The foundation to a healthy home is the crawl space. Most of us avoid going in our crawl spaces at all costs; so it is frequently, finding out your crawl space has mold comes as a bit of a shock. When people are making a list of home improvements, spending money on the crawl space is seldom on anyone’s list.
Why is a healthy crawl space important? Anything that’s in the crawl space is eventually coming into the living space of the home. Excess moisture and mold can do serious damage to a home. There are many species of mold, and different people react differently to different species of mold. A couple species can be fatal to anyone especially if you are exposed on a long-term basis. Most species of mold at the very least cause different levels of respiratory issues. Obviously, none of us want to put our families through preventable sickness.
What caused my crawl space to mold? In a word–moisture. If you have excessive moisture in your crawl space, it has come from some source. Here is a list of possible sources that are very common:
- Improperly mitigated water loss. After a water loss, the inside living space was dried; but the crawl space was never dried. Over time the standing water and wet substructure molded.
- Downspouts or guttering that are dumping water next to the foundation.
- Landscaping or the slope of the yard channeling water directly into the foundation.
- Lack of a vapor barrier to hold back the naturally occurring moisture in the soil underneath the house. Wet wants to go to dry, and the moisture in the soil will naturally want to move to dry wood.
- Pipes leading underneath the house.
What can be done to give me a healthy crawl space/home again? First, your crawl space must be dried. This requires the use of an indirect-fired furnace which pumps dry heat into the crawl space. This air is then moved through the crawl space. The dry air gathers up moisture, and the wet air is vented out of the crawl space.
Once the crawl space is dried, the mold must be removed. This requires using either a chemical releasing agent made of hydrogen peroxide or media blasting with ice, soda, walnut shells, etc. Then the entire crawl space must be HEPA vacuumed (HEPA filtration is 99.7 microns). All the debris must be removed from underneath the house. It’s very common to find old discarded pipe, duct work, lumber, large rocks, and other trash in a crawl space.
After the crawl space is clean and free of debris, all the wood framing needs to be sealed. Wood is very porous, and in the right conditions mold can begin to grow again. Sealing a crawl space is imperative in order to have a healthy crawl space long term. The final step is to add a 10-mil vapor barrier to the crawl space. A vapor barrier must cover the entire crawl space and be sealed with at least a 3-foot overlap between sections of plastic. All pilon supports must be wrapped with at least three feet of overlap at any seam. The plastic needs to be cut at the stem wall which allows the barrier to breath only at the base of the stem wall. The average crawl space will take 5-8 days from start to finish to completely renovate.