It can be difficult for first time home buyers to work out what a crawl space actually is. A crawl space, also known as a cellar, is an unused, unfinished, short floor inside a building, usually between the bottom floor and the second floor. The term ‘crawl space’ is sometimes used in conjunction with other words to describe the finished basement, such as a cellar, pantry or storage. The crawl space is generally so called because there usually isn’t enough space to stand upright; anything longer than about 1 foot tends to be considered a cellar. The term ‘crawl space’ is increasingly being used to describe any sort of unfinished space that can be found below grade in a home. In fact it’s not uncommon to see retail stores now selling unfinished kitchen cabinets, bedroom cupboards and similar items in the basement as a more traditional way to refer to the lower levels of a property.
There are many reasons why you might need to work out the heating and cooling bills in your crawl space. If your crawl space has flooring that’s not suited to thermal comfort, it could mean that the room is hotter in summer and colder in winter. This is particularly true if your house has not been insulated properly and is warm in the summer months but cold in the winter. This problem can be exacerbated by condensation building up on the pipes in your crawl space, as well as water leaking from the upper levels of the house. To combat both issues, you should seal your basement using a waterproof membrane between the concrete and the floor.
When buying materials for a finished basement, one of the cheapest ways to improve the quality of the air is to install a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers are designed to remove excess moisture from the air by collecting the moisture vapour that is created as the air is compressed. The moisture that is collected is then filtered through a condensing solution, which removes any odours and ensures that the air quality is improved. Be careful, however, to choose a dehumidifier that is powerful enough to cope with the moisture in your crawl space; if you purchase a cheap one, the result can be the same as leaving damp tissue in the corners of the room. Many people believe that purchasing a dehumidifier and condensing machine separately from the rest of their home furniture is the best way to deal with the moisture in the crawl space; this is rarely the case, as often the moisture is masking the problems caused by condensation.
If you have any walls or structural features in your crawl space that are causing issues due to the presence of moisture, you should consider repairing these areas to stop further damage from occurring. One example of this issue is cracked and flaking concrete walls. To deal with this problem, you can either fill up the holes with fill compound or apply a layer of asphalt shingles over the existing concrete, which acts as an effective cap against water penetration. If you do not have a concrete wall, you could consider caulking around the edges to protect the walls from further cracking. Cracks below the surface may be filled in with a resin-based waterproofing compound, whilst concrete repairs are best left to a professional.
Mold and mildew tend to grow in poorly ventilated crawl spaces and these can cause significant health problems for residents, especially in elderly people living alone. Mold spores find their favourite dark and moist areas such as in cracks around pipes, ceilings and walls, and so if these areas are well ventilated, you are less likely to see them growing. One way to solve this problem is to make sure that there are no leaks in the ceiling or pipes leading out of the space; if you suspect this is the case, get professionals out to look at the space to identify any damaged sections, patch them and then make sure the ceiling and pipes are ventilated again.
Finally, any damage to the foundation of a crawl space, whether from structural concerns or from water leakage, may mean your building can never be insured again. A slab is built on a foundation which is normally supported by concrete walls. If your foundation is seriously damaged (by flooding, subsidence or other water damage) it is unlikely that you can repair the foundation – if it cannot be repaired, it will need to be torn down. Again, if you think your foundation may have been damaged, get professionals out to take a look and advise on the best course of action for your needs.