If you live in the south, you know two things: the weather can be extremely humid and humidity creates condensation. As temperatures reach the mid-50s to 60s, crawl spaces can resemble caves, with increased moisture levels and poor ventilation. These are also ideal conditions for mold growth.
When humid air enters into a crawl space through vents, it condenses on those cool surfaces just as it does on a cool glass. Condensation can form on plastic ground covers, air conditioning ducts, pipes, block walls, and wood framing. If condensation is present long enough, it will begin to grow a green fuzzy layer of mold and any nail tips penetrating the floor above are likely rust.
The topography of a property and drainage system can also cause water to enter a crawl space. On a hill, water can run under your house instead of by downspouts that should be carrying the water away. Downspouts can also get clogged or disconnected from the underground pipe. You usually want water runoff to drain away at least five feet from the structure or foundation. On properties built in low lying areas, water can actually rise up into your crawl space due to an overflowing water table. If the crawl space ground level is lower than the ground level outside, water can bleed through the foundation walls, creating white mineral deposits.
Water can wick up into concrete walls and into the wood framing that holds your entire floor system. Mold loves water and wood, and if left unchecked, it will quickly begin to form green and black spots on the joists and sub-floors decking. The wet insulation may smell like ammonia or cat urine. Now you really have a problem!
The first rule of caring for your home should be to check your crawl space, or have a licensed remediation company do it for you. Consider the crawl space like that of your feet, the foundation by which you stand and are built upon. Keeping the area dry and free of moisture will prevent any fungal growth.
There are many ways to keep your crawl space dry and sealed including: a continuous layer of plastic lining covering the entire floor and up the walls of the foundation, permanently closing your vents, installing a sump pump in the lowest point of the crawl space and installing a humidity controlling device, spraying foam insulation on the floor decking (and joist instead of paper fiberglass insulation.)
Absolutely never go into a crawl space without your cell phone. The latch is always on the outside and a good gust of wind could close you in. I have been in hundreds of crawl spaces and I have never seen the latch open from the inside.
One of the most common phobias is claustrophobia, or the fear of enclosed spaces. A person who has claustrophobia may panic when inside an elevator, airplane, or in this case a crawl space. For this reason all of Rolyn’s trained professionals have undergone an excavation and confined space entry class.
Different procedures apply depending on the height of the crawl space. Your local remediation company will be able to advise you to the best application to fit your needs.
About the Author
Michael Rabil is the General Manager at our new office location in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is currently responsible for the day-to-day activities and coordinates all emergency response and oversees projects throughout the region.