Crawl Space Moisture Control

STOP Moisture with Our Crawl Space Services: What we can do for your unhealthy crawl space!

Here are some ways we can help:

  • To get rid of mold that has grown in your crawl space, we will treat it with Moldex. Moldex cleans, kills, and disinfects to get rid of mold and mildew!
  • To reduce moisture in the crawl space we need to know the source:
    • For moisture from the ground, vapor barrier can be installed to relieve your crawl space from the effects from that moisture.
    • For moisture from outside, a brand-new crawl space door can be installed to alleviate the moisture.
  • In order to avoid unwanted pests, we can install a brand-new crawl space door which our team makes sure is sealed tight.
  • If your crawl space suffers from standing water, we can install either a sump pump or a drainage pipe. Though in rare occasions it might not be the case, it is usually recommended that both be installed.
  • In order to condition the air in your home, you’ll want to get your crawl space examined. You can lose energy if your crawl space is not conditioned because it will heat against outdoor air! To prevent energy loss, we can install a dehumidifier which will keep your crawl space air conditioned.

Here is an example of what your crawl space could look like!

Crawl Space Moisture Control

This is the perfect set-up for what a crawl space should look like in order to prevent moisture, mold, or pest problems!

Moisture Control and Hardwood Floor Cupping

When winter comes, can spring be far behind? I don’t think Shelley was thinking about crawl spaces when he wrote this line, but spring and summer are coming and that has the folks at Carolina Energy Conservation thinking about our busiest time of year.

We’ll be getting lots of calls from folks concerned about their crawlspaces. For one reason or another, homeowners have found it necessary to get into their crawlspaces and have discovered all sorts of unpleasant things. I even had one gentleman call and say that his crawlspace was like a rain forest with water dripping off the floor joists, duct work, plumbing, and insulation. There are all the nasty, musty smells. Some have called because their neighbors have told them how much cleaner their homes seemed after encapsulating.

One of the most frequent calls we get is about beautiful, expensive hardwood flooring that is cupping or, even worse, buckling. Cupping occurs when the sides of a flooring board are higher than the center of the boards-the surface of the board has a concave shape. Solid and engineered wood flooring can both cup.

Cupping is the result of a change in moisture content from one side of the flooring board to the other. Specifically, in the case of cupping, the crawl space (bottom) side of the floor board is exposed to a higher relative humidity than the living space (top) side of the floor board.

In 99.9% of the cases the problems of cupping and buckling of hardwood flooring are caused by excessive humidity. With the hot, humid weather that South Carolina and particularly Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand experiences every summer, the problems are compounded. Being always shaded and usually below grade, a crawlspace is naturally cooler than the outside air. When the hot, humid outside air enters the crawlspace through vents or other air leaks, the water in the humid air condenses on the cooler surfaces just like water condenses on an iced tea glass sitting on your kitchen table. In extreme but not uncommon cases, so much water condenses that it begins dripping off the crawlspace surfaces and it begins to “rain” in the crawlspace. This creates the problem. Hardwood floors cup because of the differential in moisture content between the bottom, unfinished surface of a floor-board and the top, finished surface of the floorboard in a conditioned living space.

The Internet is full of information from hardwood flooring manufacturers and installers about hardwood floors that are cupping and buckling. Their customers spend a small fortune installing flooring then think that the flooring was defective or the installation was improperly done because their flooring cupped, sometimes just weeks after installation. In fact, the cupping was caused was moisture problems inherent to the house itself.

What do the manufacturers and installers recommend? In every case, they say the problem needs to be addressed at the source – the moisture differentiation between the crawl space and the living space. According to the usfmhi, a factory direct manufacturer of wood flooring, “Deal with the building environment. These solutions (reducing ventilation, controlling water in crawl spaces or basements, adding dehumidifiers or modifying AC systems) aren’t up to flooring professionals. Building owners can take steps to reduce ventilation rates, reduce moisture intrusion and/or add mechanical dehumidification”

And when it comes to venting, the USFMHI goes on to say, “Venting very often makes a cool crawl space not just humid, but wet.” And according to Sullivan Hardwood Flooring, another manufacturer of wood flooring, “The more ventilation, the more moisture is getting into the house, and the more moisture we need to remove. So, reducing ventilation can be beneficial.” If venting to the outside is part of the problem, what is the solution? “Temperature doesn’t matter in a crawl space, so an unvented crawl space with a dehumidifier is a great, efficient way of controlling humidity levels below wood floors that are over a crawl space.” According to Sullivan.

At Carolina Energy Conservation, we’ve been making South Carolina homes along the Grand Strand more energy efficient for a decade. We believe the most cost effective solution to hardwood floor problems is crawlspace encapsulation. We use the recommendations of Advanced Energy, the EPA, and the Department of Energy as the guidelines for our encapsulations. Our goal is to make the process as easy and cost effective for the homeowner as we possibly can.

Crawl space encapsulation involves first mitigating any standing or running water with rough grading, perimeter drains, and a sump pumps if necessary. Then the crawl space is sealed by closing the exterior vents, sealing the walls and piers, and installing a high quality 20-mil vapor barrier to the floor. All vapor barrier seams are sealed. Finally, Carolina Energy Conservation conditions the crawl space air by insulating the space and adding a dehumidifier.

The key is bringing the crawl space relative humidity to 60% or less. At less than 60% moisture will not condense on cool crawlspace surfaces, mold and mildew will not grow, and the likelihood of hardwood floors in the living space cupping or buckling is minimized.

If you are experiencing problems with your hardwood floors buckling or cupping, or have grown tired of that damp, musty smell emanating from your crawlspace, Carolina Energy Conservation would be happy to give you a free, no obligation assessment of your crawlspace. We have solutions to home and crawl space moisture problems. Call us at (843) 342-9555 or visit our crawl space web site at www.ceccrawlspacerepair.com

Controlling Crawlspace Moisture

If you get three general contractors together and the discussion topic turns moisture control, you’ll probably hear at least five opinions. There seems to be many different and often conflicting opinions about what is the best tack to take to mitigate moisture in a home. The concept of crawlspace encapsulation (sealing) has been around for a while now. We are Carolina Energy Conservation (CEC) and we are an energy performance contractor serving most of eastern South Carolina and much of south-eastern North Carolina. Our company pioneered energy performance home improvements in eastern South Carolina and has been making homes safer, healthier, and more economical places to live for nearly a decade. Here is our take on home moisture control.

There has been much research on crawlspace encapsulation during the past decade. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy, the ZEBRAlliance at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and a non-profit research organization called Advanced Energy have all done excellent and groundbreaking research in the area of crawlspace encapsulation. Their research findings were instrumental in the last revision of the International Building Code. They all agree in a few, very important areas.

We are Building Performance Institute certified analysts. That means when considering your home, we think of it as a single system. Your HVAC system, insulation, windows, attic, living space, and crawl space all work together. These building components need to be optimized and balanced to achieve maximum comfort, performance and energy efficiency. Your crawl space is an important part of this system.

Your house is like a giant chimney. By natural convection, air is drawn in through crawlspace vents and air leaks. Because warm air rises, the outside air is drawn through the living space (along with mold spores, odors, and moisture) and exhausted through the attic. In the summer, your crawlspace is naturally cooler than the ambient outside temperature. So when the warm, humid outside air reaches the cooler crawlspace surface areas, the moisture condenses on framing, plumbing, wiring, insulation and especially HVAC ductwork and “sweats”, just like an iced tea glass sweats on your kitchen table in the summer. In the southeast it is not unheard of for us to see crawlspace humidity approaching 100% and see it actually rain inside a crawlspace.

The moisture in your crawlspace creates an ideal environment for wood destroying organisms, mold, and mildew. It can saturate and destroy the effectiveness of your insulation and promote wood rot. And because of the chimney effect, the humid crawlspace air, full of mold and mildew spores, eventually finds its way into your living space creating an unhealthy environment and causing your air conditioning to work overtime to dehumidify the air. Just a vapor barrier might help a bit, but most of the moisture is coming from outside through crawl space vents, not from your dirt, crawlspace floor.

So, the alternative to a vented crawlspace is an encapsulated (sealed) crawlspace. Crawlspace encapsulation involves stopping running and standing water at the source, sealing all outside vents, installing a high-performance vapor retarder on all exposed wall and floor surfaces, insulating the walls, and conditioning the air.

The prevailing research claims that by insulating the walls, it is unnecessary to insulate the floor. However, if CEC finds existing floor insulation that is in good condition, we will leave it in place. We generally recommend spray foam or a rigid foam board insulation that is fire-retardant, low VOC, and offers an R-10 value or greater on the walls. Foam board can be used for sealing existing crawlspace vents from the inside, too preserving the visual integrity of the home’s exterior.

The building codes in most areas require the air in an encapsulated crawlspace to be conditioned. That usually means adding a dehumidifier. A relative humidity target of 60% or lower is a good place to start. A remote humidistat is inexpensive and an invaluable tool for determining the correct amount of dehumidification.

When comparing high performance vapor barriers, look at puncture and tear resistance. Other than being absolutely water tight, a high-performance vapor barrier should also be flexible, fire resistant, low VOC, and lightweight. There is a world of difference between the 6-mil vapor barrier material sold in most hardware stores and a high-performance specialty product we install. Most reputable installers will provide samples before starting work.

Carolina Energy Conservation installs a 20-mil, seven ply, polyester string reinforced, high density and low density polyethylene vapor barrier. Our vapor barrier is a true vapor barrier and not just a vapor retarder. It is flexible yet strong, offering excellent tear and puncture resistance.

All of the experts agree that when you seal a crawlspace or add a high-performance vapor barrier, the vapor barrier should be firmly attached and sealed to the crawlspace foundation wall. Carolina Energy Conservation uses a foundation vapor barrier that attaches to the foundation wall in a single, easy step using only low VOC materials. Our encapsulation system uses only the safest materials and the safest installation techniques.

In addition to dramatically increasing indoor air quality, reducing odors, and protecting the structure of your home, several research studies from Advanced Energy indicate that crawlspace encapsulation can actually lower energy usage. These studies were done in several parts of the country with varying climates. See a link to their study results.

Carolina Energy Conservation is a full-service crawlspace encapsulation installation contractor and uses only the highest quality encapsulation materials available. With offices in Myrtle Beach, SC, CEC services most of eastern South Carolina and parts of southeastern North Carolina. Visit our website and see for yourself what makes Carolina Energy Conservation the first choice for first rate energy home improvements in the area. Give us a call at (843) 342-9555 or visit our website at www.ceccrawlspacerepair.com