While touring houses, home buyers—and even homeowners—rarely consider what’s lying beneath their feet, but they should, especially if they’re walking on top of a crawl space. While looking for a property, you may come across such term in the listings. So what exactly is a crawl space, and why should you care?
A crawl space is simply a hollow region between the ground and first floors of certain structures. A squeaky floor is often the first indication that you are walking over a crawl space. It’s normally 1 to 3 feet high—just high enough for someone to crawl inside, as the name indicates (low ceilings!).
Apart from lifting your home off the ground, a crawl space is a practical and discreet area to store some of the house’s “guts,” such as portions of the heating and cooling systems, duct work, insulation, plumbing, cables, and electrical wiring.
Crawl spaces also provide some benefits beyond the usual alternatives, which include a solid concrete foundation or a basement. They also have certain disadvantages.
Thus, whether you own a house with a crawl space or are thinking about purchasing or developing one under your floors, here are the benefits, drawbacks, probable difficulties, costs, and more.
Benefits of a crawl space in your house
A crawl space is often preferred to a concrete slab foundation because it provides unfettered access to all of the previously listed features: plumbing, electrical wiring, drywall, insulation, and heating and cooling systems.
This manner, if there is an issue in this room with insulation, moisture, mold, or your air systems, it can be addressed promptly.
Crawl spaces are also preferable to basements if you live in a damp location that needs to be vented, that experiences a lot of rain, or that is prone to mold or termites. Wetness may also harm your home’s insulation, causing mold or infestation.
Crawl space repair made easy
Yet, keep in mind that appropriate crawl space ventilation is critical for drying your home, fighting mold, and protecting the structural integrity of your home—not to mention your health.
Without proper ventilation, crawl spaces may cause the “stack effect,” in which moisture flows from the ground up through gaps in the floor into the house.
Excess moisture in a crawl space must be vented or it will develop a breeding ground for mold, fungus, termites, and maybe even rats in the walls (yuck!).
Thus, if you’re about to become a homeowner, have your home inspector investigate the crawl space and basement regions before you sign on the dotted line.
Crawl space repair may move to the top of your to-do list, especially if there’s an issue with humidity levels, standing water, or other water problems. Inquire with a contractor about an encapsulation system, which may seal up the area and decrease crawl space problems.
To ventilate a crawl space, you must install a vent to bring air in from your HVAC system and an exhaust fan to move air out of the crawl space and walls.
If your area is exceptionally damp, you may also install a dehumidifier to combat moisture and help the home dry. A dehumidifier can keep spores, mites, mold, moisture, and rot from taking hold in your home space.
What is usually in the crawl space?
In general, you must crawl in and out of them, thus the term. Crawl spaces are raised foundations that support a structure with footings and block walls. This unfinished space provides additional room for plumbing, electrical wiring and HVAC equipment, although some crawl spaces can be empty.
What bugs live in a crawl space?
Termites, cockroaches, spiders, silverfish, rats, and mice are some of the most prevalent crawl space invaders. Larger pests, such as raccoons and possums, are found in crawl areas less often. Each of these pests has its own set of challenges. Cockroaches produce unpleasant smells and carry illness.
What holds up a house with a crawl space?
A crawl space uses footings and walls (either made of cinder blocks or poured concrete) to support the weight of the house. The walls may be up to 5 feet high, but the average crawl space is 1 to 3 feet high, requiring the homeowner to crawl to move about – thus the name.
Can a crawl space be filled in?
Sure, you can convert a crawl space into a slab on grade foundation; but, it is not an inexpensive operation. You would need to jack the building up, and depending on the situation either remove the existing foundation or fill it in, then pour a slab on grade and rest the house back down on it.