An unfinished basement or crawl space can be quietly undermining the integrity of the home and life within it. The crawl space—like many unfinished basements—tends to be quite humid. The excessive moisture in a basement or crawl space poses a number of threats to the home. It provides an environment for mold to thrive—mold that can eventually make its way up into the rest of the home. The moisture can also attract wood-boring insects that destroy the wood sub-structure. The presence of insects may also draw rodents and other pests into the crawl space. Solving the basement or crawl space moisture issue is the first priority in a finishing project.
Moisture Mitigation: Vapor Barriers and Encapsulation
The elimination of moisture and reduction of humidity in the crawl space is crucial to a healthy home. This step will help control mold growth, wood rot and insect infestation, which can also alleviate any rodent issues. Reducing moisture can put an end to any mustiness or unsavory smells emanating from the area. It will also prevent the hardwood floors above from warping.
Moisture and humidity in the basement or crawl space is partially the result of water evaporating from the soil. To combat moisture in the basement or crawl space, a vapor barrier or encapsulation system can be installed.
An encapsulation system usually sees a moisture/vapor barrier or “liner” installed up the walls of the basement or crawl space and over the exposed earth floor. Proper installation methods of an encapsulation system will vary from climate to climate and are dependent on the specific products used, but it often includes overlapping the liners of the wall and the floor, taping all the seams and fixing the barrier to the foundation walls with anchors. The nature of the vapor barrier itself will vary by installer—some use products from outside manufacturers and some have their own patented and branded system. Vapor barriers differ in composition, thickness, strength or durability and color. Thickness can range anywhere between three to 20 millimeters; both puncture strength and tensile strength are rated—these are measured in pound-force (lbf). The type of barrier used should be taken into consideration by the homeowner and can be determined by the desired end result.
One of the most important features of the vapor barrier is the water vapor permeance—or “perm”—rating of the product. This measures the transmission of water vapor through the product. The lower the number, the better the product’s resistance to vapor transmission. Homeowners should ask TP Environmental which products would be used in a crawl space finishing project.
Just installing a vapor barrier most likely won’t be enough, however. TP Environmental may recommend installing a drainage system along the perimeter of the crawl space walls and a sump pump to keep the ground beneath the liner dry. Leveling the dirt floor will be an option or a necessity, depending on whether or not the homeowner wants to pour a concrete floor, a more expensive crawl space finishing solution. A level crawl space is more conducive to storage usage and will decrease the chances of tearing a hole through the liner.
Some crawls spaces need a lot of work. Fiberglass insulation may need to be removed and replaced. Broken or leaking pipes, drier vents and other elements found in the crawl space may also be a source of moisture and humidity. TP Environmental will make sure the end result is a clean, dry and healthy room in the home.
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