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Crawl space encapsulation is a process of completely enclosing the crawl space of a home with a vapor barrier to prevent moisture and outside air from entering the space.
This process can improve the home’s air quality and energy efficiency and help prevent mold and mildew growth. However, many homeowners may wonder if the encapsulation cost is worth it.
This article will examine the costs associated with crawl space encapsulation and weigh them against the advantages and disadvantages to help homeowners determine if it is worthwhile. We will also explore other options for addressing crawl space issues, such as crawl space sealing, and discuss when encapsulation may be the best choice.
By the end of this article, homeowners should have a better understanding of the costs, benefits of crawl space encapsulation, and other alternative options and be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with this type of home improvement.
Table of Contents
What is a Crawl Space?
A crawl space is a small, unfinished area located beneath the first floor of a home. It is often used to access plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems, and storage. Crawl spaces are typically found in homes with a raised foundation, such as a raised ranch or split-level home.
They can be accessed through a small opening, such as a trapdoor or crawlspace access panel, and are typically less than four feet in height. Crawl spaces are typically not insulated, leading to various problems, including poor air quality, increased energy costs, and mold and mildew growth.
Additionally, crawl spaces can be prone to water damage and pests such as termites, rodents, and even snakes. Proper maintenance and repair of a crawl space are essential to ensure that it remains a safe and healthy living space. Crawl space encapsulation and sealing are two common ways to improve the conditions of a crawl space.
What is the Difference Between Encapsulation and Sealing?
Crawl space encapsulation and crawl space sealing are two different methods of improving the condition of a crawl space. Crawl space encapsulation involves completely enclosing the crawl space with a vapor barrier made of thick plastic sheeting to prevent moisture and outside air from entering the space.
On the other hand, crawl space sealing involves sealing any openings or gaps in the crawl space to prevent moisture and outside air from entering the space. Both methods can improve the home’s air quality and energy efficiency and help prevent mold and mildew growth in the crawl space.
Encapsulation is more extensive and complete than sealing, and it is often recommended for homes with high moisture levels.
Step-by-Step Explanation of the Encapsulation Process
Crawl space encapsulation is a multi-step process that involves sealing the crawl space from the outside elements to improve the home’s air quality and energy efficiency and help prevent mold and mildew growth. Here is a step-by-step explanation of the encapsulation process:
- Inspection: The first step is to inspect the crawl space for any issues such as mold, mildew, or water damage. Any existing issues will need to be addressed before proceeding with encapsulation.
- Cleaning: Next, the crawl space will need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris or contaminants that may be present.
- Sealing: Once the crawl space is clean, any openings or gaps in the crawl space will need to be sealed to prevent moisture and outside air from entering the space. This typically includes sealing around the perimeter of the crawl space and any vents or access points.
- Insulation: Insulation is typically installed on the walls of the crawl space to help keep the space at a consistent temperature and to improve energy efficiency.
- Vapor barrier: The final step is to install a vapor barrier, typically made of plastic, to enclose the crawl space completely. The vapor barrier is sealed to the walls and floors to create a barrier between the crawl space and the outside elements.
- Final Inspection: The encapsulation process is completed with a final inspection to ensure that the crawl space is adequately sealed and insulated.
It’s important to note that a professional contractor should be consulted to ensure the process is done correctly. The process may take a few days to a week, depending on the size and condition of the crawl space.
Typical Cost and Time for Encapsulation
The cost and time for crawl space encapsulation can vary depending on several factors, such as the size and condition of the crawl space, the materials used, and the location. A crawl space encapsulation project can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $16,000.
However, it can be more expensive for larger or more complex spaces or for those that require additional work, such as mold remediation. The cost can also vary depending on the materials used and the type of insulation that is installed.
As for the time, it can take a few days to a week for a professional contractor to complete an encapsulation project, depending on the size and condition of the crawl space. The process may also take longer if additional work, such as mold remediation, is required. After inspecting and evaluating the crawl space, the contractor can determine the exact time frame.
It’s important to note that the cost and time can vary depending on the location and the contractor you choose. Getting multiple quotes from different contractors before making a decision is recommended.
Advantages of Encapsulation
Crawl space encapsulation offers several advantages for homeowners. Some of the main advantages include:
- Improved air quality: Encapsulating the crawl space can help improve the air quality in the home by preventing outside air and moisture from entering the space. This can reduce the risk of mold and mildew growth, which can cause health issues such as allergies and respiratory problems.
- Increased energy efficiency: Encapsulation helps keep the crawl space temperature consistent, leading to improved energy efficiency and lower heating and cooling costs.
- Reduced risk of mold and mildew growth: By preventing moisture from entering the crawl space, encapsulation can reduce the risk of mold and mildew growth, which can cause health issues and damage to the home.
- Protection against pests and vermin: Encapsulation can also help to keep pests and vermin, such as termites, rodents, and snakes, out of the crawl space.
- Increased value of the property: Encapsulation can also improve the overall value of the property, as it addresses potential issues and improves the air quality, energy efficiency, and protection against pests and vermin.
- Protection of the crawl space structure: Encapsulation can also help protect the crawl space’s structure by preventing water damage and rot, which can cause structural issues if left untreated.
It’s important to note that encapsulation is not a one-time solution. Regular maintenance and inspection should be done to ensure that the encapsulation is effective and to address any issues that may arise in the future.
Disadvantages of Encapsulation
Crawl space encapsulation can have some disadvantages, depending on the specific situation. Here are a few potential downsides to consider:
- Cost: Encapsulation can be costly, costing an average of $5,000 to $16,000. This can be a significant expense for some homeowners and may not be financially feasible for all.
- Difficulty in access: Encapsulation can make it more difficult to access the crawl space for repairs or maintenance, as the vapor barrier and insulation materials can be challenging to remove or work around.
- Risk of moisture buildup: If the encapsulation is not done correctly, or if there is poor ventilation, moisture can build up inside the crawl space, leading to mold and mildew growth and can even cause structural damage.
- Risk of trapping moisture: If the encapsulation is not done correctly or if the area is not adequately ventilated, moisture can get trapped inside the crawl space, leading to mold and mildew growth, bad odors, and even structural damage.
- Requires regular maintenance: Encapsulation requires regular maintenance and inspection to ensure that it is effective and to address any issues that may arise in the future. If not done correctly and maintained, the encapsulation can lose its effectiveness.
- Not suitable for all homes: Encapsulation may not be suitable for all homes, particularly those with high water tables or flood-prone areas.
It is essential to consider these potential downsides and weigh them against the benefits of encapsulation before making a decision. It is also essential to consult with a professional contractor to ensure that the encapsulation is done correctly and to address any potential issues.
Alternatives to Crawl Space Encapsulation
A crawl space waterproofing project can include installing a drainage system with sump pumps. This can be an essential addition in homes prone to water infiltration or flooding in the crawl space. A drainage system with sump pumps can help remove any water that may enter the crawl space, which can help prevent mold, mildew growth, and structural damage.
The SuperDry System is a basement drainage system that includes a perforated pipe installed around the perimeter of the crawl space and a sump pump installed in the lowest part of the crawl space alongside the foundation’s footer. The perforated pipe collects water that may enter the crawl space and channel it to the sump pump. The sump pump then pumps the water out of the crawl space and away from the house.
The Supercrete Method is a perfect way to waterproof any crawl space by using a combination of stone, a vapor barrier, and our proprietary Supercrete mix to seal a crawl space from moisture. This approach can provide multiple layers of protection, ensuring the crawl space remains dry and free from water infiltration. Supercrete is the same mixture we use to reconstruct floors and mend walls. It is more robust than concrete, non-porous, and waterproof.
SuperDry System with Supercrete Process
- Inspection: Inspect the crawl space for mold, mildew, or water damage. Address existing issues before proceeding.
- Cleaning: Thoroughly clean the crawl space to remove debris and contaminants.
- Superslurry Sealing: Seal crawl space walls with Superslurry (made from the same ingredients as Supercrete) to prevent moisture and outside air from entering. Seal any vents.
- SuperDry System: Installation of our subfloor water management system consists of trenching to the bottom of the foundation footer and a pitched perimeter drainage pipe connected to a sump pump station. The pipes and sump pump basin are packed in stone.
- Washed Stone: The entire subfloor area of the crawl space is covered in 2 to 3 inches of stone.
- Drain Board: A drain board wraps around the bottom 8 inches of crawl space walls and over the area where the pipe is packed in stone.
- Vapor barrier: A vapor barrier, typically made of plastic, is placed over the entire crawl space, wall to wall. The vapor barrier creates a moisture barrier between the stone and the Supercrete application.
- Supercrete Sealing: Concrete mixing truck arrives on site with over 11 cubic yards of Supercrete. The Supercrete is pumped through a hose into the crawl space and smoothed into a finished floor. It takes 72 hours for the Supercrete to harden enough to walk on and 30 days to cure fully.
- Final Inspection: The process is completed with a final inspection to ensure that the crawl space is adequately sealed and the sump pump is operating correctly.
Using stone as supporting drainage to the SuperDry System around the entire crawl space can help direct water to the drainage pipes.
A vapor barrier, typically made of thick polyurethane plastic, is used to prevent moisture from passing through the added stone and seal the crawl space floor to create a barrier between the subfloor and the Supercrete floor.
Supercrete as a flooring material in the crawl space can also help prevent water from seeping into the crawl space, especially when it’s sloped, and have a drainage system to direct water out of the crawl space.
It’s important to note that adding a drainage system with sump pumps can increase the cost of the crawl space waterproofing project, and it’s recommended to consult with a professional contractor to determine if it’s necessary for your specific situation and to get an accurate cost estimate.
Additionally, it’s essential to check the sump pumps to ensure they are working correctly and to avoid any potential water damage.
Do you have a wet crawl space and need help? Set up an appointment for a free inspection and quote.