The name makes it sound like a place that you crawl in; however, most of us would probably rather pass on the crawl or even a walk-through of this area because of the lack of cleanliness. A crawlspace is typically a shallow area beneath your home between the soil and first floor. It can be very useful and even enticing to buyers if it’s kept up. On the other hand, a crawlspace can become a refuge for unwanted creatures, fungus, and termites.
"The worst thing that can happen is your home is rotting from the bottom up and you don't know it. The worst thing that can happen is having standing water," says Lynette Marie Lacerda, general manager, ColoradoBasementSystems.com.
Oftentimes mold can be found in a crawlspace, Lacerda says this is a sign that a bigger issue is developing. "Mold is a symptom of high relative humidity. If you have mold in your crawlspace and then you mitigate it, and you don't fix the high humidity, the mold is going to come back," says Lacerda.
That's why Lacerda recommends encapsulating and controlling the air in crawlspaces.
"A conditioned crawlspace makes one building envelope which in return will save money on energy because conditioned air is easier to heat and cool.... We can in most cases give a crawlspace an R-value [indication of an insulation’s resistance to heat flow]. The benefit of encapsulating your crawlspace is renewable energy--lower energy bills," says Lacerda. She adds, "The U.S. Department of Energy says, an encapsulated, conditioned crawlspaces saves 15 - 18 percent on your energy bill." The company uses a product call CleanSpace which is a liner that is placed inside the crawlspace. The advantages are plentiful: animals and rodents can't get in as easily, it reduces wood rot and mold, and water intrusions can be managed by seal-pump systems that may be hardwired into an existing alarm system, and may increase property value.
"If there are two homes being chosen from, guess which one they're going to pick? They're going to pick the one that has the clean, white liner," says Lacerda.
The lining is much like having a pool liner in your crawlspace. The company puts a 20ml CleanSpace membrane over the floor. It has a 25-year warranty that it will not rip or tear. "It goes up the footer and is mechanically fastened to the top of the stem wall," explains Lacerda. Some of the appraisers who have [seen] the liner [in a home’s crawlspace], will give it a dollar value--a direct relation to the energy bill savings--and they’re giving $20 a square-foot value to it in some cases--which is a lot of money, considering it was just a dirt crawlspace.
Most homeowners understand that a home can lose energy through its attic, Lacerda says the same is true for a crawlspace but she admits that this is an area many homeowners don’t pay enough attention to. However, she says homeowners should be aware because it’s not just about cost-savings. Since air rises up, any problems with air quality in a home’s crawlspace can have a direct impact on the air quality throughout the entire home.
"We promote closing the vents and conditioning the crawlspace," says Lacerda. This is what the company refers to as controlling the air using the home’s heating and air conditioning system, a dehumidifier, or tempering the air.
"Whatever [air quality] is in your crawlspace is the same thing that you’re breathing in the living space," cautions Lacerda.
Depending on where you live and the work that needs to be done, permitting might be required.