A crawl space, also known as a cellar, is a unoccupied, finished, dark, unheated space in a residential building, usually beneath the first floor and the ground level. The term ‘crawlspace’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the 1970s, although it is now used in all parts of the world. The word ‘crawlspace’ is derived from the German word ‘kast’. Crawl spaces are usually small, because they have to deal with the soil and other conditions found under the building’s foundation. The word ‘crawlspace’ is thought to have come from the word ‘kast’ meaning cellar or pit.
Crawl spaces can have many uses, such as storage or workshop, living or office space or recreation areas. They are a perfect place for a home owner to keep articles safe, out of the way, and away from moisture, humidity and vermin, such as rats and snakes. Unfortunately, most homes in Canada have two or more crawl spaces, which means that there is a high risk of moisture, condensation and/or structural failures.
Moisture causes decay, warping and cracking, and can damage the internal structure of a home, causing significant damage to the foundations of the house. Moisture penetrates through the concrete and wood framing of the house, into the walls, floor joists, ceiling, studs, and even the foundation of the home. Excess moisture, especially on the upper floors of a house, can result in buckling, sagging and rotting of the lower levels of the house. Crawl spaces are designed to hold the excess moisture, but without allowing excess water to penetrate the floor of the building.
The foundation is typically made of poured concrete and on top of it is a layer of insulation, to help keep the interior dry during the colder months. There are also a drain and discharge pipe that lead from the foundation to the main floor of the home. During the warmer months, the drains are not used, and the insulation is not installed. The end result is that during the summer, when there is a lot of heating, the end floors of the home tend to get wet and stay moist.
Moisture will begin to permeate the floors at the foundation level, through the structural framing and insulation. Crawl space sub-slaves serve as a layer of insulation to help trap the heat inside the building. The soil that is on the surface is also a good medium for moisture to move around. This soil will also attract dirt and rodents that will dig in and ingest the insulation and cause problems for the insulation, resulting in it becoming weak and therefore ineffective over time. When this happens, the home will need to be excavated and replaced with new soil. In addition to this, the structural framing and floor joists will also need to be replaced.
When it comes to crawl spaces, mold remediation should be done as soon as possible. Mold causes allergic reactions, asthma, congestion and breathing difficulties, so it is important to remove the mold if found. If the mold is discovered after the house has been torn down, then it is imperative that it is removed from the crawl space or the structure may collapse. This is why mold remediation is done as soon as mold detection is confirmed, the longer the mold has a chance to grow and remain in the structure. If you have a crawl space, or a small outdoor space that you do not use on a regular basis, it is a good idea to make sure that it is properly maintained, to reduce the chance of it being converted into a moisture problem.