Crawl space encapsulation is a broad term that includes the entire gamut of things you can do to weatherize the space underneath your house.
The main items that make up the encapsulation process are:
placing a plastic barrier on the ground and beams underneath the house , sealing any openings, insulating the walls, and installing a dehumidifier.
This can be quite a big list considering we’re talking about that space underneath the house then no one really ever thinks about it in the first place.
That’s until you’re forced to get under the house to repair your foundation or plumbing and find out that you’re going to have to pump the water out first to be able to do so.
Or if you have recently found out that the air quality in your house is as much as 50% dependent on the air quality underneath your house.
And that the air quality underneath the house is coming from a place where the formation of mold is very high.
It’s at that point you began to realize this is a project you’re going to have to tackle.
Negatives to crawl space encapsulation
Easily the biggest negative to encapsulating the crawl space beneath the house is the expense.
Experts say that you can expect to spend about $5,500 to adequately weatherize and protect your crawl space.
Not only is the project going to cost you the materials and labor to have it done,
There is the upfront cost of a dehumidifier that can carry the load of practically running day and night and the added energy that it will require to do so.
And running a dehumidifier is basically the same as running a refrigerated air conditioner.
Which unfortunately falls at the top of the list of appliances that use the most energy.
2. No Room to Work.
Crawl spaces are tight. If you’re lucky, you have an area that is big enough for you to walk or to hunch over and get around, but if you’re not, you’re probably looking at crawling around on your hands and knees or even scooting along on your belly or your back.
As you can imagine putting a plastic barrier on the ground underneath your house, and doing so that there are no leaks, is a huge undertaking whether you plan on doing it yourself or paying someone.
The ground underneath the house in the best of circumstances is going to be moist. After all, moisture underneath the house is one of the main reasons that people consider encapsulation.
If you have moisture under the house, then you are probably having an issue with water rivering from the yard under the house, or pipes that are leaking somewhere beneath the house.
Which adds up to having a muddy surface beneath the house in which to work.
Standing water under the house is going to have to be pumped out before you can do any work.
Which circles back to the original problem of bad air quality coming from your crawl space.
Standing water in a dark muddy place is the ideal environment for mold and bacteria to grow.
Mosquitoes may well be an issue also.
You probably don’t want to think about it, but the area beneath the house is providing shelter for a whole lot of pests.
Pest like rodents that can basically get in through a crack in the wall or if there hasn’t been properly blocked entry access the area,
You’ve probably provided a living environment for stray cats, possum, foxes, you name it.
That means a lot of excrement. And it could mean clearing out some dead animals.
5. HVAC Zoning
If you have your central heat and air installed in the crawl space, sealing off the area can interfere with the airflow originally figured into the design of your HVAC venting.
If that is the case, it would be well worth your time and money to have a HVAC tech involved before starting your encapsulation process.
Crawl space encapsulation is definitely not something you want to have to do twice or go back and fix because of something like HVAC zoning that you did not think of in the first place.
Fortunately the advantages of encapsulating a crawl space can be worth the effort and expense.
1. Improved Air quality
The air quality in a crawl space can be responsible for as much as 50% of what is being breathed inside of your home.
And because the air quality inside of the crawl space is more likely being tainted by mold and bacteria growing in standing water,
It’s not that hard to add two and two together and realize that many of the issues that stem from bad air quality like allergies and headaches and so forth, could be originating from the bad air that you are breathing.
Encapsulating the crawl space is a huge step to creating a healthy breathing environment.
2. Reduce Pest and insects
Most insects including termites need moisture to survive. Not only does the crawl space provide shelter for pests and insects, it supplies nutrition for them to populate.
Encapsulating the crawl space will dry out the area which in turn will start out insects.
Termite damage will be reduced significantly when the source of nutrition and moisture that termites need to live is removed or greatly hampered.
3. Minimized Mold Damage
Mold damage beneath the home will cause rotting wood. Rotting wood will eventually cause your foundation to start falling.
Which can cause everything from the floor rotting out to the walls cracking.
Encapsulation is a small expense compared to fixing the foundation of your house.
4. Extra Storage
By drying up and sealing space under your house you will be creating extra storage space.
However large your home, as time elapses, you quickly realize how little storage space you actually have.
Depending on the size of the crawl space beneath the house, you could be sitting on a big chunk of real estate that could be easily used for storage if it were sealed up properly.
Even a small crawl space can make a good storage area for non-perishables or holiday decorations, etc.
5. Energy saver
Though it is easy to see the expense it takes to encapsulate the crawl space,
The result of encapsulation will be closing off open windows and leaks that can cause your central heat and air to work much harder and cause your bill to spike much higher.
Encapsulating the crawl space is like shutting the door that’s letting the air out.
And in turn making your home much more energy efficient and the amount of money it takes to heat and cool your home.
Encapsulating the crawl space beneath your home is definitely not a desirable task.
The expense and the less than favorable conditions to work in make the disadvantages stand out and loom large.
But when you measure the disadvantages against the advantages of crawl space encapsulation,
The advantages outweigh the disadvantages for most people.
The improvement in air quality and the additional savings in energy, plus the protection of your home from mold rot make encapsulation well worth it.
And the additional storage real estate is a big plus.