A crawl space is basically an unoccupied, empty, narrow tunnel inside an actual building, between the first floor and the earth. The term ‘crawl space’ is also used when talking about basements, attics or garages that are below grade and therefore not accessible by staircase. The word ‘crawl’ is also used when discussing a type of auto garage, or truck lot’s storage area. The reason why it has come to be known as such is because of the often-damp, damp nature of the crawl space; this creates a perfect environment for mold, mildew and other indoor air pathogens to grow, thrive and spread in.
A crawl space can be home to a whole host of different microscopic microbes, mold spores and other organic matter. In fact, the moisture levels in a crawl space can be up to 100 times higher than the ambient air level! Moisture is the single greatest culprit in homes for the cause of harmful mold and mildew growth. The presence of mold and mildew in your home can lead to: asthma attacks, allergic reactions, chronic bronchitis, coughing and wheezing, respiratory infections, memory loss, short-term memory loss, rashes, headaches, poor concentration, poor physical health (illness), headaches, and many more. The list goes on.
Moisture can be caused by a number of factors, but none are as important as the condition of your crawl space’s foundation. A foundation, like a house foundation, is designed to manage the influx and outflow of water from inside the house, and to channel the water away from the home and towards a drainage system. Unfortunately, our modern foundations don’t quite work as well as they once did, and over time they can succumb to cracks, fractures, softening and potholes. When this happens, the water that are redirected away from the foundation and into the crawl space, and the lack of support given to the structure of the house, can cause significant uplift and movement of the soil materials below the foundation.
With all that said, it stands to reason that any structure in a crawl space that experiences any amount of water infiltration and humidity will become a potential habitat for mildew growth. Now, granted, mildew growth is not necessarily synonymous with black mold, but mold and mildew can to co-exist in the same space if certain conditions are present. Here are a few symptoms of the presence of mold or mildew growth in your crawl space:
Crawl space floor drains should drain properly; otherwise, water will pool around the foundations of your house. This can lead to excess humidity in the crawl space that can contribute to the formation of mold and mildew. Remember, if there is a slab on the ground in your crawl space, it’s because you poured a concrete slab. You don’t want to place a slab over an existing concrete slab because the moisture from poured concrete may migrate toward the slab and can cause it to crack or deflect. This potential damage to your slab will not be covered by your warranty should you choose to install a wet basement under the warranty terms of your homeowner’s insurance policy.
There are other methods of waterproofing your crawl spaces without using a solid concrete foundation. You can use a foam membrane to protect the floor; however, this is a temporary fix and not an ideal solution for your basement. As mentioned earlier, you do not want to place a wet basement underneath your slab on the ground in your crawl spaces. In the case of a wet basement, you need to waterproof your basement permanently. Installing an underlayment that consists of an insulating membrane is an ideal solution for basement waterproofing because it prevents water from penetrating the slab and basement floors.