How Does Water Get into a Crawl Space?
Your home’s crawl space typically lies between your ground and the first floor. It is extremely narrow, ranging from one to three feet high depending on the house. Important components such as your plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC system, insulation, and foundation are located in the crawl space.
This space must remain dry so that these systems are not compromised in any way. Unfortunately, moisture might creep through to this space despite your best prevention. How does water seep through to your crawl space? Is there any way to permanently seal off moisture from entering this space?
Keep an Eye out for These Problem Signs
Many homeowners have never even set foot inside their crawl spaces. It can be difficult to know if a problem even exists within this space unless you know what issues to look out for. What problem signs can arise from a flooded crawl space?
- Leaking or Cracks
Often, homeowners will not realize their crawl spaces are flooded until they notice their walls leaking. If enough water collects within this space, the pressure might cause your walls to crack. This allows even more water to potentially flood your house during heavy storms. These cracks may even spread down to your foundation and disrupt the structural integrity of your entire house.
- Musty Smell
You might notice an unpleasant, musty smell wafting around your first floor if your crawl space is flooded. This musty smell can come from standing water, sewage leaking in, slowly decaying wood, or hidden mold and mildew left to fester in this humid space.
This cannot and should not be ignored by merely disguising the stench with fragrant sprays or candles. Rather, this needs to be taken seriously. Hiring a crawl space expert to take a look may put your mind at ease.
Common Causes of Foundation Problems
Water in a Crawl Space
Your crawl space contains many of your home’s important systems. It is built specifically to seal out moisture, so how does water get inside your crawl space?
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What Causes Water to Flood Your Crawl Space?
Moisture trickling through to your crawl space can be detrimental to your house’s inner workings and infrastructure. Despite this, many homeowners do not know how water infiltrates their crawl space, leaving them unprepared for when flooding does occur. What can cause water to enter your home’s crawl space?
- Consider Your City’s Climate
How much or how little moisture will seep into your crawl space at a time can depend on the climate of the area you live in. Some coastal areas, for example, typically see a lot of wet weather year-round. Heavy snows, rainfall, and humidity will largely contribute to more moisture in the air and the soil around your foundation. This abundance of water will likely infiltrate your home, especially if you do not have an effective drainage system in place to wash it away.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
One of the more troublesome things about moisture is how easily it can creep into most surfaces. Even concrete is not immune to water seeping into its pores. Different homes will also have different types of crawl spaces. Some crawl space types are more susceptible to water damage than others.
Dirt crawl spaces are likely to soak up the water that tries to flood in, but doing so can cause several issues. For one thing, the combined weight of the soil and water can place a lot of pressure against the foundation or other amenities within. This is what is known as hydrostatic pressure. Eventually, the foundation might crack and contribute to flooding in your crawl space.
Hydrostatic pressure can also cause issues with concrete foundations. This pressure can create cracks or leaks within these foundations if it becomes heavy enough. These cracks will expand if you leave them be.
- Clay Bowl Effect
Simply put, the clay bowl effect is a direct consequence of how your foundation is constructed. A giant hole is dug where the foundation and crawl space will be built. Once all these are in place, construction works will then backfill some of the soil around it.
This soil then creates a sort of “bowl” around your crawl space. It typically remains loose afterward. This makes it easier for heavy rains and snow to wash that soil away and cause serious structural issues.
The water may even become trapped within the concrete’s pores, freeze in the winter, and fracture the foundation from the inside out.
How to Drain Water from Your Crawl Space
Unfortunately, draining water out of your crawl space is not as easy as scooping it out using buckets. The space is too tight for much maneuvering, and you run the risk of accidentally spilling that water over yourself and important equipment that should not be damp.
You should leave water drainage to professional inspectors. They will be able to easily assess where your issues stem from. They can also implement a safe waterproofing and encapsulation system within your crawl space that will activate the moment it senses any moisture seeping through. Typically, an interior drainage system, a sump pump, a vapor barrier, and a good dehumidifier work best. With these devices working together, you no longer have to worry about any moisture ruining the inner workings of your crawl space.
Water in a Crawl Space FAQs
If you don’t know what a crawl space sump pump does, you’re probably not going to understand why it’s so important to have one. You must have a well-functioning crawl space sump pump because it’s an important element of avoiding moisture and humidity in your crawl space. Here’s what the crawl space sump pump does.
- Redirects Moisture from Your Crawl Space
A sump pump will redirect any moisture that seeps into your crawl space out to a more appropriate drainage site. This could either be your yard or a nearby storm drain depending on the drainage system the pump is hooked up to.
Redirecting moisture is a useful element here because you don’t have to worry about any moisture that does make it into the crawl space. You can handle that moisture more easily.
- Helps with Rainfall and Flooding
Sump pumps are most useful during periods of heavy rainfall. They can also drain newly melted snow coming in from your yard in great volumes.
Even if you don’t live in an area that has lots of rainfall, a sump pump can help during those uncommon periods. It’s common for homes in these areas to have a more difficult time managing rainfall anyway.
- Using a Crawl Space Sump Pump with a Dehumidifier
A dehumidifier takes water out of the air, but that means it has to put the water somewhere else. In some cases, you might have to empty the dehumidifier yourself. However, it’s possible to create a better option with a sump pump.
When you combine a sump pump and a dehumidifier, you’ll be able to pump out that humidity. If you use your sump pump in tandem with a dehumidifier, your crawl space will remain dry during the humid summers as well.
If moisture flowing into this space can cause this much damage, it stands to reason that permanently sealing it off can prevent water damage. However, it’s not a good idea to seal off your crawl space completely, with absolutely no way to get in or out. There are much better ways to manage your crawl space in this area.
- The Problem with Completely Sealing off the Space
The idea of completely sealing off the crawl space, with absolutely no way for you to enter or exit the area, can be appealing. Some homeowners wonder whether it might be the best option for their crawl space and structural health.
The problem is that if moisture does manage to seep through into this space, you will have no way to access and repair the problem. Plus, because crawl spaces often include pipes, an interior leak is always a possibility.
- Crawl Space Encapsulation
One way of sealing off the crawl space is through crawl space encapsulation. This is a sort of “lesser” method of sealing off the crawl space. However, it’s much more effective than sealing it off would be.
With encapsulation, you’ll retain the door into the crawl space and openings for inspection, but aside from that, you’ll close off your crawl space vents, ensure an airtight seal for your door, and cover the dirt floor.
- How to Fix Your Crawl Space Moisture Problems
Hiring a crawl space and foundation expert to inspect this space is a far more effective method of preventing crawl space moisture. An expert will know exactly how to block off moisture from entering this space without having to block out your access to it.
Remember, you need a unique approach when you’re having moisture problems. Crawl space encapsulation is typically just one element of fixing the crawl space moisture issues and it requires personalization for each crawl space.
Water in the crawl space will always be a serious problem. If you’re worried about water getting into your crawl space, you’re going to need to think about it as a whole. Here’s what you need to know about preventing water in your crawl space.
- Complete Prevention
Mother nature is not exactly a force anyone can stop. Not even the thickest foundation can prevent water from entering a crawl space if the pressure is intense enough. That’s why you probably shouldn’t try.
If you live in a flood-prone area, you may need flood vents, which allow the water to flow through your crawl space unimpeded due to the possibility of serious foundational concerns if you don’t. It’s not a great idea to try for 100% complete prevention.
- Mitigation Methods
Mitigating water in your crawl space, on the other hand, is absolutely a possibility. In these situations, installing a solid sump pump system such as the AquaStop Crawl Space Single is the best solution.
You may not be able to completely prevent moisture from entering your crawl space, but this system can redirect water away. This can keep your crawl space permanently dry so that no water damage or flooding has the chance to occur.
- Talk to an Expert
At the end of the day, you need to talk to a crawl space expert who can help you learn more about your options. A sump pump is probably going to be an element of your solution, but it also probably won’t be the only part of the solution that you need to think about.
You need someone who will be able to help you understand your crawl space problems and what you can do to fix them. With some help from a Groundworks expert, you’ll be able to learn more about your options overall.
Hiring a Crawl Space Expert for Repairs
Accessing your home’s crawl space can be difficult for most homeowners. Its narrow ceiling and maze of wires and electrical systems are not easy to navigate nor is it recommended that you try.
This is why hiring a crawl space expert to perform these repairs in your stead is best. They have plenty of experience working in these tight spaces and will know how to drain out the standing water from your crawl space with ease.
By installing a reliable sump pump system or dehumidifier, you can rest easy knowing that your crawl space and all the important parts within it will remain nice and dry.