Making A Crawl Space Yours: Encapsulation vs Insulation

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019


Columbus, OH, falls victim to the same unpredictable weather patterns as most of the Midwest. That means your crawl space may frequently be damp, musty or even unusable. If you’re trying to store valuables or personal items in these spaces, you may frequently find their integrity compromised by the weather and flooding.

You don’t have to resign yourself to that kind of damage. If you insulate or encapsulate your crawl space, you can overcome leaks, flooding and Ohio’s fluctuating weather to keep your belongings safe.

That said, there are some distinct differences between insulation and encapsulation. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get away with insulating your crawl space without encapsulating it. Other times, you may benefit from stacking these practices.

Let’s dive into the differences between insulation and encapsulation so you can determine for yourself how to best overcome the precipitation in Columbus, OH.

encapsulate or insulate your crawl space

Insulation: The Process, Pros and Cons

If you’ve just moved into a home with a crawl space, or you’re not sure what to do with the space you have, never fear. Crawl spaces are workable extensions of your home that actually can be used!.

If you are going to use your crawl space, though, you’re going to need to make sure your belongings will stay safe within the space. This is where insulation comes in handy. Insulation helps keep your crawl space warm when the weather turns cold and rainy. It will also work to prevent leaks and should lower your heating and cooling bills, as long as it’s been appropriately installed.

Insulation creates a barrier between the inside of your home and the outside. That barrier will, in turn, keep your pipes from breaking open, reduce the amount of cold air that makes its way indoors, and preserve the foundation of your home.

So if your crawl space is unusually cold or prone to leaks, consider insulating it. When you have a contractor helping you out, the process typically looks like this:

  1. Find damp spots or leaks – Before you start putting insulation in, you need to make sure your crawl space is structurally sound. This means going through your crawl space and checking for any foundational cracks or leaks. If you frequently have to sop up leaks or water damage, talk to your contractor about the ways you can better waterproof your crawl space.
  2. Take out any previous insulation – Once you’ve ensured that your crawl space is structurally sound, you’ll need to have any previous fiberglass insulation removed. Fiberglass insulation, while useful, can spread allergens through your home and compromise your family’s health.
  3. Replace the insulation in the walls and ceiling – Talk with your contractor ahead of time about the insulation you’d like to use in your crawl space. You can use sealants of various sorts or more traditional forms.
  4. Secure your pipes – Make sure your contractor insulates any pipes or electrical outcroppings that appear in your crawl space.
  5. Input a moisture barrier – Optionally, you can have your contractor install a moisture barrier to better protect your space against leaks.
  6. Clean – Finally, make sure your crawl space is usable, and you’ll be good to go! 

There are several benefits to insulating your crawl space, including:

  • Better temperature control
  • Lower heating and cooling bills
  • The improved safety of your personal belongings 

However, do note that the insulation process may be expensive if your crawl space is especially large. It’s also worth noting that insulation won’t keep water from getting into your crawl space if it comes up through your foundation.

Encapsulation: The Process, Pros and Cons

If you do have a crawl space that’s prone to leaks, you’ll want to consider encapsulating it. The encapsulation process expands on the insulation process. Specifically, it allows for the implementation of waterproofing solutions that’ll keep your crawl space dry even in the worst of central Ohio’s weather.

The encapsulation process typically requires the following: 

  1. Find the source of common leaks – You encapsulate your crawl space when it frequently floods. To start off the process, be sure to try and find the source of common leaks or flooding. You’ll want to fill these spaces up before proceeding.
  2. Throw out any damaged insulation – As with the insulation process, you’re going to need to remove any damaged, damp or unhealthy insulation from your walls to better preserve the health of the space. You may also want to replace this insulation, depending on the state of your crawl space.
  3. Have waterproofing measures installed – Attack water at its source by having perimeter drainage and sump pump systems installed in your crawl space. This will ensure your crawl space and any stored items will stay safe and dry.
  4. Build up a vapor barrier – Once the insulation is out of the way, install a vapor barrier. This barrier will stand between the outdoors and your crawl space to drive the water away from your belongings. Note that vapor barriers take up the whole of a crawl space, so be sure to cut out room for pipes in advance.
  5. Consider installing a dehumidifier – It’s not necessary to install a dehumidifier when encapsulating your crawl space. However, if your space is frequently damp, then a dehumidifier will draw the moisture out of the air and preserve your belongings. You can choose to install a temporary one in a smaller crawl space, but be sure to talk to your contractor about the options you have available to you.

Again, the encapsulation process rids your crawl space of excess water and keeps your belongings safer during the Ohio winter. However, the process can be expensive, depending on how much work you need. It may be easier, too, to include encapsulation work during an insulation job so as to benefit from both.

Don’t let bad weather or a leaky foundation keep you from using your crawl space. When you work with the right contractor, you can easily reclaim these spaces in your home. 

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