Do you have a crawl space at home? Did you ever wonder what is in the crawl space under your house and why it’s there in the first place?
There are many reasons why some homeowners decide to build crawl spaces. For starters, a crawl space gives you access to your plumbing and electrical wiring. It makes life easier for professionals to fix your plumbing and electrical problems.
A crawl space foundation also adds to your home’s durability. This is most beneficial if you’re living in earthquake-prone areas. However, a crawl space can also bring harmful effects on your indoor air quality.
This happens when you don’t give it enough care and attention. Read on and learn about the seven effects a crawl space can have on the air you breathe at home.
1. It Promotes Mold Growth
One of the most serious effects of a crawl space on your home’s air quality is the formation of molds. This happens when air and moisture find their way into your crawl space. Since the crawl space is dark and damp due to moisture, it presents a perfect environment for mold growth.
Molds are fungi that thrive and grow in damp areas with poor ventilation. They reproduce by making spores. The problem with these spores is that they can go airborne.
This means your family can inhale the spores once they get out of your crawl space. Unfortunately, molds pose serious hazards to your health.
For starters, they can cause allergies. In the United States, around 10% of the population are allergic to molds.
If you’re asthmatic, molds can only worsen your symptoms. They can also weaken your immune system. Long-term exposure to molds can even lead to chronic lung diseases.
How long can mold spores stay in the air? They can remain airborne indefinitely. So, it’s best to keep your crawl space in top condition or remove it altogether.
2. It Affects HVAC Performance
Another effect you need to be aware of involves the performance of your HVAC. Most HVAC systems are inside the crawl space. This makes it easier and more accessible for repairs.
However, it increases the risk of having dirty air circulating inside your house. Sometimes, the leaks develop at the duct boots or between the sections of the ductwork.
Are you wondering, “how does mold form in air ducts?” The leaks in your home contribute to their growth. Unseen contaminants can make their way inside your house through your air conditioners.
Though the HVAC may filter the air that comes out, it does not sterilize it. As a result, your family can still inhale molds through the air that comes out. In other words, the air that you’re breathing is the one that comes from your crawl space.
Additionally, a poorly maintained crawl space can affect your home’s energy efficiency.
If your crawl space lets air and moisture inside, your HVAC will have to work harder. The HVAC will require more power to meet your heating and cooling requirements. As a result, you can expect your monthly energy bills to soar.
3. It Increases Indoor Condensation
As air and moisture pass through your crawl space, indoor condensation also increases. Condensation happens when the warm air makes contact with cold surfaces. Some of the most common spots for condensation include your windows and mirrors.
Moreover, it can take place inside your closets. It can also happen in the corners of your rooms. Due to indoor condensation, the air in your home becomes more humid.
This translates into what we call the “Stack Effect.” This is where excess moisture and water build inside your crawl space. When you get high levels of humidity, your body will have a harder time cooling down.
As a result, you will experience fatigue and dehydration easier. You may also develop muscle cramps and suffer from heat exhaustion. The worst-case scenario is you may faint or even experience a heat stroke.
Moisture coming from the crawl space can also affect your home’s structure. This means you will have to call a professional who specializes in structural repair.
4. It Leaves a Bad Smell in the Air of Your Home
This effect may be less harmful than others. However, it can no doubt cause discomfort for the whole family. Your crawl space can be a source of foul odor.
As your HVAC releases air coming from the crawl space, you may pick up a musty smell in the air. Smelling must is the common sign that you have plenty of dangerous molds. Sometimes, the smell can come from the rotting wood inside your crawl space.
5. It May Facilitate Radon Poisoning
A more serious effect from your crawl space is that it can become the channel for radon. This is a natural gas that occurs when radioactive elements break down and decay. A common element that produces radon upon decaying is uranium.
Incidentally, the rocks and soil under your home may contain uranium. Hence, there is radon under your property that comes out naturally in the form of gas. Radon is practically everywhere, especially outdoors.
However, the challenge with radon gas is that it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Complications may arise when high levels of radon enter through your crawl space. Unfortunately, long-term radon exposure can lead to serious health problems.
Furthermore, radon is the number one contributor to developing lung cancer among non-smokers. The other health effects of radon include coughing, hoarseness, and difficulty in breathing. It can also cause chest pains and trouble swallowing.
6. It Invites All Kinds of Pests
If you’re wondering what is in the crawl space under your house, there may be different kinds of pests hiding. A dark and damp crawl space is a haven for rodents, insects, and other creepy crawlers you can think of.
The problem with this is that rats can make nests inside your crawl space. They can multiply quickly and find their way inside your home.
They will most likely pee and defecate all of your crawl space, adding to the musty smell. If your HVAC ducts have leaks, the smell of their droppings will mix with the air that you breathe.
It’s possible to develop serious health problems like Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). This comes from inhaling the virus coming from rodent urine and droppings.
7. It Produces Stagnant Air
Last but not least, your crawl space can contribute to having stagnant air in your home. This happens when your crawl space has poor ventilation. Even if your crawl space comes with vents, its function remains passive.
This means ventilation will only happen when the wind blows or when pressure changes. Lacking ventilation can cause molds, radon, and other elements to grow in the crawl space. This buildup can reach dangerous levels, which can harm your family.
The Need for Encapsulation
Thankfully, there is a solution to all your crawl space-related problems. The answer comes in the form of a crawl space encapsulation system. This system works by sealing your crawl space to keep moisture away.
It uses multiple sheets of polyethylene plastic to seal off the crawl space. Keeping moisture at bay will minimize your issues with leaks, wood rot, and water damage. Also, you can prevent mold and mildew from growing inside the crawl space.
You can say bye-bye to musty odors, too. It can also be the answer to the question of how to control or limit air pollution indoors.
Furthermore, an encapsulation system can help strengthen your home’s foundation from cracking. It can also reduce your monthly energy consumption.
Preparing for a Crawl Space Encapsulation System
If you plan to install an encapsulation system, you need to prepare your crawl space. First, make sure that your crawl space has no standing water. This is important in avoiding any incidents that may lead to electrocution.
You also want to ensure ample lighting in your crawl space. Do so before the professional installer begins his work. You should also take out all rocks, sharp objects, and other debris that may cause injury.
Make sure there is no loose or damaged electrical wiring. Inspect the area for any signs of leaks and unfamiliar odors.
You also need to determine how many open spaces need sealing. Generally, the most common areas that need sealing are the vents, sill plates, and rim joists.
Last but not least, check your building code requirements for crawl space encapsulation.