When it rains, water may seep into your crawl space. This is normal, and happens pretty regularly; after all, there’s no true floor to keep it from happening. Most crawl spaces are open to the ground below. But while it’s normal or typical to have water in your crawl space, this does not make it okay. Moisture can have a devastating effect on your home, your health, and your foundation.
Since our start in 1996, Acculevel has been helping homeowners protect and preserve their homes. We’re a family-owned and operated company; we specialize in waterproofing and foundation repair. We’ve helped more than 30,000 families restore health and stability to their homes, and we want to share our knowledge and experience with you.
We understand that it’s easy to ignore your crawl space. It’s not a space that you can live in or decorate for curb appeal. For most homes, the crawl space is just the access point for your utility repairs or maintenance. But if you have water in your crawl space, you have serious trouble brewing under your home.
Water Creates Erosion under Your Foundation
We all learned the basics about erosion in school. But many homeowners don’t realize that erosion can happen to your home, even if you don’t live near a body of water. All you need is enough rain to oversaturate the soil around your home. Once there’s excess water in the ground, soil starts to move.
If the soil under your foundation moves, it can cause uneven settling. This means one corner or one section of your foundation lowers farther or faster than the others. Your home is structurally designed to be – and stay- level. All the materials used in construction are designed to be rigid, not flexible. So when a portion of the foundation pulls against the rest of the home, it causes cracks to form, timbers to warp and your window and door frames to shift.
The best way to repair a settling foundation is with helical piers. And the best way to waterproof a crawl space is with GeoChannel water drainage. GeoChannel is designed specifically to work in a dirt “floor,” with built-in filtering to keep the system from clogging.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel team member, after installing GeoChannel water drainage and a sump pump in a crawl space.
Water Causes Your Flooring to Decay
When there is water in your crawl space, there’s moisture in the air. That moisture makes the walls and the ceiling damp. In this case, that ceiling is actually the wooden structure of your home’s flooring. What happens when wood gets damp? It starts to soften and decay.
This is a major problem for you for two reasons. First, because softened wood is an ideal environment for termites- and termites are going to make your flooring decay faster. And second, your entire home is resting on that wooden structure.
The floor joists, main beam, sill plate, all of these components are what you walk on every day. They’re what your furniture is resting on, along with all of your other belongings and furnishings. When this structure starts to decay, it sags. People often think sagging floors are normal in older homes- and they are- but not because of age. It’s wear and tear on the structure, caused by moisture and decay.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor. The fiberglass insulation is damp, and has started falling down. The floor joists are covered in biological growth and starting to decay.
If that’s not bad enough, your crawl space may still have fiberglass insulation in it. This is the worst insulation to use in a crawl space, because it absorbs moisture. That means there’s essentially a damp sponge tucked right against the wooden flooring structure, accelerating the rate of decay.
If you have sagging floors, you’ll need to have the flooring structure evaluated to determine the weak spots. Repair methods depend on which components need to be fixed. As for damp insulation? Spray foam is a superior product that repels water, fills every gap, and has a life expectancy of 80+ years.
Water Compromises the Air Quality in Your Home
Pollens, mold spores and other allergens are everywhere in our environment. Some of these -especially molds and mildews- will flourish in a dark and moist crawl space. All these organisms need is a source of moisture and food (dust and other human debris are food sources). These biological growths can be a major source of allergens, and cause grief for both allergy sufferers and asthmatics.
Even worse than allergens, there are viruses and bacteria that grow in a damp space, and those will also make their way into the air you breathe. The air in your home isn’t separate from the air in your crawl space. The floor between levels isn’t airtight, and even if it was, your HVAC ductwork connects the two spaces.
Information taken from a study performed by ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.)
You can see in the table above that the best humidity level in a crawl space is around 50%. This is when your crawl space (and your home) are at their healthiest level. A whole-home dehumidifier can be programmed and set to maintain a specific humidity level. Unlike the small, single-room dehumidifiers you see in big box stores, a whole-home unit doesn’t need to be manually emptied. The drainage line for a full size model can be run to a sump pump in the crawl space, as part of a water drainage system.
If you or someone in your family has asthma or other chronic respiratory ailments, encapsulation is the ideal solution for a clean and dry crawl space.
Do You Have More Questions About Your Crawl Space?
Dig into our comprehensive homeowner’s guide to crawl space repairs. This free resource covers all the topics you need: signs and symptoms of issues, what causes the issues, how to fix them, what the repairs cost, and how they benefit you.
If You Need A Professional to Evaluate Your Crawl Space
Don’t live in the Midwest, or live outside of our service area? Get recommendations from friends, neighbors, or your local realtor for reputable contractors. Make sure they are insured and accredited by the Better Business Bureau, and check their reviews on Google, Facebook, and other sites like Home Advisor.