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Signs of Crawl Space Problems

Over time, your crawl space will experience issues such as moisture and mold, which can harm your home's structural stability. Below are some key indicators that your crawl space is in need of attention.

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Crawl spaces come with a lot of potential for problems. This potential can be devastating if you don’t know about it. However, people who know more about their crawl spaces are more likely to notice certain problems and know to attribute those problems to the crawl space. Here’s what you need to know about crawl space problems.

What Are the Most Common Crawl Space Problem Signs?

Although there are many unique ways your crawl space may have its problems, some problems occur in many crawl spaces throughout the country. Here are some of the most common crawl space problems out there. 

Condensation occurs when the relative humidity in an area goes above 100%. If you’ve ever had a cold glass of water that started to collect water on the sides, you’ve seen condensation in action. The same thing can occur in your crawl space as well. If there’s condensation in your crawl space, chances are you’re going to end up with water all over the crawl space, especially on certain surfaces like floor joists and your crawl space floor.

Every so often, you might want to look at your foundation and make sure it looks okay. Foundation cracks can sometimes form in the crawl space for a variety of reasons, including a shifting foundation and many other reasons underneath the surface. These cracks are extremely important to pay attention to because they can showcase foundation problems you’ll need to tackle separately.

Have you recently noticed that your electric bill randomly shot up? Does it seem like your electric bill is much higher than other people’s? Do you feel as though you use more electricity than you can account for? If so, the problem might be in your crawl space. High electric bills can happen for several reasons, but some crawl space concerns can also cause high electric bills.

Your indoor humidity levels may waver slightly from time to time, but an important element of crawl spaces is that a high level of humidity in your crawl space may lead to a high level of humidity in the rest of the home as well. Up to 50% of the air in your home comes from your crawl space, so if that air is full of water, the air in your home can become full of water as well. Pay attention to your humidity levels, and if it feels like something’s off, consider calling in an expert.

A crawl space vapor barrier is an extremely important element of crawl space encapsulation, so every dirt crawl space should have one. However, it’s unfortunately common for people to use the thinnest, cheapest crawl space vapor barrier they think they can get away with. If your crawl space vapor barrier is thinner than 20 mils, you might not get as much benefit out of it as you thought you would.

Especially if you have open crawl space vents, insect and pest problems can run rampant in your crawl space. Of course, this can also be a problem if you don’t have open crawl space vents, as pests can try to burrow and eat their way through organic material surrounding the crawl space. Either way, insects and pests in the crawl space can quickly become an infestation in the rest of your home, so it’s important to pay attention.

When your crawl space door leads directly to the outside, you need to make sure it’s extremely tight-fitting. Because the crawl space and the rest of your home share so much air, you need to treat the crawl space door as you would any door on your home. A loose crawl space door is going to invite dirt, pests, and other annoying problems into your crawl space, which is never something you want to offer.

This is probably the most well-known frustrating crawl space problem. Mold is a constant concern on many homeowners’ minds. Although it’s rarely toxic to humans directly, that doesn’t mean mold isn’t a problem, as it can worsen respiratory issues and allergies. Additionally, it tends to grow anywhere from 70% humidity up, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the humidity.

For a long time, people used open crawl space vents in the crawl space design process because they believed it would “air out” the crawl space and make it easier for mold and moisture to stay outside. The problem is that this does the opposite. If you want to make sure your crawl space stays free of moisture, mold, and pests, you’ll want to close those vents.

Typically, sagging floors happen because of issues with the floor joists in the ceiling of the crawl space. They may start to sag due to wood rot, general moisture, or just not having enough support. No matter why it’s happening, you should take care of it. In extremely bad cases, the floor can cave in.

Water concerns are always something you need to pay attention to. Water plays a huge part in many of the problems on this list. This type of problem specifically addresses standing water in the crawl space. Standing water typically indicates that there’s a serious problem and as it evaporates, it’ll significantly increase the crawl space humidity level.

Once you get your insulation wet, it doesn’t work anymore. Wet insulation is an incredibly difficult thing to handle. If you’re looking for a way to manage this wet insulation, you may need to look into replacing the insulation entirely. Even insulation that’s partially marred by water can end up no longer working at all.

Many people use “wood rot” as a generalized term, even though it technically refers to a specific type of fungal wood infection. However, you may use it to refer to any time water infests wood and makes it no longer function properly. Regardless of what you’re talking about, it’s important to make sure the wood in your crawl space remains tough and sturdy.

FAQs About Crawl Space Problem Signs

One thing many people ask is, “Why does my crawl space have a dirt floor if that’s not healthy for the crawl space?” There are also many similar questions you might hear about non-encapsulated crawl spaces and crawl spaces with open vents. Here’s why this happens. 

  • Saving Money and Sticking to Tradition

Most commonly, these unhealthy crawl space options were here to help the original building crew save money. After all, it’s much cheaper to just leave the crawl space with a dirt floor than it would be to encapsulate it. The problem is that now you have to take on the cost to fix the unhealthy crawl space.

However, in some situations, it’s less about cost and more about the fact that some building crews just learned to build homes that way. Crawl space vents, for example, have been common in many areas of the United States for years now. Maintaining that tradition can be important to some builders.

  •  How to Fix Problems with Low-Quality Builds

Unfortunately, sometimes tradition and cost win out over efficacy, which can mean you have to fix the problem yourself. Fixing these problems doesn’t have to be difficult, however. You just need to turn the situation over to an expert who can help.

Don’t waste time; talk to a crawl space repair expert to fix the problem as quickly as possible. You can’t determine what fixes you need for your crawl space until you’re able to get an expert in who can inspect the area. A crawl space expert can be crucial when you’re pursuing encapsulation and other methods of fixing the root issues.

Crawl space problem signs are always something you should at least look into. Although not all of them will always indicate an earth-shattering crawl space crisis, they will showcase that there’s something wrong. 

  • Fixing Things Early

The best reason to watch out for crawl space problem signs is the fact that it allows you to fix problems early on. The cheapest, fastest, and most effective repair solutions are always applied to minor issues and prevent bigger ones from developing. If you wait until a problem sign has developed into actual damage, then you’ll need heavier repairs and more costly gear.

Fixing these problems early on will always be cheaper, less intrusive, and more effective than waiting. When problems are serious, you certainly can’t avoid them. Instead, apply small, budget-friendly fixes or invest in preventative measures to keep your home safer, healthier, and protected.

  • Avoiding a Crisis 

There are serious problems that you can run into if you have crawl space problem signs that you never fix. This can range from fixes that will be much more expensive to serious concerns that can lead to foundation walls collapsing. Tackling problems early will help you avoid these types of crises.

This can be especially true in the crawl space, as this area typically has a direct impact on your home’s foundation. If you don’t address crawl space problems like sunken floors, you’re going to be much more likely to end up with long-term problems like a collapsing floor. Installing crawl space jacks in this situation would be much more effective than waiting until the problem turns serious.

You might look at these crawl space signs and wonder how you could notice any of them. The good news is that just by reading this list, you’re making yourself safer. Even by knowing about them, you’re more likely to be on the lookout.

  • Less Difficult to Spot

Some of these crawl space problem signs are relatively easy to spot. For example, drywall cracks aren’t exactly difficult to notice, as they can pepper the walls of living areas. Most homeowners can then notice these problems in more obscure areas, like the basement or crawl space, when they understand the early warning signs, rather than brushing them off as insignificant home quirks.

In general, the problems that are less difficult to spot are going to be your first warning of a real issue. While they’re minor in and of themselves, they tell you something damaging is brewing in your home and may escalate without intervention. Keep these problem signs in mind, as they’re the ones you’re most likely to notice early on in the process, saving you time and money.

  • More Difficult to Spot 

There are also crawl space problem signs that can be much more difficult to spot. Sagging floors, for instance, tend to be difficult to notice before they become extremely serious. These are the problems that typically require at least a knowledgeable eye, if not help from tools that you probably don’t have in your arsenal.

Of course, you’ll still want to keep these in mind, so you can mention them to a professional before their inspection. This helps them arrive better prepared to tackle your problem within a few hours, rather than over multiple sessions as they suss out the smaller red flags. Likewise, it’s smart to request an expert inspection once yearly to make sure subtle issues are noticed before they develop into greater problems.

It can be hard to convince some people that fixing their crawl space is a useful endeavor. Unfortunately, many people don’t feel like it’s that important. These people couldn’t be more wrong.

  • Fixing Things Early

You should fix your crawl space as quickly as possible once you notice these warning signs. The earlier you resolve the baser issues, the sooner your home will be fortified against future problems. After all, an early fix is much more likely to be affordable, effective, and unobtrusive. The longer you wait, the more likely it’ll be expensive, less effective, and more intrusive.

Fixing your crawl space early is about keeping yourself and your family safe. Think about it this way: If you notice a sagging floor early, you can add more support, but if you take too long, it’ll collapse. You don’t want your sagging floor to collapse, so you should fix your crawl space early on. The same goes for all crawl space fixes.

  • Talking to an Expert

An expert is going to be your best bet to fix your crawl space problems. Not only can an expert suggest the appropriate fixes for your concerns, but they can find concerns that you didn’t know about and work with you to find a solution. That makes them truly invaluable when you’re trying to figure out where to go next.

At the end of the day, an expert’s opinion is going to be the best option for your crawl space health. Request more information from a Groundworks expert to learn more about your crawl space options. You’ll always get a well-thought-out answer from an expert who wants to help you with your concerns.

How Can You Fix These Problem Signs?

Although there are some things you can do to minimize your crawl space’s problems, when you’re experiencing genuine issues, you may just need to talk to an expert. A crawl space repair expert can fill you in on what may be going wrong and give you advice on how to understand and fix your problems now.

This is why many people turn to Groundworks for their crawl space concerns. If you’re having any of the crawl space problems you see on this page, request a free inspection from a GW crawl space repair expert to learn more and start on the path to fixing it.

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