly installing them to maximize efficiency and effectiveness can be complex. Air sealing, moisture barriers, and installing insulation correctly require advanced craftsmanship and expertise that homeowners may lack. Professional installation by insulation contractors is usually necessary.
3. Still Requires Ventilation
While sealing the walls and floors of a crawl space helps with moisture and airflow problems, ventilation is still required. Encapsulating a crawl space does not make it airtight which could trap excess moisture inside. Most encapsulated crawl spaces require a combination of vapor barriers and mechanical ventilation or dehumidification to manage humidity.
4. Increased Maintenance
Though sealed crawl spaces provide many long-term benefits, they do require additional and ongoing maintenance homeowners may not be accustomed to. Ventilation systems need to be checked and filters replaced regularly. Insulation and vapor barriers must be inspected for damage after major storms or water leaks. Regular dehumidifier maintenance is also necessary.