We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls lately from clients that are frustrated with their sealed crawl spaces. In the Charlotte, North Carolina market, and the surrounding counties, 90% of residential construction is crawl space construction. Since crawlspace construction is problematic especially during the hot humid summer months, the Charlotte market has had an explosion of companies claiming to be experts offering a sealed crawl space solution. The solution is 10 to 15 years old, and has some inherent challenges. Most of these companies are jumping in on the feeding frenzy as a way to sell more things to their customers. The challenge with this scenario is most of these companies have very little to no education on why the problem happens. Franchisees send out commission based sales people to the customer’s home claiming to be experts with a basic crash course of 2 to 3 days from the manufacturer, a laptop, glossy brochure, and a go get em tiger approach towards the public that they pretend to serve. Since the salespeople are commission based they tend to over design and embellish the problem in an attempt to make a big sale. I am finding customers are being overcharged two to three times what the actual repair value was worth. High-pressure sales techniques such as fear, intimidation, and flat-out lies about potential health threats have been reported. This is a very disingenuous tactic and gives the industry a black eye. Here are the facts about the challenges with encapsulated crawlspaces:
1. When you encapsulate a crawl space, you encapsulate all of the odors and smells inside the space
2. Construction materials such as wood members, insulation, plastic, the acidity in the soil, etc. all off gas odors, and these odors can percolate up into the living areas.
3. HVAC systems that are installed inside the crawlspace using natural gas can also be a challenge inside a sealed crawlspace especially if it is not properly vented at the time of construction.
4. The heavy mil plastic that some of these companies use to encapsulate the crawlspace often off gas terrible odors that are often reported right after the install.
5. If there are currently any biofilm contaminants infesting the floor joists, insulation, or subflooring, these fungal or mold colonies also off gas odors that can now percolate up into the living spaces.
6. If the crawlspace was encapsulated with a drainage problem, moisture can build up under the liner and cause the development of mold which off gases odor that smells like cat urine. This is a huge problem as most companies do not install foundation drains when they encapsulate.
7. Without the induction of fresh air, there is no way for these odors and smells to escape, so they grow in intensity and often get worse during the summer months.
8. Encapsulated crawlspaces require an expensive dehumidifier to reduce moisture. Dehumidifiers are humidistat controlled devices and are extremely inefficient in crawl spaces especially in cooler temperatures and require 800 Watts of power to operate. This can increase your power Bill $15-$20 a month in certain cases.
9. Because dehumidifiers are humidistat control devices, they do not turn off at the right time and could potentially overheat around the compressor. This is a challenge with store-bought dehumidifiers or the big commercial jobs. Dehumidifiers often need to be replaced every 2 to 3 years, and this can run the customer $1500 at each replacement.
The good news is, if you are having challenges with your sealed crawlspace, the crawl space can be retrofitted with a dewpoint controlled fan system. This system uses state-of-the-art technology with a series of interior, exterior, and wood moisture sensors that gather atmospheric data and efficiently control the introduction of outside air into the crawlspace when it is conducive for exchange. Basically, if it’s drier outside that it is under the house we utilize the outside air. When it is too cold to hot or too moist outside we block that outside air and utilize the internal dead corner fans, and if necessary a backup dehumidifier that is tied into the controls for peak efficiency.
If you have a sealed crawlspace that is giving you challenges, or are considering encapsulating the crawlspace, please give us a call first to get educated on the science before making that decision. We are here to help.
Don’t encapsulate! Ventilate!
Crawl space encapsulation – Charlotte NC –
(704) 787-6972 http://specialtyfoundationrepair.com –
Crawl space encapsulation is a type of vapor barrier system installed in a raw, unfinished space underneath a Charlotte NC home to prevent, mold, mildew and dampness from entering the upstairs space. With a dirt crawlspace your foundation may be experiencing bad smells, high humidity, puddles of water, broken concrete foundation, heaps and heaps of dirt, little to no access, little to no insulation, radon gases, water vapor, mold, insects, termites, pests or vermin. What it boils down to is that almost all crawl spaces in Charlotte have problems. Through a process known as the stack effect, air travels up from underneath the home and takes the crawl space air with it. Many Americans currently live with asthma problems and other breathing related problems due to the dirt foundations underneath their home and the mold spores as well as dust mites that travel with it. Why? The moisture levels in the crawlspace are unregulated due to a multitude of possible foundation problems resulting in an environment conducive to mold, dust mites and mildew growth attacking wood and attracting insects and rodents. A good quality vapor barrier can dramatically reduce the level of humidity in the home, keep out pests, termites and vermin, and it can save you thousands of dollars in energy bills over the years.
Reasons to have your crawl space encapsulated include:
-Better energy bills
-Warmer winters and cooler summers
-Saves you thousands on crawl space water damage repair
Encapsulation barriers are made out of different materials, from basic plastic sheeting to much thicker, multi-layered reinforced polyester which needs to be professionally installed. If a home owner has a severe problem, such as a very wet crawl space or if there is a mold issue, they often turn to installing a barrier to prevent further decay and protect the upstairs home environment. A professionally installed, multi-layered crawl space vapor barrier can be quite costly when compared to some of the do-it-yourself plastic sheeting methods found at hardware stores. Some of the more expensive professional crawl-space encapsulation systems offer heavy-duty, multi-layer polyester reinforced material similar to a pool liner. This high density liner is usually white. It is spread across the entire floor area and attached to the side walls. It gets sealed around pipes and piers, fully encapsulating the entire crawl space. After this kind of installation, the space is quite often a better place to crawl around in since there is usually no exposed dirt or mess to contend with. Usually this type of material is puncture resistant, water proof, anti-microbial, and fire retardant. When properly installed, crawl space encapsulation may also cut down on heating and cooling bills while providing a clean, dry storage space. If a home is in a humid area, like Charlotte NC, an encapsulation system is sometimes installed with a crawl space dehumidifier to help keep the area dry. If the property is located in an area that may flood, some systems come with drains, sump pumps and water alarms, which operate in a similar manner as smoke alarms.
If you are concerned about a possible crawlspace problem, don’t wait. Call an expert for your FREE consultation and put your mind at ease – know what the problem is and possible solutions and how much … from an independent agent that has YOUR best interests in mind.
Masserang Contracting & Consulting
1700 Songwood Road
Concord, NC 28025
For more Crawlspace air quality/ Crawl space encapsulation information : Fixing Crawlspace Moisture problems