If you have ever thought of living in a home with no carpet, you are most likely someone who has little experience of the term “crawl space”. A crawl space, also known as a cellar, is a previously unused, unfinished, low ceilinged area inside an apartment or home, usually between the first and second floor. Most apartments and homes come with a crawl space; however, it is always wise to ensure that your new home has one as standard. The crawl space is often referred to as a cellar because there is usually only enough space to crawl around rather than walk; anything wider than around 1.5m tends to be considered a cellar. Regardless of what is called a crawl space in this context, it is an important and frequently overlooked feature of a new or existing building.
The conditions found within crawl spaces (which can also be known as cellar) are very poor; this is usually because they are poorly suited to absorb moisture and natural gases, and are often humidified. If left unchecked, this can lead to the growth of mildew, mould and other forms of bacteria, as well as releasing pollutants into the atmosphere. To start with, warm dampness will generally cause the most problems. Over time, this can result in serious structural damage which will then need to be repaired or replaced.
In order to keep the moisture level in a crawl space under control, there are a number of steps that can be taken. One such measure is a vapor barrier, which is also commonly used in basements and attics. A vapor barrier acts as an absorber and traps moisture in. There are a number of different types of vapor barriers available including: mineral wool, polystyrene and thermal fibres.
If you choose to use wall insulation for your crawl spaces, you should ensure that it is very effective at reducing heat loss. Unfortunately, if you chose a poorly insulated wall (that may also be flimsy by design), it can increase the risk of water infiltration into the basement. Also, if your plumbing is not of a very high quality, you should consider replacing it before spending money on wall insulation. Poorly insulated walls can make it difficult for heat to move from the outside to the inside of the basement, causing poor heating and water distribution.
Once the moisture in the crawl space has been trapped, you need to seal it from outside sources. This will prevent both structural damage and the growth of mildew and mould. The best way to achieve this is with a biological, chemical or physical barrier. You could choose to install a wood, plastic or composite barrier that will be easy to maintain, or the less expensive mechanical option of a solid surface rigid barrier.
Cracks and other structural damage are potential issues with any type of seal applied to a crawl space. As long as the water is confined to the space itself, it is usually sufficient to keep moisture out and dampness down. However, if the walls are not properly insulated, the problem can become much worse.