A crawl space refers to a small unfinished area under a home or building that exists solely to give access to wiring and plumbing. Unlike the rest of your home, the crawl space isn’t designed with comfort or beauty in mind.
It gets its name from the fact that the space is too low to stand up straight in. Customarily, a crawl space larger than 3 or 4 feet by 3 or 4 feet qualifies as a small basement. Yet sometimes, a crawl space may run the width of an entire home, in place of a basement.
Crawl spaces are very useful if you need to check your home’s wiring or have a professional technician make repairs. However, because crawl spaces are underneath your home, they run the risk of filling up with water in the aftermath of a severe climate event or plumbing issue. Sometimes, homeowners won’t realize their crawl space is flooded until all the wiring and plumbing in their house is affected. This leads to substantial damage–and threats to your safety as well.
Learning about why crawl spaces can gather water, what the potential consequences are, and how to keep them from happening in the first place, is important for every homeowner. While crawl space water can be destructive, it is also easily preventable with the help of a trained professional. Making strategic repairs now is the best way to protect your crawl space and your home over time.
Crawl Space Water: What It Is and Why You Should Take Action
Crawl space water refers to any moisture or condensation in the crawl space of your home. It is never good to have.
Because crawl spaces contain exposed wiring and plumbing, they not never intended to get wet. This can seem counterintuitive. After all, your crawl space “floor” is the dirt beneath your home, and earth naturally gets wet due to rain and snow. But not only is a dry crawl space possible, it’s far better for your home and you.
The enclosed nature of a crawl space keeps it safe from most water. Yet this same factor means that when water does enter a crawl space, it can easily stagnate there too.
What Causes Crawl Space Water?
There are three main causes of crawl space water.
- Plumbing Related Issues: The most obvious and common cause is plumbing-related issues. If a pipe bursts in your crawl space, water can easily pool and stagnate there without your knowledge.
Another plumbing-related cause of crawl space water is condensation. Condensation refers to tiny water droplets that form when hot, damp air combines with cold, dry air. If you’ve ever taken a long, hot shower and seen droplets on your walls or ceiling afterward, you know what this looks like.
In a subtropical climate like South Carolina, plumbing-related condensation is common. The air is hot and humid, so many homeowners run their air conditioning systems continuously in the summer months. Condensation gathers on the ducts of your AC system and then drips onto the floor of your crawl space. Over time, this water builds up.
- Seepage From Soil Beneath Or Around The Crawl Space: This is known as groundwater. If you live in an area that is prone to rain or flooding, this can be a persistent issue. However, water seepage is especially problematic if you have a cracked or uneven foundation.
A sound home foundation should rest evenly, either above the earth below or flat against it. Yet your home’s foundation can easily become warped, uneven or cracked due to something as simple as tree roots growing beneath it. A crack in your home’s foundation can allow water to seep into the ground directly beneath your home, gathering in the crawl space.
It’s possible that the workers who built your home did not pack the soil tightly enough before laying the foundation. Loose soil beneath your home allows space for water from heavy rain, snow, and hurricanes to gather there. Not only can this precipitation negatively impact your home’s foundation, but it can cause severe damage to your crawl space–and the rest of your home.
- Water Dripping Down From Roof Drains, Overflowing Gutters, Or Leaky Basement Windows: This is known as surface water because it enters your home at higher levels, gradually dripping down all the way to the crawl space.
Why You Should Worry About Crawl Space Water
Water and wiring are never a good combination. However, the worst thing about crawl space water isn’t the puddles of water themselves. Crawl space water leads to bigger problems that can require costly home repairs.
Crawl Space Water Attracts Mold
Mold spores love water. They eat wood, but they need water to be able to get to it. So a large pool of stagnant water saturating timber is the ideal breeding ground for mold.
Mold spores feed on everything from the timber beams that make up your home’s framework and the drywall your walls are made of. Mold spores devour the wood’s cellulose, the particle component that makes timber strong. This causes the timber to rot, losing its load-bearing capabilities until it gives out entirely.
Mold spores also love to feed on dead insects. Since even the most dry crawl spaces tend to have lots of those, this is further nourishment for the mold. As mold grows, it spreads.
In other words, mold that develops in your crawl space can cause damage to your entire home. This will make your home structurally unsound, and unsafe to be in. Mold is also a health hazard in and of itself. People and pets that breathe in mold can suffer symptoms from respiratory issues to headaches, which can add up to serious health consequences.
Crawl Space Water Attracts Pests
Stagnant water in your crawl space will draw in more unwanted guests than just mold. Termites, insects that devour wood in much the same way mold does, gravitate to wet timber. So are spiders.
And a safe, enclosed space with its own water supply is basically an invitation for unwanted animals. Rodents, snakes and other animals are drawn to wet crawl spaces. This poses a danger to anyone who enters the crawl space. But it can lead to other issues too. Rodents and snakes that burrow in your crawl space can easily find their way into your home.
Crawl Space Water Causes Expensive Damages
Mold and pests both require the services of an experienced professional to be removed safely and effectively. If these infestations lead to structural damage to your home, the costs you’ll incur will be far greater–not to mention potential damage to your health and safety.
The quicker you discover water in your crawl space, the more quickly you’ll be able to get rid of it. Keep the signs of potential crawl space water top of mind so that if one pops up, you can call a professional as soon as possible.
Crawl Space Water: The Problem Signs
Many homeowners never go into their crawl spaces. This is a mistake. Checking your crawl space regularly is an easy way to monitor its condition and make sure it is staying dry. Yet if you see any of the following warning signs, it’s worth making an extra trip down to your crawl space:
A Severe Climate Event
During or after a severe climate event like heavy rain or snow, you should be closely monitoring your crawl space to ensure it stays dry.
Needless to say, if you are experiencing a hurricane, flood or earthquake, your crawl space is the least of your worries. Get you and your loved ones to safety, returning to your home only when it is safe to do so. Yet upon your return, a thorough professional check of your crawl space should be part of your overall home safety inspection.
Hurricanes and floods generate large amounts of water that can easily seep into your crawl space. Earthquakes can cause damage to your foundation that allows additional groundwater to pool in your crawl space as well.
Skyrocketing Energy and Water Bills
If your crawl space is wet, the air in your crawl space and potentially even your home will be damp. Because damp air has high levels of moistness, it requires far more energy to heat or cool than dry air. In a humid state like South Carolina, this is already an issue even if your crawl space and home are in perfect condition. Yet if your energy bills skyrocket for no apparent reason, check your crawl space right away.
The same is true if your home’s water usage seems to suddenly increase. A burst pipe could be filling your crawl space, wasting water and causing tremendous damage to your home in the process.
If you know a pipe has burst elsewhere in your home, make sure you and a professional check your crawl space for water as part of your damage assessment.
Cold Floors Above the Crawl Space in Winter
Again, a damp crawl space is difficult to control the temperature of. Even if you miraculously avoid a spike in energy and water bills, cold air rising up from your crawl space in winter is another giveaway that there could be water gathering there.
Even when you’re not in your crawl space, you may be able to smell it. A musty odor emanating from your crawl space is a bad sign, as mold is probably already growing there. If you suspect there might be mold in your crawl space, call a professional right away. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have mold growing elsewhere in your home, make sure your technician checks the crawl space to see if that’s where it originated.
What to Do About Crawl Space Water
Crawl space water can cause serious problems. However, if caught quickly, it is easily treated. Better yet, there are many steps that you as a homeowner can take to prevent your crawl space from getting wet in the first place.
Fortify Your Crawl Space
An experienced professional will be able to shore up your crawl space in multiple ways.
The first is a crawl space vapor barrier. A vapor barrier is a protective material that a professional technician installs over the walls and ceiling of your crawl space. It prevents moisture from entering your crawl space, protects your pips, and controls the amount of heat that enters your home. A vapor barrier will keep your crawl space try and your energy bills down.
Having a dehumidifier installed in your crawl space is also a good idea if you live in a humid climate, such as that of North Carolina or South Carolina. A dehumidifier removes moistness from the air of the surrounding area. This not only dries any water from your crawl space, but it discourages mold and pests from infesting the area as well.
Thermal insulation is also a beneficial addition to your crawl space. Thermal insulation doesn’t prevent crawl space flooding on its own. However, it can help keep your crawl space, and therefore your home’s, temperature regulated. And if your crawl space does flood, thermal insulation helps protect your walls and foundation from cracking.
While it’s a good idea to check your crawl space regularly, avoid making any repairs to your crawl space yourself. Given how important the crawl space of your home is, and how much can go wrong in there, the best use of your time and money is to let a professional handle any issues.
Do-it-yourself crawl space fixes can have dangerous consequences. You might get bitten by a pest, or inadvertently inhale or spread mold spores around your entire home. If your crawl space has rotted to the point that it’s not stable, you could risk serious injury by entering it without proper precautions.
A bad crawl space encapsulation job can not only fail to solve the underlying problem, but it can lead to more issues down the line. Save yourself the worry and leave this important work to a seasoned pro.
Call a Professional
Crawl space water is only catastrophic if it goes untreated. So if you find water in your crawl space, don’t panic—just call a professional. A speedy and effective crawl space encapsulation will not only solve your problems, it will leave your crawl space stronger and more efficient than before.
Crawl Space Water
A crawl space is a small unfinished area under a home or building that exists solely to give access to wiring and plumbing. Though it rests directly against the earth below, it is never intended to be wet.
Because crawl spaces are small and enclosed, water can easily gather and stagnate there. Crawl space water is caused by damage from one of three main sources: plumbing issues, seepage, and surface water.
- Plumbing Issues
A burst or leaky pipe can cause water to pool in your crawl space. This obviously causes damage throughout your home, but your crawl space can be heavily affected too.
Another plumbing-related cause of crawl space water is condensation. Condensation refers to tiny water droplets that form when hot, damp air combines with cold, dry air. In a subtropical climate like North Carolina or South Carolina, homeowners are often running their home’s air conditioners during the summer months. When these cold, water particles combine with hot air, condensation can form inside air ducts. The condensation then gradually drips down into the crawl space, where it gathers and remains.
- Seepage and Surface Water
Seepage refers to water that rises from the underground up into your crawl space. If you live in an area that is prone to heavy rain or flooding, this can be a persistent issue. Extreme amounts of seepage can both saturate your crawl space and damage your home’s foundation.
Surface water is the opposite of seepage: it comes from above. If you have any holes in your home’s roof or basement window, or if your gutters are overflowing, the excess water can drip down into your crawl space.
Unless you have just experienced a severe climate event, the water damage from both seepage and surface water can be gradual.
Yes. Luckily, there are many things you can do as a homeowner to prevent crawl space water. Regularly monitoring your crawl space is a great way to catch any water accumulation quickly.
There are numerous measures you can take to protect your crawl space from water as well. However, most of these will be most effective if performed by a professional.
- Keep Up with Regular Inspections and Maintenance
One of the most effective methods to prevent having water in your crawl space is to inspect your crawl space every six to twelve months. As discussed, crawl spaces can be affected by many other areas in your home, from your roof all the way down to your foundation. Regularly cleaning your gutters is one easy way you can prevent crawl space water on your own.
Periodic inspections of your plumbing and drainage systems, roof, and foundation will also ensure that your home is structurally sound. This helps keep your crawl space dry, and ensures your home is safe to live in.
- Get Professional Advice
With crawl spaces, like with so many things, the best defense is a good offense. An experienced professional can assess your crawl space and make repairs or upgrades to keep it safe from water before damage sets in. If you live in a humid or high-rain environment like in North Carolina or South Carolina, protecting your crawl space against regular weather occurrences is an incredibly valuable investment.
Mold and pest removal in particular require the services of a specialist. You should never attempt these on your own. In fact, all crawl space repair and fortification is best left to a professional.
Yes. Many homeowners assume that crawl space water is inevitable, since earth often naturally has some degree of moistness. However, your crawl space can and should remain dry at all times.
While any amount of water in your crawl space is bad, the real damage comes from the dangers that can critically harm your health and property.
- Mold and Pests
Water-saturated timber and drywall is an ideal breeding ground for mold or termites, both of which can spread through your entire home and cause it to collapse. Crawl space water also attracts such dangerous pests as snakes and rodents.
Mold spores are a health threat to people and pets on their own and bring about respiratory issues, nausea, fatigue, and potentially even more severe health issues. Therefore, if your loved ones have been getting any of these symptoms lately, it may be a sign that it is time to do a crawl space inspection.
- Sky-High Energy Bills
While this pales in comparison to the threat of mold or pests, it’s worth noting that crawl space water is incredibly inefficient for your home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. If there is water in your crawl space, your HVAC system will have to work extra hard to regulate temperatures in the rest of your home.
This raises your energy bills substantially–until of course extensive repairs are needed. If you suspect there is water in your crawl space, it’s best for your wallet and peace of mind to call a professional right away. Get your crawl space fixed once and correctly.
Call Mount Valley Foundation Services for Quality Repairs
Mount Valley Foundation Services is the oldest and most trusted crawl space encapsulation company serving cities across South Carolina, such as Greer, Columbia, Charleston, and Greenville. If your home has a wet crawl space, don’t hesitate to call us or schedule a free inspection online. Our team of experts will diagnose and fix the underlying causes of your crawl space water and take the appropriate steps to ensure that your home is protected moving forward.